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Penn State Football’s Placekickers Battling For Starting Job

Justin Lustig

For the second straight offseason, Penn State football is in search of a new kicker.

Last year, the competition for the starting spot was between transfer Alex Felkins and then-redshirt sophomore Sander Sahaydak. James Franklin was tightlipped about last year’s battle, saying it was one of the closest fights in camp.

This year, it’s more of the same as Felkins is heading to the NFL Draft. With Tulsa transfer Chase Meyer joining the squad over the winter and redshirt freshman Ryan Barker entering his name in the competition, there are now three potential starters trying to sort out their lineup before the season.

“It’s been a really good competition with all three of them,” Franklin said. “I’m not ready to name an order or starter and those types of things yet.”

When the Nittany Lions took the field for the first time last year against West Virginia, it was Sahaydak who trotted out to attempt the first field goal of the year. Sahaydak couldn’t convert on the 38-yard attempt but was again given the nod when the Nittany Lions faced a 34-yard try. Sahaydak missed again, and field goal duties were given to Felkins for the rest of the year.

Despite losing the job, Sahaydak remained a presence in the locker room with Franklin noting the talk the kicker had with the team after his performance on opening night. This year he’s emerged again as a potential starter.

A potential obstacle in the fight to regain the job, though, is Meyer. The Tulsa kicker was one of Penn State’s first offseason additions via the transfer portal and brings two years of collegiate kicking experience. Meyer started his career at Penn during the 2022 season where he handled kickoff duties before transferring to Tulsa last year. While at Tulsa, Meyer started in all 12 games and went 17-20 on field goals with his first miss in the ninth game of the season.

Also competing for the starting job is Barker, a walk-on redshirt freshman. After not seeing any game action last year, special teams coordinator Justin Lustig says Barker has also proven himself worthy of the spot.

“Sander Sahaydak has had a good spring, and Ryan Barker is really showing up as well,” Lustig said. “Chase Meyer, I think it’s taken him a while to just get used to the new environment and new program, but he’s consistently gotten better through the spring.”

Even with a new coordinator and two new competitors, the deciding factor remains the same. Lustig likened the kicker position to golf and stressed the importance of the kicker’s mindset and mentality when recovering from missed kicks.

“Every kick is just as important as the last,” Lustig said. “It’s all about that next kick.”

Even with the spring practice season drawing to a close, there’s a long way to go before the competition for the starting spot ends. Last year, the battle didn’t end until halftime of the first game of the season. This year, it’s another closely contested fight that features three kickers instead of two.

Franklin also noted that until the kickers can get into Beaver Stadium for some reps on the field, there isn’t a lot to evaluate. For now, the room is focusing on making itself better.

“We’ve got a great battle going on. I’m really excited about it,” Lustig said. “It’s the old adage ‘iron sharpens iron.’ Even for kickers, it’s true because they’re competing with each other and they know that spot’s open.”

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About the Author

CJ Doebler

CJ is a junior double majoring in broadcast journalism and finance. He is from Northumberland, Pa, just east of State College. CJ is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan, but chooses to ignore the Pirates' existence. For the occasional random retweet and/or bad take, follow @CDoebler on Twitter. All complaints can be sent to [email protected].

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