For the past four seasons, Penn State had a familiar face or two it could rely on in the kicking game. Whether it was Blake Gillikin or Jordan Stout sharing duties (or Stout doing all of it, in the case of last season), Penn State knew that if there was one thing they knew for sure was covered, it was special teams.
And, for the first time since 2018, the Nittany Lions find themselves possibly starting two new players at both kicking positions. Not to mention, the departure of Jahan Dotson to the NFL means the Lions will also see new face(s) at kick and punt returner this coming season. That’s a level of uncertainty that would keep any coach up at night, let alone a coach in the Big Ten.
Not all hope is lost, however, as Jake Pinegar is still on the roster, and while he missed most of 2021 with an injury, all accounts state he’s ready to go for 2022, and will spend the summer competing for the starting role.
Kicker: Jake Pinegar, Sandar Sahaydak
As mentioned above, Pinegar missed the bulk of 2021 with an injury. He’s now back and ready to compete for the starting job, but Sahaydak may have something to say about that.
Both kickers got time during the spring game, especially in the “special teams only” section of the event. Both had their misses, but at least early, Sahaydak seems to have the bigger leg.
Punter: Alex Bacchetta, Barney Amor, Gabriel Nwosu
Amor sat for the 2021 season, and didn’t play in 2020 due to the Patriot League skipping the season, but he played played in all 12 games for Colgate the season prior, so he comes into 2022 with plenty of experience.
That said, Alex Bacchetta may actually get the starting nod when it’s all said and done, given he worked with aforementioned Blake Gillikin prior to his arrival on campus.
Nwosu saw time in the spring game, and whether he takes over the spot or not is yet to be decided in the summer. Unless he has a great showing, the starting job will likely go to one of the other two.
Returners: Parker Washington, Mitchell Tinsley
Washington is a dynamic player in his own way, so there shouldn’t be much concern in the return game were he to take over the duties left behind by Dotson. Tinsley returned some in the spring game, so expect to see him do the same in the fall.
Other notable players here are longtime special teams player Devyn Ford, as well as his other running back teammates Nick Singleton and Caziah Holmes.
Others to watch: Caziah Holmes, Devyn Ford, Nick Singleton