My 2020 SU Football preview Pt 9: The Kicking Game

SWC75

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Kickers
Seniors: Nolan Cooney 6-3 202
Juniors: Andre Szmyt 6-1 184, (down from 194)
Sophomores: Noah Nwosu 6-3 216
Freshmen: James Williams 6-1 199
Gone: Sterling Hofrichter

Andre Szmyt is the best in the business, winning the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best kicker as a freshman while leading the nation in scoring. The team did worse in 2019 but he was as good as ever. In two years he’s kicked 47 of 54 field goals (87%) and 100 of 101 extra points, (99%) for 241 points. He’s had three field goals of 50 yards or more and is 34 for 35 inside the 40. Worry about something else.

Sterling Hofrichter was every bit as good, not only because he could boom those punts but because he could also place them at the goal line and kick them on the run in that ‘Australian rules’ formation. We’ve been ‘Punter U’ over the years: we’ve had to do it so many times we couldn’t help but get good at it and the Carrier Dome or whatever they will call it now, has been a help, too. But you don’t press a button and get a guy like Sterling.

Nolan Cooney, like Rex Culpepper, is a cancer survivor. He’s also part of a recent trend to make another kicker, rather than a back-up QB as holder for the place kicks and he should continue in that role while competing for the now open punting spot and also to do the kickoffs. Noah Nwosu will be in that mix, too. Nunes: “Nwosu didn’t see any on field action, as he was charging up his legs for when he does.” But James Williams seems to be the big hope here. Cuse.com: “Ranked among the top kickers in the country by (No. 2), the 247Sports.com composite index (No. 9) and ESPN (No. 10) … Rated five stars and the No. 4 punter and No. 13 placekicker in the 2020 class by Kohl’s Kicking.” Nunes: “James was a pretty excellent special teams player back in high school. As a senior last year, he hit 52 out of 53 extra points, 4 of 5 field goals and had a 35.8-yard average on his punts. That last bit’s not as impressive, but the Syracuse Orange are not deterred given their track record with punters. … Williams is likely to get thrown right into the mix at punter, though he’ll have some stiff competition. Nolan Cooney served as Sterling Hofrichter’s understudy for years, and is anxious to potentially win the starting gig after waiting his turn. If Williams doesn’t get the job, he may wind up redshirting (not a bad thing).” There will be times this year when we will miss Sterling, hopefully not a lot of them.

Snappers
Seniors: none
Juniors: Aaron Bolinsky 5-11 218
Sophomores: none
Freshman: Joey Kelly 6-1 193, Mike Midkiff 6-3 195

Aaron Bolinsky has been a big part of the success of our kickers and should be a major asset with a new punter. He “Stepped into the role of starting snapper for punts and placement kicks after Matt Keller was injured on Sept. 29, (2018), at Clemson” (Cuse.com) and we didn’t skip a beat. Kelly and Midkiff will try to do the same when Aaron leaves but that won’t be for two seasons yet.

Kick returners
Seniors: Nykeim Johnson5-8 168
Juniors: Trill Williams 6-2 196
Sophomores: Jawhar Jordan 5-9 165
Freshmen:
Gone: Sean Riley

Riley had a disappointing senior year but here comes Jawhar Jordan, who looked like greased lightning last year. He “returned four kickoffs for 114 yards (28.5 avg.)” for SU last year and he “returned 20 kickoffs for 499 yards (25.0 avg.) and one touchdown, and eight punts for 131 yards (16.4 avg.) and a touchdown in his career” in high school. (Cuse.com). Nykeim Johnson was the alternative to Riley but wasn’t impressive last season. “Also has returned 11 kickoffs for 217 yards (19.7 avg.) and two punts for eight yards (4.0)” (Cuse.com). That’s got to improve if he is to hold off Jordan in this role. Trill Williams is one of several excellent athletes on the roster who could also play a role. I’d love to see Eric Coley get a shot on kickoffs. What we really need to do is to learn to block for kick-off returns and have a punt returner who sees a punt as an opportunity to make a big play. We also used to block more kicks than in recent years. Anything would help we’re going to need all of that we can get. (See the next section.)
 

721Comstock

2019-20 Iggy Co-Winner Leading Rebounder
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In addition to Jawhar & Trill, Peña is also an excellent return man, with great speed.

I kinda worry about a stalwart like Trill doing returns, since there’s a chance he takes a big hit and gets injured.
But - Deion “Primetime” Sanders was a DB who excelled at both for years, and Trill seems like a playmaker cut from the same cloth.

I’m excited to see what these guys can do.

Especially after Riley regressed so badly last year.
 

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