My 2022 SU Football preview - Part 9: The Kicking Game | Syracusefan.com

My 2022 SU Football preview - Part 9: The Kicking Game

SWC75

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THE KICKING GAME (aka “Special Teams”)

Kickers
Seniors: #91 Andre Szmyt 6-1 199 (down from 210)
Juniors:
Sophomores: #98 James Williams 6-1 205 (down from 215)
Freshmen: #92 Brady Denaburg 6-0 180, #95 Ian Hawkins 6-0 191, #36 Maximillian Von Marburg 6-0 183
Gone:
Colby Barker: “He played lacrosse at Ohio State but wanted to see if he could become a football kicker.” He got off one kick for 8 yards and that was the last we saw of him.

As a freshman, Andre Szmyt, (‘Schmidt’), kicked 30 of 34 field goals and all 61 extra points for 151 points, second in the country and won the Lou Groza award as the nation’s outstanding place kicker for our 10-3 team of 2018. The next year, a 5-7 team didn’t give him as many opportunities and he kicked 17 of 20 FG and actually missed an extra point, going 39/40 and scoring 90 points. In 2020, our dismal 1-10 team only got him 11 field goal attempts, of which he made 9. He kicked 23 of 24 extra points for 50 points, 101 less than he’s scored as a freshman. Then our special teams coordinator, Justin Lustig, left for Vanderbilt. Dino decided he didn’t need a coach specifically for special teams and Szmyt, who may have also gotten tired of the losing, missed 5 of 14 field goal attempts and 2 of 38 extra points for 63 points. He could have left for the NFL on that relatively sour note but Dino hired Bob Ligashesky to be our new special teams coach and Andre decided to stay, (using his COVID year), to see if he could regain the form he showed as a freshman.
Bob Ligashesky - Football Coach - Syracuse University Athletics

We’re known as “Punter U.” because we had so many good ones in recent years, (and we’ve had so many good ones because we’ve had to do it so often) but last year for the first time in years, we came up empty, averaging 37.3 yards per punt, the lowest in 31 years, (we’d been below 40 yards per punt only 4 times in that stretch). We’ve had guys who could boom it, could drop it in front of the goal line, hit the ‘coffin corner’ or do it on the run under pressure, making what was called an “Australian Rules” kick. Our previous punter, Sterling Hofrichter, could do all those things. With last year’s guys, we were just hoping it didn’t go off the side of their foot.

James Williams did the best and seemed to improve somewhat by the end of the season, finishing with an average of 38.4. Williams was that rarity, a big-time kicking recruit. 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…. As a senior captain, converted 52 out of 53 (.981) extra points and 4-of-5 (.800) field goals, while averaging 35.8 yards on 25 punts.” You become the #4 punting prospect in the country with a 35.8 average? Well, he got better by 2.6 yards. Maybe he can add another 2.6 yards this year, (41.0?)

Ian Hawkins, a walk-on who joined the team just before the start of the season, was given a shot when Williams became ill in mid-year and averaged 3.74. He’s a major in aerospace engineering but must figure out a way to make his punts go higher and farther.

A sign of Dino’s dissatisfaction in this area is that two freshmen have bene brought in to join the competition.

Brady Denaburg is Szmyt’s likely replacement as place-kicker next year and he could be a good one. Cuse.com: “Was a perfect 44-of-44 on PAT attempts and 19-of-26 on field goal attempts as a senior ... Hit from 57 yards ... Connected on a 43-yard field goal attempt with 48 seconds remaining to send Merritt Island to the state championship ... Also played quarterback for team that went 13-2 ... Passed for 3,220 yards and 30 touchdowns.” Nunes: “Denaburg might push to earn kick-off duties but otherwise he’s likely going to redshirt during Andre Szmyt’s senior season. The fact that he was a high school quarterback means maybe the Syracuse Orange have finally found someone to replicate Riley Dixon’s trick-play ability.” Kohl’s Future Stars Camp: “He was easily able to hit a 57 yard FG off the ground to win the competition at the Future Stars Camp. Denaburg is a strong and talented athlete who also plays QB. He has hit some big kicks for his high school team and with continued focus on kicking he has the talent to be a top five guy in the 2022 class. Denaburg is someone to follow in the coming months as he will get better with more experience!”

Despite his Germanic name, Maximillian Von Marburg IS an Australian kicker, (not a James Bond villain – and Max Mang isn’t his henchman), so maybe he can do some of the things Hofrichter did. His hometown is Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia. (A sister city to Walla Walla, Washington? His credentials: “Won the 2019 leading goal scorer award in the Riverina Football League’s under 17’s for the Turvey Park Bulldogs with 55 goals … Two-time sports captain at St Mary Mackillop Colleges … Helped his team claim the Riverina Football League championship in 2019” (Cuse.com). I’m sold!

(8/15 update: “James Williams and Ian Hawkins both return at the position, but Australian Maximilian Von Marburg has also joined the group. The competition, though, is mainly between Williams and Marburg. “We thought that somebody did a little bit better in the spring — I won’t mention a name — but he didn’t do so well that the other guy can’t catch him right now, so both of those guys are still competing,” Babers said on Day 1.” Syracuse.com)

Snappers/ Holders
Seniors: #46 Aaron Bolinsky 5-11 220
Juniors:
Sophomores: #41 Joey Kelly 6-1 204 (was 193), #43 Mike Midkiff 6-3 210 (was 195)
Freshman: #61 Ethan Stangle 6-1 196

Aaron Bolinsky has become something of a legend here. As a freshman, he took over when Matt Keller was injured in the 2018 Clemson game and has been our long snapper ever since. I don’t remember one that went awry. He and Andre Szmyt have been joined at the hip, so to speak, (if they really were, he couldn’t be the long snapper), and both decided to use their COVID year to stick around one more year. “Special teams is a very vital part of the game of football,” Bolinsky said. “You come down to the very end of the game, you’re down by one or two points, you need a good snap to make that field goal. If you don’t, chances are you may lose the game. I feel that being a long snapper is a great way to see the field.”

Joey Kelly has been the back-up snapper for three years but it hasn’t been “a great way to see the field”. He has never appeared in a game, which shows you how durable and reliable Bolinsky has been. Joey is “majoring in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises” and his career as long snapper should emerge next year.

Mike Midkiff, per Cuse.com “appeared in all-12 games as the team’s holder on PATs and field goal attempts” in 2021. Nunes: “Not only the long snapper, Midkiff was the holder for Andre Szmyt in all 12 games last season. Held for field goals and PATs.”

Midkiff and the departed Barker were listed as holder on the last issued depth chart, which was for the 12th game last year. Apparently SU no longer uses back-up quarterbacks as holders in case the play breaks down.

Freshman Ethan Stangle “ranked 15th in county and five stars by Kohls Kicking Camp” per Cuse.com. Nunes has a different number: “Kohl’s Kicking Camp rated him 13th in the country at his position while Rubio Long Snapping had him at 4 1⁄2 stars and 46th. He is everything a coach is looking for in their snapper and will be a huge commitment for Syracuse. Stangle is a snapper that has the ability to play this position for a very long time.” Just like Aaron Bolinsky.


Kick returners
Seniors: none
Juniors: #85 DeMarcus Adams 6-0 176
Sophomores: #9 Courtney Jackson 5-11 179 (was 185), #2 Trebor Pena 6-0 177 (was 185)
Freshmen: #87 Donovan Brown 6-1 179
Gone: none

Basically, it’s the slot guys – players who can catch the ball, make moves and have the speed to take it the distance. Pena took a kickoff back two years ago, Jackson, (who took over for him when he was injured) took a punt back last year. Adams and Brown were track stars in high school so I added them in.

(8/29 Update: Andre Szymt’s back-ups will be Brady Denaburg and James Williams. Max von Marburg, when not being a James Bond villain, will do the punting, backed up by the disappointing Williams. Aaron Bolinsky will continue his crisp snaps, backed by his likely successor, Ethan Stangle. Justin Barron will be the holder, backed up by Williams, who is backing up three positions. I still don’t know why they don’t use a quarterback in the event of a bad snap. Trevor Pena will be the primary kick returner, backed by Courtney Jackson. Adams and Brown couldn’t crack the top two.


TEAM SUMMARY

We need to do four things: Find a quarterback who can consistently get the ball to our receivers, quickly rebuild the defensive line, find a punter and stay healthy. If we do those things, this could be a formidable team. We will have to be because we’ve got a formidable schedule.
 

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