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Syracuse football All-21st-Century Team: Special Teams

The best of the 21st century from the third side of the ball.

Louisville v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

As hard to believe as it is, the 2019 iteration of the Syracuse Orange football season is only a few weeks away. This season is the twentieth year of football being played since the year 2000. We’re finishing off this series with the special teams unit.

Kicker Nominees (listed chronologically):

  • Collin Barber (2001-2004)
  • Pat Shadle (2005-2008)
  • Ross Krautman (2010-2013)
  • Cole Murphy (2014-2017)
  • Andre Szmyt (2018-2021)

Placekicking has been a time honored tradition in the Syracuse Orange pantheon. You can see, all but the 2009 year has been handled by one of the short list candidates.

Patrick Shadle

A three year starter at place kicker, Shadle finished off his time in Orange eighth in career field goals made (40), and first in career field goal percentage (80%), currently second behind only Andre Szmyt. Shadle was a team captain his senior year. Unfortunately he was also in Syracuse for the Robinson era, which led to many less scoring opportunities than I’m sure Shadle would have liked.

Ross Krautman

Krautman burst onto the scene in 2010, as a freshman, setting the school record for field goals in a season (18) and consecutive field goals made (16). He tied Anderson for the school record in field goal percentage in a season as well, going 18/19 with 94.7%. Those numbers garnered him Freshman All-American status and a spot on the All-Big East first team. “Das Boot” finished his career with a 78% overall field goal percentage. His senior year was unfortunately cut short with a hip injury. Random Krautman fact - his brother Ricky was a kicker for Syracuse from 2003-2005,

Andre Szmyt

The first team All-American. The Lou Groza Award winner. The record holder for field goals by a Syracuse player. All as a freshman. Szmyt burst onto the scene last year, looking to fill the shoes of the aforementioned Ross Krautman. He did so with flying colors. As a freshman, Andre tallied 61/61 extra points and a record 30 field goals, blowing the mark of 18, set by Krautman and the great Gary Anderson away. He is currently 5/5 on field goals this season.

The Depth Chart

  1. Andre Szmyt
  2. Pat Shadle

Even as he’s only a sophomore, Andre Szmyt can’t be denied. As the only Lou Groza winner in Syracuse history, he ultimately won unanimously. Behind him, Shadle got the nod over Krautman in a battle of still really, really good kickers. I would say we should start calling ourselves “Kicker U,” but the punters below may have something to say about that.

Kicker Voting Breakdown

Rank Steve John Kevin
Rank Steve John Kevin
1 Andre Szmyt Andre Szmyt Andre Szmyt
2 Pat Shadle Pat Shadle Pat Shadle

Punter Nominees:

  • Brendan Carney (2002-2006)
  • Rob Long (2007-2010)
  • Riley Dixon (2011-2015)
  • Sterling Hofrichter (2015-2019

In two decades, Syracuse has had a total of six punters. Four of them made our shortlist. We’ve had a bunch of really talented and quite consistent feet coming through the program over the course of the decade.

Brendan Carney

Carney took over for Mike Shafer as the punter in 2003 after a redshirt season. He was a second team All-Big East and Freshman All-Big East selection in his first year as the starter. From then on out, he was an All-Big East punter for two more of his final three seasons. He is second on the all time Syracuse punting average list (42.6), and holds career marks in punts and punting yards for career (271 for 11,534) and season.

Rob Long

Four time All-Big East selection and 2008 SI Honorable Mention All-American, a Ray Guy semifinalist, Long had a storied career in Orange. He also made a full recovery from a brain tumor that was discovered between the end of his senior year and the Pinstripe Bowl in 2010. He finished his career with a 43.3 yard career punting average, good for third all time for the Orange.

Riley Dixon

Dixon took the road from walk on at Syracuse, to starting punter, to NFL draft pick. His final three years, Dixon started and set the standard for how a multi-talented punter could turn into a cult hero for a football team. While he was an All-ACC performer his senior year and Ray Guy semifinalist, as well as an All-ACC honorable mention his junior year, setting the record for longest punt (75 yards) and finishing with a 42.62 yard punting average (fifth all time), the legend and Heisman Trophy hype grew all on their own. His fake field goal toss against Villanova started the wagon rolling and the #DixonForHeisman campaign started by some guy named Sean Keeley took off to new heights when he hurdled an LSU cornerback on another fake field goal, clearing him, falling to the ground and nearly punching another LSU player in celebration.

Sterling Hofrichter

As the current punter, Hofrichter had some big shoes to fill. Riley Dixon was just drafted and he was a starting punter as a freshman. He proceeded to do so by earning Freshman All-American honors and All-ACC third team nods with an average of 42.7 yards. He has followed that up with another All-ACC nod last season, two Ray Guy Award candidacies, and was a preseason All-ACC first team selection for his senior season. His current career punting average of 43.8 is top in Syracuse history and he’s booting at a clip of 46.5 yards per punt on the current season.

The Depth Chart

  1. Riley Dixon
  2. Sterling Hofrichter

By the end of this season, Hofrichter may have the nod over him, but the legend of Riley Dixon couldn’t be denied. All four punters had extremely impressive careers, but the combination of Dixon’s prowess and story led to him unanimously getting the start. Hofrichter is definitely following in his predecessor’s footsteps and came in with the unanimous second spot.

Punter Voting Breakdown

Rank Steve John Kevin
Rank Steve John Kevin
1 Riley Dixon Riley Dixon Riley Dixon
2 Sterling Hofrichter Sterling Hofrichter Sterling Hofrichter