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Syracuse football spring position preview: Special Teams

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A group that needs to be better in 2022

Boston College v Syracuse Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

We’re moved through the Syracuse Orange football position previews and have reached the last group to preview this spring: Special Teams.

Who’s gone?

No one which should be a good sign for improvement from this area.

Who’s on campus?

Andre Szmyt and Aaron Bolinsky return for theirs fifth season as the primary kicker and long-snapper. The Orange will lean on their experience in the kicking game. Joey Kelly and Mike Midkiff are once again behind Bolinsky on the depth chart. Punters James Williams, Colby Parker and Ian Hawkins as well as primary returners Trebor Pena and Courtney Jackson are ready to go for Syracuse.

A new punter has also arrived coming all the way Wagga Wagga, Australia, Max Von Marburg will try and help solidify a kicking game which struggled last fall. Most importantly Bob Ligashesky has been hired to give the special teams a full-time coach after last year’s coach by committee.

Who’s arriving this summer?

We’re likely to see another walk-on long snapper in camp, but that’s all.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Syracuse at Ohio Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Can Szmyt regain his Groza Award winning form?

Last season Szmyt only made 9 of 14 field goal attempts. He had a couple of crucial misses along the way including one which could have pulled the Orange even with Clemson. In a season where Syracuse missed a bowl by one game the inability to rely on the kicking game hurt. We don’t expect Williams or Hawkins who carry the punter/kicker designation to be used other than kickoffs.

Big returns in 2022?

Courtney Jackson brought a punt back for a touchdown against Boston College. Trebor Pena had a kickoff return for a touchdown two years ago. Both players show the ability to flip the field for the Orange offense and we can’t stress enough the importance for a program that doesn’t have the talent that many of their conference opponents can deploy. Extra yardage in special teams can help the Syracuse offense be in position to put points on the board.

The punting game must produce

No one is expecting that the Orange have a Riley Dixon or Sterling Hofrichter on the roster right now. However one of the four punters needs to seize the job and deliver consistent results. Kicking in the Dome should be an advantage but last year Syracuse averaged under 39 yards per punt. While you’d prefer that the offense keeps the punters on the sideline more often in 2022, we still need that group to be able to set up the defense in situations where they can win the field position game.

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The kicking game was one of the weakest units on the Syracuse team last year. The gamble to go without a full-time coach failed and now the expectation is that the group will be much better in 2022. Syracuse’s home games in the Dome mean that they should expect better results in the kicking game. We’ll be watching in the Fall to see who seizes the punting job.