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Syracuse football position preview: Special Teams

Can this group deliver more in 2023?

Virginia v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

As we approach the start of camp for the Syracuse Orange football team, it’s time to dig in and look at the position groups. Today we look at the special teams group.

Most of the Syracuse fanbases, us included, have spent the off-season talking about Garrett Shrader’s health, the lines, and coaching staff turnover. We might be overlooking a critical piece of the puzzle by not wondering how Syracuse will replace Andre Szmyt and fix the woes of the punting unit?

Brady Denaburg is next in line to assume the place-kicking duties. Can he provide the same type of success that Szmyt’s 20-26 field goal mark provided? He is unproven, but he was the 12th ranked kicker in his class, so the potential is there. It’s not realistic to expect Denaburg to be as reliable as the fifth-year kicker, but not having that fall back option might make Dino Babers a bit more aggressive when the Orange cross midfield. While his attempts might not be as high as Szmyt’s, Syracuse will need Denaburg to convert at a similar rate.

After finishing last in the ACC in punting, Syracuse brought in Jack Stonehouse from Missouri. Stonehouse averaged over 42 yards per punt and during the spring scrimmage, he appeared to be ahead of James Williams and Max von Marburg. The Orange need to find a punter who can get flip field position, especially at home and Stonehouse might be the person to do the job.

Whoever is punting will be taking snaps from a new long-snapper. Ethan Stangle and Mike Midkiff return and they are joined by Fordham transfer Tom Callahan. The Orange were lucky to have Aaron Bolinsky’s consistency at that position so hopefully the transition is smooth. Justin Barron and Midkiff are slated to take care of holding duties on kicks. We’ll keep an eye out during camp to see if others get a shot at the job.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Syracuse Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Same with the returner spots. Trebor Pena’s appeared on some preseason All-ACC lists as a returner. He didn’t return any kicks for scores last year, but he’s shown the ability to flip the field. As the Orange have added some speed at the skill positions, it’s possible that other players might get a look. We might see Juwan Price or Bryce Cohoon get some opportunities as kickoff returners.

Syracuse’s coverage teams can also benefit from the added depth. With a small margin for error in many games. the Orange need to take advantage on special teams as those plays make a difference in the team’s overall success.