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2018 USF Football Spring Practice Preview: Special Teams

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Special teams coach Justin Burke kept his job and now has to rely on a redshirt freshman and a JUCO punter. What could go wrong?

NCAA Football: Tulsa at South Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Spring practice begins next week so we will breakdown each position group as we gear up for football season. Note: We will not guess on what impact freshmen who are not on campus yet will have on the team. Except for quarterback because #BattleHive.

Special Teams:

Key Losses: K Emilio Nadelman (21-25 FG, 84%, 52-56 PAT); Large. Adult. Punter. aka Jonathan Hernandez (61 punts, 41.3 average, 14 inside the 20)

Special teams coach Justin Burke somehow survived with his job intact after an especially woeful job in 2017 where the Bulls had seven (7) combined blocked kicks. It was clear special teams was the weak link last season and the Bulls will have two fresh faces in key positions on the unit in 2018. Head coach Charlie Strong has yet to hire a tenth assistant coach but he did say that the new coach will be involved with the special teams unit.

#CollegeKickers are a real thing and somehow USF has dodged that bullet for the better part of a decade. Outside of Emilio Nadelman’s 2015 season where he hit just 65% of his field goal attempts—although he nailed nine of his last twelve kicks to finish year—every primary kicker (Marvin Kloss and Maikon Bonani) has hit on at least 70% of his field goal attempts since 2009.

That is an impressive run of consistent kickers that most schools can’t even fathom and it makes the Bulls due for a Delbert Alvarado-type of season.

Enter redshirt freshman kicker Marco (Polo) Salini.

He comes from a very prestigious school in St. Thomas Aquinas. He was a part of two state championship winning teams and was ranked as the seventh-best kicker prospect according to MaxPreps coming out of high school. He was also named to the Class 7A all-state third-team as well as first-team all-county. He made 17-of-23 kicks in his career with a long of 43.

Strong said Salini is “the guy” for the Bulls this spring, which will give him ample time to prove himself or give Strong time to find a walk-on prior to fall practice.

Strong dipped in the JUCO ranks for his replacement of LAP with Santa Barbra City College product 27-year-old Trent Schneider. Our friends at 247sports ranked him as a three-star and the best JUCO punter in the nation.

Schneider is originally from Sydney, Australia and has enrolled early to get a jumpstart on taking over for LAP. Strong has a good history of hitting on Aussie kickers. His last one at Texas, Michael Dickson won the 2017 Ray Guy Award.

Besides quarterback, these two spots are the ones I’ll be most interested during spring practice and possibly the most intriguing battle on the entire team. Let’s hope Burke gets it together and Salini continues the longish tradition of solid kickers at USF.