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2020 USF Football Spring Practice Preview: Special Teams

Spring practice begins next week for the Bulls. How will the Bulls fare with a new coach?

Robert Steeg / The Daily Stampede

Spring practice begins on Tuesday 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.

Special Teams

Position Coach: Daniel Da Prato (First season at USF)

Key Losses: None

Key Returners: P Trent Schneider (44.4 yards per punt avg), K Coby Weiss (18-for-23 career FG), LS Ian Deenan, PR K.J. Sails, KR Bentlee Sanders, KR Jernard Phillips

Key Additions: K Jared Sackett from Arkansas/UTSA

One of the few position groups that did not have a single senior last season, special teams should still see a complete overhaul under a dedicated special teams coach with Daniel Da Prato taking over under head coach Jeff Scott.

Da Prato helped lead a special teams unit last season at Arkansas that ranked 10th nationally in the country with 17.2 yards per kickoff return. His special teams unit also ranked 20th in punt return defense and 26th in punt returns, averaging 11.5 yards per return.

The unit will be under the leadership of Aussie senior punter Trent Schneider, who has crushed punting records since coming to USF in 2018. Some of his accolades include tying for longest punt in school history at 72 yards, yards per punt in a single game with 51.6, and 42 punts booted 50+ yards. We should see Schneider continue his success this season as both the punter and the holder for the field goal unit. Behind him will be redshirt freshman Kenny Scribner from Charlotte HS in Punta Gorda, FL.

USF will have a kicking competition to start the season, with senior Coby Weiss, sophomore Spencer Shrader, and transfer junior Jared Sackett all vying for the starting position. Sackett will look to have the advantage as his previous stop was with Coach Daniel Da Prato at Arkansas this past year, where he had to sit due to transfer rules after leaving UTSA.

Sackett was also named a two-time Lou Groza semi-finalist during his time at UTSA, where he made 80% of his field goals (33-for-41) with a career long of 51 yards. He also has only missed one career PAT.

Weiss will have the advantage of familiarity with the unit, as the cadence between the holder (Schneider) and the long snapper (Deenan) are key for a successful field goal attempt. Weiss also boasts a career 78% (18-for-23) field goal percentage. Shrader on the other hand, struggled during the season going 4-for-9, including a disastrous night against Cincinnati that saw him miss four field goals. However, Shrader took over kickoff duties, collecting 15 touchbacks on 51 attempts and averaged 55.6 yards per kick off.

One part of special teams that desperately needs assistance are the non-specialist players, as the rest of the players on these units struggled under former TE/ST coach Justin Burke every year. His time with USF resulted in many botched coverage units, poor kick/punt protection, and a lack of explosiveness (sans Terrence Horne Jr for two games in 2018).

As a result, USF sat at 56th in punt return yards (8.33 yards), 92nd in punt returns yards allowed (9.28 yards allowed), 72nd in kick off return yards (20.30 yards), and 57th in kick off return yards allowed (20.31 yards allowed). The unit scored one touchdown the entire year, when K Spencer Shrader took a fake field goal the distance for a score against [REDACTED].

If Coach Da Prato can utilize the speed of the team’s athletes, and work the blocking and coverage schemes properly, we could see USF produce not only a Lou Groza/Ray Guy award, but expand on a dynamic part of the game that can set up the offense and defensive units for success.