Spring practice begins today 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.
Position Coach: Daniel Da Prato (Second season at USF)
Key Losses: PR K.J. Sails, KR Bentlee Sanders, KR Jernard Phillips, KR Johnny Ford, KR Terrence Horne Jr., K Coby Weiss (18-for-23 career FG),
Key Returners: P Trent Schneider (41.3 yards per punt avg in 2020), K Jared Sackett (5-for-7 on FG, 10-for-10 on XP in 2020), K Spencer Shrader (4-for-6 on FG, 11-for-11 on XP, 16 touchbacks in 2020), K/P Kenny Scribner (2-for-2 on XP, 38.4 yards per punt avg in 2020), LS Ian Deneen, LS Andrew Beardall, LS Bryce Bernard
Key Additions: N/A
Coach Daniel Da Prato will have no shortage of experience in dedicated special teams players available to him, with two punters, two kickers, and three long snappers available in 2021. Recruiting wise, the Bulls brought in in an additional punter, two additional kickers, and a long snapper to help provide depth in a key position groups.
Trent Schneider is entering his final season in green and gold and currently owns six USF punting records and is on pace for three additional career records to add to his resume. The Aussie native has a 43.9 yards per punt average in his career, but regressed slightly in 2020, dropping from 46.0 yards per punt in 2019 to 41.3 in 2020. Behind him will be RS sophomore Kenny Scribner and new freshman from Australia Andrew Stokes.
Kicking wise, the last season’s offseason derby continued into the season where kicking duties were split between 2020 Lou Groza Watch List nominee Jared Sackett and Spencer Shrader. Both were sporadically used throughout the season, including an incredible performance by Shrader against Memphis that saw him go four-for-four in field goals over 40 yards, earning him special teams player of the week in the conference that week. Both kickers made all their extra points (Sackett made 10, Shrader made 11), and missed two field goals a piece (Sackett made five out of seven, Shrader made four out of six).
Before the season started, senior K Coby Weiss medically retired from football, but stayed on staff as a SA. Behind the two will be incoming freshmen Will Fowler and John Cannon.
Where Coach Da Prato will need to focus his efforts is finding return men for kickoffs and punts, as the unit lost their primary returners in both areas. The unit lost K.J. Sails (graduation/NFL Draft) as a punt returner, as well as Johnny Ford, Terrence Horne Jr., Bentlee Sanders, Jahquez Evans to the transfer portal.
Omarion Dollison registered a punt ‘return’ for a touchdown against The Citadel last season, and was the only one to register a statistic for punt returning. Typically, punt returns as of late have been handled by speedy defensive backs, which is where newly transferred safeties Matthew Hill from Auburn or Christian Williams from Miami can come into play to take over punt return duties.
OH NOOOOOOOOO pic.twitter.com/1DQ0fWxXwx— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) September 13, 2020
For kickoffs returns, losing speedy returners Johnny Ford, Terrence Horne Jr., Jahquez Evans will leave a sour taste, especially Horne who will always have the back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns against Georgia Tech in 2018. Last season, true freshmen Brian Battie and Omarion Dollison got a few returns each, and will look to build on their explosive speed going into the 2021 season. Additionally, receivers Latrell Williams, Sincere Brown, or running back Kelley Joiner could get their hands in the return game.