Spring practice begins this 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.
Position Coach: Daniel Da Prato
Key departures: None
Key returnees: KR Brian Battie (2021 Consensus All-American Kick Returner, 20 returns for 650 yards, 3 TDs), KR Jimmy Horn Jr (9 returns for 114 yards), PR Xavier Weaver (9 returns for 116 yards), K Spencer Shrader (35/35 on XP, 11/13 on FG, long of 52 yards), P Andrew Stokes (56 punts for 2,183 yards, 39 yard average), Punt Long Snapper Mack Gresham, FG Long Snapper Andrew Beardall
Key additions: None
One of the brightest spots for USF last season was finding consistency in a crucial part of the game. Coach Da Prato’s unit was rock solid (minus a few small hiccups) last season, producing an All-American kick returner, a strong-legged kicker, a big punter who can boot it, and a punt returner hungry for extra yards. On top of that, having two capable long snappers with experience will end up paying its dividends should injury happen to either one (as we saw during the COVID 2020 season where teams had to use other position players as long snappers).
The depth behind the kickers include young talent, that while waiting in the wings seems counter-intuitive, the strength and conditioning they will be going through will prepare them to take over when the players in front of them graduate. Kickers Will Fowler and John Cannon will be able to get plenty of practice and stability at the college level, and P Kenny Scribner doubles as the team’s holder on field goals.
For the 2022 season, it’ll be about cleaning up the mistakes on special teams (a few holding penalties negated big returns) and adding new wrinkles to the game. Brian Battie put himself on the map with a stellar 2021 season, but with a full years worth of film on him, most teams aren’t going to be chomping at the bit to kick to him. That’s where getting Jimmy Horn Jr involved, or adding misdirection to the return game, can come up big for USF next season.
During the spring, the objective is simple for the Special Teams unit:
- Make sure no one gets hurt.
- Cut down on simple mistakes such as penalties or missed blocking assignments.
Isn’t that refreshing going into the Spring football season? No competitions, no giant question marks, just picking up from where you left off last season.