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Louisville Football Position Preview: Special Teams

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Louisville will have new faces at kicker and punter but their return game should continue to be explosive.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Blanton Creque and Mason King were mainstays at Kicker and Punter for the last handful of years but Stu Holt will have to replace them both with players who don’t have a lot of experience. Holt also has to find a way to improve the coverage units as Louisville allowed teams short fields at times. Luckily for him, he has a strong return game as well as a plethora of young players who should help this transition from the veteran players he had at his disposal last season.

Louisville signed a kicker this year for the first time in a good while. Brock Travelstead will likely take over as the starting kicker and I could see him being responsible for kickoffs as well. While he is a true freshman, he was a MaxPreps All-American as a junior and was one of the two kickers in the Army All-American game as a senior. From an accolade standpoint, you can’t ask for much more.

If Travelstead isn’t the guy at kicker, expect James Turner to get the job. Turner didn’t attempt a field goal last season but he did take over kickoff duties when Creque went down for the season. Ryan Chalifoux is a fan favorite, but he hasn’t been mentioned much as an option this offseason.

The punter position is up for grabs as of now but Stu Holt mentioned Logan Lupo when asked about who has stood out so far. Lupo is a second year player from Florida who came in as a kicker. Most guys have some skills as both kicker and punter and it sounds like Lupo has done well enough to win the job here. He will be working to hold off Ryan Harwell who was a JUCO All-American last season.

One positive in the kicking game is that Louisville has options. Being able to have guys like Travelstead and Harwell who have performed at a high level before their time at UofL is a real positive for the team. The fact that they haven’t run away with the starting jobs seems to be a positive and hopefully they will be able to figure who “the guy” is at both spots before the first game.

Hassan Hall had a handful of explosive returns last year and I don’t see any reason why we should expect less this season. Hall has great speed but he also showed great patience last season on kickoff returns. Hall set up his blocks really well but he also made it more likely that the coverage team would get out of their lanes. That helped him break outside and find green space a few times. As long as Louisville can replace some of the blockers he benefited from last season, they should have another potent return team.

We didn’t see very many big plays from the punt return unit but I get the feeling that Rodjay Burns may be replaced as the returner now that he’s up to 210 pounds and we may see Tutu Atwell as the main returner. Atwell obviously has game breaking speed but he also has good vision in the open field. He can anticipate things a bit better than Burns and avoid tacklers. Burns is the more “secure” player back deep but Atwell is just too explosive.

Special Teams is an area that some coaches put a premium on and some think as somewhat of an afterthought. Louisville has won games because of the focus they put on the third phase of the game. The most obvious game was Wake Forest but we saw others where a big return or a big field goal factor into the final score. They need to find their kickers early on and those players have to come through for them. They also need their backups and young guys who play on special teams to be very good on coverage. This defense doesn’t need to defend short fields.