Louisville started last season with an experienced and somewhat young core in their special teams unit. Mark Vassett entered his second year of college after coming in from Australia’s punting academy. James Turner won a battle to retain his job as the starting kicker. Even Shai Kochev had spent time on a college campus before transferring in. However, the transfer portal both giveth and taketh away, and the special teams unit was hit hard. Vassett transferred to Colorado and Turner went back home to kick at Michigan. Louisville is left to figure things out with a mix of returnees and transfers.
Kicker is the most obvious spot to start as it has a major impact on how the season goes. Brock Travelstead returns for his fourth season but he has yet to find a way to win the kicking job. Travelstead has a big leg as we have seen with him being the kickoff specialist, but he has yet to attempt a field goal in a game in his career.
Nick Lopez transferred in this summer from Cal but he also has very little experience with just one field goal attempt in his four years. Cole Hussung could also be an option after not seeing the field last season. Hussung spent a year at Michigan before transferring closer to home. To me, the job is open until someone shows they can consistently make field goals.
Punter is a little more settled as Brady Hodges took the first reps in every practice I attended. Travelstead spent a lot of time punting in the spring but it didn’t seem to me that he had a chance to beat out Hodges. Louisville also has Carter Schwartz who starred at Trinity.
The returner spots are still open from what I can tell but the staff has plenty of options to choose from. Kevin Coleman seems like a likely option on both kicks and punts as he has great speed as well as the shiftiness to make people miss. Cataurus Hicks is another player that I could see being an option for the staff. Especially as a punt returner.
I’ve also seen Quincy Riley, Jamari Thrash, Amarhi Huggins-Bruce, and Jamari Thrash. The guys that I didn’t see that were somewhat surprising was the running back group. Jahwar Jordan is obviously an excellent kick returner and Isaac Guerendo returned kicks at Wisconsin. Throw in Maurice Turner and his speed and one would expect them to get a shot. It could be that I just didn’t see some of these guys when I was at practice but they definitely weren’t the first guys up.
Brock Travelstead hasn’t attempted a field goal yet but he hasn’t missed an extra point. He was called on to take over the kicking role against Air Force two years ago and he made all four extra points that day. I think the former high school All-American has been unlucky to be behind a better option but I don’t think that means he’s a bad option. I think he’ll do well after waiting for his chance to be the guy.