There will be no Blue-White Game at Beaver Stadium this year, as all spring football practices and on-campus activities have been cancelled by the spread of the coronavirus. But coaches have been busy evaluating tape and putting together plans for the fall, hoping there will be better news on the health front and, in turn, a football season to play.

Leading up to what would have been the annual spring scrimmage on April 18, we’ll be breaking down the Penn State spring roster positions by position, as we would have under normal circumstances. It will be more a look at the roster as a whole than it is a judgement of how spring practice unfolded, of course. But with several key positions open and Penn State hoping to put itself in a championship race when college football does kick off, the staff’s evaluation of those position must go on. So does our’s.

Today, we take an in-depth look at the specialists.

The players




Long snappers


Rafael Checa


Chris Stoll


Jake Pinegar


Joe Calcagno


Vlad Hilling


Dan Vasey


Anthony DaSilva


Carson Landis


Jordan Stout


Bradley King


Returning starters: 1 (K Gillikin)
Key losses: P Blake Gillikin (graduation), KR/PR KJ Hamler (entered 2020 NFL Draft)
Early enrolleees: None

The key fact: There might not be a team in the nation with a better kicking duo than Penn State’s in 2020. The combination of juniors Jake Pinegar and Jordan Stout combined to drill 13 of 15 field goal attempts, including 4 of 5 from 40 yards or longer.

The steadying force

Jake Pinegar

Kicker Jake Pinegar focused on field goals from 50 yards or less last season and missed just one of his 12 attempts.

Jake Pinegar probably doesn’t get enough credit for the improvements he made from his true freshman season in 2018 to 2019, when he really was as close to automatic at what he did as a kicker could be.

Pinegar made good on 11 of 12 field goal attempts last season, and he also made good on 56 of 58 extra point attempts.

Still, he was kind of the forgotten man in Penn State’s kicking game. Jordan Stout came on the scene and kind of commanded the lion’s share of the attention with his booming kickoffs and the Penn State-record 57-yard field goal he drilled against Pittsburgh. For all Stout’s flash, it was Pinegar that really helped keep him strong and save him for those kickoffs and longer field goals by being so consistent from the shorter range.

Remember, Pinegar was an all-state defensive back in Iowa in high school, so he’s really just coming into his own and meeting his full potential as a full-time kicker. It stands to reason he’ll make even bigger strides heading in 2020, and he may need to do that. Because…

The biggest spring question

Is there an effective punter in the house? Blake Gillikin was kind of maddening the last two years of his Penn State career. His numbers were still fairly solid as a senior — he averaged 42.2 yards per punt, after all — but after his sophomore season, many Nittany Lions fans rightly figured he had an All-American-caliber season in him, and that just never materialized. He battled injuries in an inconsistent 2018, and he just didn’t regain the consistency he had as a freshman and sophomore as a senior.

That said, he has been Penn State’s punter for two-thirds of James Franklin’s tenure as head coach. Replacing a guy who basically monopolized the position his entire career is never easy.

Special teams coach Joe Lorig does have some options here. He can go with former Lackawanna College standout Bradley King, who redshirted last season but showed with the Falcons he has good hang time on his kicks. Another junior, Carson Landis, also is an option.

But, the safe money is on Stout claiming the spot.

That said, how will adding the punting duties to his job description affect Stout’s ability to contribute on place kicks and kickoffs? Certainly, there are players who punt and do kickoffs. But few players punt, kick off and play a significant role with field goals. Stout will have to show he’s ready for the expanded role.

The potential star

Caziah Holmes

Running back Caziah Holmes could figure into the return game next season.

We won’t list all the options Penn State has to fill another big gap on the special teams units, because it would be a ponderous utterance of names.

But let’s put it this way: Last season, 47 of the 56 kick and punt returns Penn State had were made by KJ Hamler, the sophomore speedster who sprinted off to the NFL following the Cotton Bowl. Two of the other nine were returned by upbacks who fielded short kicks. Two others were returned by Mac Hippenhammer, who left the team this spring to focus on his baseball career, and the other five returns were split between running back Journey Brown and receiver Jahan Dotson, who may both be too valuable to risk as return men in 2020.

Guessing where Penn State will go to fill that role always seems to be a crapshoot. But here’s a suggestion: True freshman running back Caziah Holmes enrolled early and was in meetings, and he has speed to burn. He returned kicks a bit in high school, and on film, it looks like he has the vision and elusiveness to maybe give it a go as a way to make an early difference at the college level. No question, he’s going to play some in 2020, whenever the season starts. But, it’s going to be difficult for him to be much better than the No. 4 running back. Looking at him as a return man might be worth a shot.

Who hurts most with no spring?

It actually might be Holmes.But the spring sports shutdown certainly didn’t help any of the handful of talented kickers Penn State has on the roster behind Pinegar and Stout.

Hard to remember at this point, but Rafael Checa showed some promise as a kickoff man as a true freshman in 2018. With Stout needed to focus quite a bit more on punting, Checa could have alleviated some pressure by showing he developed more consistency on kickoffs.

The chance of that happening in a summer camp, when coaches are almost certainly going to stick with what they know and have seen in the somewhat recent past, seems remote now. Probably wasn’t likely to begin with, but anything could have been possible at a time of year when you’re open to different possibilities. That doesn’t tend to happen in August.

Projected depth chart

First team

Second team


Jake Pinegar

Jordan Stout


Jordan Stout

Jake Pinegar


Jordan Stout

Bradley King


Chris Stoll

Joe Calcagno