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A Look at LSU Football's 2021 Offseason Depth Chart: Special Teams

Tigers in good shape with kicking game while program is still in wait and see mode with punting unit

Special teams is always that component of football that can make or break a game. Whether it's field position, costly missed kicks or returned punts and kickoffs, the LSU program has been pretty consistent with the third element of football since Greg McMahon took over the special teams duties. 

LSU has pretty seamlessly transitioned from Cole Tracy to Cade York at kicker and now the program hopes to do the same at the punter position. That's probably the biggest unknown heading into the spring with the special teams group but the Tigers feel confident in who they have to replace Zach Von Rosenberg.

Projected Starters: Cade York (kicker), Peyton Todd (punter), Avery Atkins (kickoffs), Trey Palmer (punt return)

Let's just start with the kicker Cade York. As a sophomore, he was utterly spectacular, showing great improvement on his long kick as his accuracy continued to soar. He went 18-of-21 on his field goals during the 2020 season, earning himself All-SEC and All-American honors for his performance. 

York went a stunning 6-of-7 on kicks that were 50+ yards, none more impressive than the 57-yarder he drilled against Florida in the fog coated night in Gainesville. The kick not only cemented LSU's win over top-10 Florida but also gained York national recognition. 

"Kicking field goals isn’t aiming at the upright, it’s aiming down a line and finding a spot. So, just, I know where the uprights are, find a spot and aim toward that," York said. "It’s not like it was completely, like, white, and I couldn’t see the uprights. I could see them faintly. It was more I just couldn’t see the ball flying the whole way, but I just picked a spot and trusted it and it worked out.”

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Now, York returns for year three as not only the top kicker in the SEC but one of the top kickers in the country. 

The punter position is where the real questions come in. Zach Von Rosenberg was a rock year in and year out for the LSU program over the last four years, so much so that you didn't really have to worry about the punt return defense. Holding a career average of 44.2 yards per punt, Von Rosenberg pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 48 times over his final two seasons, including 30 punts of 50+ yards.

The Tigers have true freshman Peyton Todd to replace the highly productive Von Rosenberg. Todd resides from West Monroe and comes to Baton Rouge as one of the top high school punting prospects in the country. LSUCountry caught up with Todd before his senior season and he talked about wanting to continue the legacy left behind by Von Rosenberg, who gave Todd a little advice when he visited LSU over a year ago.

"He just told me to keep working hard and just to kind of come up and keep the legacy going," Todd said. "I know LSU's had great punters in the past whether it's Brad Wing or Zach. They have a certain special teams standard they live up to and his message to me was to keep working hard."

Known for his big leg, Todd is already on campus which bodes well for his chances of learning the college game and getting more comfortable before the fall. Avery Atkins has been a machine when it comes touchbacks on kickoffs so nothing will change this season either. 

One question that will be interesting to follow is what the punt return game will look like. Derek Stingley had some returns in 2020 but as the season progressed those opportunities waned as Stingley battled injuries. The Tigers went with Trey Palmer down the stretch of the season and he'll likely be an option this season, along with possibly freshman Sage Ryan, who's an electric athlete. 

The case could be made for Stingley to get back in the punt return game every once in a while but the Tigers will likely want to play it safe with their star corner who'll be entering what is most likely his final season with the program.