It's hard for any young player to come in and take over a prominent role left behind by a seasoned vet. That's particularly the case with a finite group of players like special teams.
Cade York had to do it two years ago when senior Cole Tracy arrived for one year, had the most successful kicking season of any LSU place kicker in program history. Now, all eyes will be on freshman punter Peyton Todd, the West Monroe native who's taking over for Zach Von Rosenberg, a three-year starter at the position and proven team leader.
Von Rosenberg held a career average of 44 yards per punt and became one of the country's best at pinning teams inside the 20-yard line over the last two seasons, doing it 48 times in 25 games. Todd, who is now an early enrollee with the program, averaged 42 yards per punt during his junior high school season, including pinning 20 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
For the past few years, Todd’s been among the elite kicking prospects at Kohl’s Kicking camp, ranking as the No. 3 punter for the 2021 class with “the most upside.”He has only been on campus for a few months but is already making real strides already according to York.
“He definitely came in and is ahead of the learning curve since he should technically be in high school. He is already getting a jump start, so you can’t judge him too much on where he is at. But from when he got here until now, he has made tons of improvements," York said.
There will be some competition at that punter spot unlike previous years with Von Rosenberg now gone. The Tigers have always recruited well at punter and have Avery Atkins, who's most notably used for his kickoffs, competing with Todd for the punter job as well.
Atkins is known for his strong leg on those kickoffs but is looking to expand his game to become a true NFL draft commodity. Winning the punter job and having a successful senior season would be the optimal route. The future is bright with Todd, but Ed Orgeron and the coaching staff will want to exhaust every possible scenario this offseason, and going with the more veteran option could be the move if Atkins proves he can handle the punting duties.
"We have been working with him a lot, getting heavy into film with him and trying to smooth him out and make him a little less robotic," York added about Todd's development. "He’s done a really good job. The improvements he’s made since he got here are pretty amazing. You can see he’s going to be a pretty good punter for LSU. It’s still a competition between him and [Atkins], but the best punter will win.
“He’s a really good athlete. He’s got a lot of raw talent coming in. I think as time goes on and he is here for four years, you will see exponential improvement from him," York said. "He’s only been doing it seriously for 2-3 years. Double that time while he is here and you are going to see some insane improvements. He was a really good baseball athlete and was a linebacker, so he has a ton of leg strength. He’s going to be an impressive punter.”