How is LSU Football's Special Teams Unit Performing Ahead of 2020 Season Opener?

Glen West

Special teams is always one of those unheralded parts of football but can be the difference between a win and loss. Over the years, LSU has had years where special teams were nothing to worry about and years where inconsistent kicking and punting have been problems.

This year LSU will be trotting out second-year kicker Cade York and fourth-year punter Zach Von Rosenberg but also have some intriguing options in the return game as well. In the return game, Tyrann Mathieu, Tre'davious White and DJ Chark have been electric producers in the last 10 years on punts and kickoffs.

Coach Ed Orgeron mentioned Tuesday that the program has some difference makers in the return game with Derek Stingley Jr., John Emery and Trey Palmer expected to handle much of the responsibility this season. 

"We feel that's one third of the game and with guys like Derek Stingley and John Emery, Trey Palmer, we should have some home run hitters. We should make stuff happen," Orgeron said.  

Stingley handled the punt return duties a season ago and flashed serious potential in the return game. In 17 return attempts, Stingley averaged 9.6 yards per return for a total of 163 yards. 

If Stingley has Heisman aspirations in 2020, he'll need to prove he can be elite in the return game as well as a versatile defensive back. The kickoff game is another story for the purple and gold as last year Clyde Edwards-Helaire rarely was allowed to return kickoffs by the coaching staff. 

The offense was so proficient a season ago, starting at the 25-yard line was never a problem but with more unknowns than in past seasons, will Orgeron and the coaching staff allow Emery or Palmer to try returning kicks for better field position?

That's a decision that will be made by Orgeron along with special teams coordinator Greg McMahon. McMahon is entering his third season in Baton Rouge and was praised last constantly last year for the job he did.

"First of all, I really believe in coach Mac (Greg McMahon) and the job he's done for us over the years. We want to be more explosive on special teams. I think that coach Mac has done a great job with special teams," Orgeron said. 

One of McMahon's best attributes since arriving to campus has been the improvement in the kicking game over the last two years.

First it was Cole Tracy in 2018, who simply set the program record for field goals in a season. His outstanding season was followed by the recruitment of Cade York, who went 21-of-27 as a freshman.

Orgeron said that York has improved his strength and performed well in an important sophomore season, a statement that's shown with the recent performance at the second scrimmage. 

"We were 7-for-7 on field goals last scrimmage. Very good job. One field goal kicker was 7-for-7 and the other was 6-for-7 so we made how many of those field goals," Orgeron said.

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