2020 LSU Football Position Breakdown Part 10: Special Teams

York, Von Rosenberg returning to lead 2020 unit
Publish date:

The unsung heroes of a championship run, the special teams unit will return a veteran group in 2020 that simply does their jobs for the Tigers. That's all you can really ask from kicker or punter or kickoff specialist.

As football fans know, sometimes it comes down to a final kick, a ball bouncing the right way on a punt or maybe a fake to ignite a spark in the team.

According to FootballOutsiders.com, the LSU special teams unit ranked No. 29 in SFEI, a stat that judges the per possession scoring advantage a team's combined special teams units would be expected to have on a neutral field against an average opponent.

LSU returns nearly every piece of its special teams unit in 2020 and with an extra year under its belts, should prove to have an elite unit in the SEC.

Kicker: Cade York

Anyone following Cole Tracy's act in 2018, after Tracy went 29-of-33 on his field goals in his lone season with the Tigers, establishing himself as one of the program's greats in that short amount of time, is a tough act to follow.

York had his freshman moments but for the most part as a true freshman, stepped up when the team needed him most. York went 21-of-27 on his field goal attempts in 2019 and 89-of-93 on his PAT attempts.

Those are solid numbers and York showed the coaching staff and fans alike his potential as a kicker for the next three years. The power is unquestioned as he delivered on three 50+ yard field goals and never had a game where he missed more than one field goal attempt.

That shows he's able to put a miss behind him and carry on about his business without letting a bad kick get in his head. Now he did miss his lone field goal attempts against Oklahoma and Clemson in the postseason but with LSU scoring touchdowns at the rate it was, it didn't make a difference at all.

York is primed for a breakout sophomore year with a college facility and weight room at his disposal from now until fall. After years of worrying where LSU's next kicker would come from, there's stability at the position for the first time in years.

Punter: Zach Von Rosenberg

Von Rosenberg can certainly be classified as a forgotten man in 2019 as LSU's offense tore up nearly every defense it faced en route to a 15-0 record. But as a junior, Von Rosenberg, when asked, delivered.

In 2019, Von Rosenberg punted 47 times for 2,013 yards, a 42.8 punting average which ranked just outside the top-50 in college football. While those seem like average numbers at face value, it's the efficiency you want to take into account. The LSU punter ranked No. 25 in punt efficiency with a success rate of 74.5%.

Von Rosenberg saved his best game for last as he punted seven times against Clemson with a 44.6 yard average and pinned Trevor Lawrence and company inside their own 20-yard line three times. On the season, Von Rosenberg pinned opponents inside their 20-yard lines 21 times.

Now that he's back for his senior year LSU should continue to have success in controlling the field pretty much wherever the offense's drives stall.

Kickoff Specialist: Avery Atkins

Atkins is simply incredible at kickoffs. His 110 touchbacks in 2019 blew the rest of the NCAA opposition out of the water, with the next closest being Clemson, who's kickoff specialist had 83 touchbacks last season.

Seemingly every time the ball was crushed off of Atkins right foot, you'd know that it was going through the back of the endzone. That productivity from Atkins shouldn't change as he returns for his junior year. 

Punt Returner: Derek Stingley Jr. 

Stingley was handed the reigns of punt returning duty after an abysmal 2018 season where you were left hoping a fair catch would be the result. 

After a promising start to the season, combining for 117 punt return yards in his first three games, Stingley would finish with 163 yards total for the season. He showed flashes of what he could do in space and his unique athletic ability should help him improve his sophomore season.

Many think Stingley is primed for a Heisman type season for LSU in 2020 but in order to truly compete he'll have to affect the game in a myriad of ways a la Tyrann Mathieu in 2011, not just being a lockdown defender.

Punt return is the best way to showcase his skillset and it will be fun to watch just how much improvement Stingley can make in that area of his game.

Kick Returner: Trey Palmer

All LSU needs here is someone that can catch a kickoff. Last season it was Clyde Edwards-Helaire and nearly every time he waved his hands up for a fair catch, so LSU could start at the 25-yard line. 

It's possible the Tigers didn't have a better option than Edwards-Helaire in 2019 and didn't want to risk hurting him by asking him to return kicks. The more likely scenario is he was asked to call a fair catch because LSU wanted to start at the 25-yard line guaranteed on every drive.

Palmer is an obvious choice in either scenario as he proved to be an effective runner in his freshman season when he returned the Tigers only punt for a touchdown against Northwestern State.

Special teams can win and lose games and the fact that LSU is returning a veteran group that didn't make many, if any mistakes last season, is a positive sign for continued success as a whole.