OPINION: Spring football game leaves special teams future in limbo

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The spring football game was played at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturday Apr 21, 2018. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

The spring game may have given Kansas State fans a good idea of what to expect this fall, but it also gave Wildcat fans a brand new question: how will the special teams look?

K-State special teams coach Sean Snyder has always been able to pull together a solid group. That is why he was named Special Teams Coach of the Year by ESPN last year.

This year, Snyder has his work cut out for him. He lost basically the entire group of skill positions that he used last season.

DJ Reed and Byron Pringle, both return threats on the K-State roster, left a year early for the NFL Draft.

If the spring game is any indication, junior running back Alex Barnes and junior wide receiver Isaiah Zuber will fill their shoes this year.

It should be noted here that the new rule allowing players to fair catch kickoffs inside the 25-yard line for a touchback will likely completely change the return game.

K-State returners will now have to decide if they can make it to the 25-yard line sooner and will have more of an opportunity to make decisions. Returning kickoffs became a lot more strategic this offseason.

The Wildcats also lost their field goal kicker Matthew McCrane, who was the first kicker in a rich school history to be all-conference in three seasons. He set school records in field goal percentage and extra point percentage.

The spring game seemed to indicate that the player who will be replacing McCrane is completely up in the air.

K-State was 1-3 on field goals in the game. Those three field goals were all by different kickers too.

In the first quarter, junior kicker Nick McLellan missed a 39-yard kick and freshman Jake Roark missed a 48-yarder.

In the fourth, sophomore Blake Lynch drilled a 44-yard field goal that ended up deciding the 31-28 game.

While it was nice to see three kickers, K-State went for a lot of fourth down conversions that they likely would not go for in a real game. The three field goals were all rather long kicks.

K-State also lost its second team All-Big 12 long snapper Drew Scott, who will have to be replaced.

Going for those fourth down conversions also made it hard to get a read on who will ultimately punt for the Wildcats.

K-State lost both second-team All-Big 12 punter Nick Walsh, and Mitch Lochbihler, it’s big-legged backup punter who they often used to try to flip field position. Lochbihler was also the primary holder on field goals.

K-State only attempted two punts in the game, a 31-yard punt by freshman Bernardo Rodriguez and a 41-yarder from junior Devin Anctil that was downed inside the 20-yard line.

K-State has all summer to figure out who is going to snap, hold and kick field goals as well as who is going to punt. They have a long way to go on the often over-looked third portion of the game.

Nathan Enserro is the assistant sports editor for the Collegian and a sophomore in public relations. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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