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LSU 2022 Position Preview: Special Teams

Literally everyone from last year’s gone

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Who would you say is the best hire Ed Orgeron made during his time as the LSU head football coach?

Joe Brady’s probably the answer. Brady won the Broyles Award in 2019 and not only helped bring LSU out of the stone age, but turn the 2019 Tigers into the greatest offense college football will ever see.

But there’s a case to be made that Greg McMahon’s four years as special teams coordinator is the best hire Coach O ever made. LSU uncharacteristically struggled in special teams in 2017, finishing 104th in special teams efficiency and missed 11 field goals. McMahon came in during the 2018 season and LSU’s special teams immediately became a strength. He found Cole Tracy, Cade York, and Avery Atkins. He helped make Zach Von Rosenberg an All-SEC punter and Blake Ferguson was picked in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the only long snapper selected that year. He recruited top specialists like Peyton Todd, Quentin Skinner, and incoming freshman Nathan Dibert.

But McMahon is gone, off enjoying a well-deserved retirement. Not only is McMahon gone but basically every part of LSU’s special teams unit from 2021 is gone, too. Best LSU Kicker Ever Cade York went pro, Atkins graduated, and long snapper Quentin Skinner transferred. Everyone who returned a punt for LSU in 2021 (Trey Palmer, Koy Moore, Deion Smith) transferred and three of the five players who returned a kickoff (Palmer, Corey Kiner, and Jontre Kirklin) are gone too.

Special teams is a critical part of the game and LSU’s quite literally replacing every aspect of its room from 2021. And for that reason I’d say that special teams, not the offensive line or defensive backs, is the biggest question mark surrounding the 2022 Tigers.

2022 LSU Place Kickers

Player Height/Weight Makes Attempts 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ PATs
Player Height/Weight Makes Attempts 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ PATs
31 Nathan Dibert (Fr.) 5'11"/207 No. 2 Kicker Prospect
34 Damian Ramos (Rs. Fr.) 6'2"/183 No Stats
39 Ezekeal Matos (Soph.) 5'11"/193 No Stats

Incoming freshman Nathan Dibert probably gets the first shot at the unenviable task of trying to replace Cade York. I don’t think we’ll truly feel York’s absence until the first time LSU lines up for a 50+ yard field goal attempt. Literally nobody in LSU history was better at making kicks from that distance than York, now those guaranteed three points won’t be as big of a gimme like the past three seasons.

If Dibert doesn’t get the job done look for walk ons Damian Ramos and Ezekeal Matos to try their hand at place kicking.

2022 LSU Punters

Player Height/Weight Punts Average 50+ Yards Downed Inside 20 Long
Player Height/Weight Punts Average 50+ Yards Downed Inside 20 Long
19 Jay Bramblett (5th-Year Sr.)* 6'2"/202 58 43.1 11 16 72
38 Peyton Todd (Rs. Fr.) 6'5"/242 No stats

*At Notre Dame

The only job we know is set is punter as Jay Bramblett is the lone player to follow Brian Kelly from Notre Dame to LSU. Bramblett’s the present and West Monroe product Peyton Todd can spend the season getting ready to inherit the job in 2023 and beyond. Todd’s got a massive leg but the knock on him has been he’s struggled at pinning people inside the 20. Maybe Bramblett can help Todd unlock that missing trait.

2022 LSU Kickoff Specialists

Player Height/Weight Attempts Average Touchbacks
Player Height/Weight Attempts Average Touchbacks
46 Trey Finison (5th-Year Sr.)* 5'10"/188 2 62.5 1

*At Northwestern

Finison transferred to LSU without a whole lot of fanfare behind it. Finison handled kickoff duties for Northwestern in 2019 and kicked off 33 times, but for whatever reason he’s only kicked off a total of checks notes ah yes, three (3) times over the past two seasons. I’m not sure what that’s about, but I highly doubt he used his final year of eligibility transferring to a new school to not kickoff. He’s likely the LSU kickoff specialist and who knows maybe he’ll get a chance to attempt field goals if Dibert or one of the walk ons isn’t up to the task.

You may or may not be aware but long snapper Quentin Skinner is no longer on the roster, thus shutting off the really specific Buford High to LSU long snapping pipeline the Tigers had relied upon dating back to the Ferguson brothers.

In Skinner’s place is East Carolina transfer Slade Roy. I’m sure he’ll do fine.

I’m interested to see who Brian Kelly and Brian Polian turn to to handle kick and punt return duties. I’m just spitballing here but I would guess think maybe Chris Hilton or Armoni Goodwin get a shot.