2020 Louisville Football Guide: Special Teams

Last Season:

Blanton Creque made 8-of-11 field goals and all 33 extra point attempts in the first eight games of the season, before having his final season end early due to injury.

In his place, Ryan Chalifoux stepped in to finish the season. Chalifoux made 22-of-25 extra point attempts, but only one of his three field goals. He also threw a touchdown pass in Louisville’s win over NC State, one that saw the Cardinals clinch bowl eligibility. Another backup kicker, James Turner, recovered a key fumble in the Music City Bowl that ultimately led to a Louisville victory.

Senior punter Mason King averaged 42.6 yards per punt, on 4.4 attempts per game in 2019. King graduates from Louisville as the career leader in yards per punt, averaging 42.5 per attempt. He also leaves Louisville with the single-season record, averaging 43.9 in 2016 (as well as third with his 2019 numbers).

Louisville was among the best teams in the nation in kick returns, averaging 27.4 yards per return (fifth in the FBS). They were also 25th in punt returns with 11.7 yards per attempt.

Projected Starters: Brock Travelstead (kicker & punter); Mitch Hall (long snapper); Hassan Hall (primary kick returner); Rodjay Burns (primary punt returner)

Louisville will have to replace both its kicker and punter in 2020, after both Creque and King served as four-year starters from 2016-19. Signing blue-chip talent in the 2020 class could help the Cardinals address these vacancies.

Brock Travelstead comes to Louisville as the #6 kicker in the 2020 class, and should be a day one starter for the Cardinals. As a kicker and punter at North Paulding High School in Georgia, Travelstead was able to nab multiple All-American honors, hitting 80% of his kicks, 128-of-130 PATs, and averaged 44 yards per punt. He also recorded 130 touchbacks, which should make him a shoe-in to handle kickoff duties.

The main question is whether or not Travelstead would be able to start at both kicker and punter, similar to what Chris Philpott did at times in 2011. I would say there is a very realistic chance; he has consistent mechanics and Louisville’s competition for both starting spots is wide open.

Mitch Hall returns as the long snapper for Louisville, who has been remarkably consistent since his arrival. He didn’t record a bad snap in his first two seasons at U of L, and expect much of the same to continue in 2020 (if we have a season).

Louisville’s return units should see both Hassan Hall and Rodjay Burns assume roles as kick and punt returner respectively, giving the Cardinals one of the most dangerous special teams’ units in the ACC. Hall has returned a kickoff for a touchdown in each of his first two seasons at Louisville, and one more this year would tie him with Zek Parker and George Cain for the most in school history (three). He has the speed and field vision necessary to be a big play threat every time he touches the ball, and that could give him an opportunity at the next level if he doesn’t get a spot as a running back.

Burns has also proven to be a big play threat on special teams, returning a punt for a touchdown in 2018 (he also has a defensive touchdown from last year). Louisville should be in good hands on punt returns with the senior handling the responsibilities.

Key Reserves: Ryan Chalifoux (kicker); Ryan Harwell (punter)

If Louisville wants more experienced options at kicker, the battle will go between Ryan Chalifoux and James Turner, both who played last season after Creque’s injury. Chalifoux handled placekicking duties, while Turner was primarily responsible for kickoffs. Turner was listed on July’s depth chart as the starting kicker, but I think the battle between him and Chalifoux will be neck-and-neck up until the season actually starts.

At punter, Louisville is in a unique position battle between the high school All-American Travelstead, and a JUCO All-American in Ryan Harwell. Harwell averaged 41.1 yards per punt at Tyler Junior College, fourth in the NJCAA in 2019. My personal opinion is that if we see Travelstead start at one position, it’ll likely be at kicker, and then Harwell will start at punter.


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