With the offense and defense previews wrapped up, it is now time to close out our breakdown of the 2023 Louisville football team by having a glance at the entire special teams unit.
James Turner rebounded from a disappointing 2021 season to have a solid 2022 campaign. Turner was 20-of-22 on field goal attempts, his 20 makes tying the Louisville single-season record in that category. His 90.9% accuracy also put him third in the ACC, only behind NC State’s Christopher Dunn and Georgia Tech’s Gavin Stewart. Turner earned Third-Team All-ACC honors as a result.
On the punting side, Mark Vassett earned All-ACC honorable mention with a solid season. Vassett averaged 44.6 yards per punt, also putting him third in the ACC in that respective category.
Jawhar Jordan averaged 25.2 yards per kickoff return, and for the second consecutive season, ran one back for a touchdown. Louisville has managed to get a kick return touchdown in four of the last five seasons.
Both James Turner and Mark Vassett transferred from Louisville in the offseason, leaving for Michigan and Colorado, respectively.
Projected Starters: Brock Travelstead (kicker), Brady Hodges (punter), Shai Kochav (long snapper); Jawhar Jordan (kick returner), Kevin Coleman (punt returner)
Losing both the starting kicker and punter has left some uncertainty for Louisville’s special teams entering the season.
Brock Travelstead finally gets his chance at the starting job after spending his first three seasons behind Turner at kicker. Travelstead has primarily served as the kickoff specialist and to his credit, Louisville has done a much better job at pushing for touchbacks there than prior to his arrival. Louisville had no higher than a 25.3% touchback percentage in any season from 2016-19, but under Travelstead, the touchback numbers have gone from 23% in 2020, to 56.3% in 2022. Travelstead should not only return as the kickoff specialist, it’s reasonable to expect him to make the leap to the starting job at kicker.
With Vassett transferring, this opens the door for Brady Hodges to leap into the starting punter job. Hodges was a four-star punter per ProKicker.com and handled first-team reps throughout the offseason. Don’t be surprised to see him return as the holder on field goal attempts, as well.
Shai Kochav likely starts at long snapper, and has collegiate experience from his previous stop at Arkansas State.
Now as far as fielding returns, Louisville should be in a much more comfortable position. Given his two kickoff return touchdowns in his Louisville career, Jawhar Jordan figures to be the main guy here once again. He’s a speedster that has proven to find lanes and get solid field position. There is a chance that Brohm’s staff could opt to utilize someone else to conserve Jordan as an RB1, but when you have a guy with multiple special teams touchdowns in the last couple seasons, it’s appealing to keep them there.
Louisville also has plenty of options at punt returner, especially those they’ve acquired from the transfer portal. Kevin Coleman, Jr. is my projected starter here, given he had a staggering 16 return touchdowns in his high school career. Like Jordan, he’s also proven to be a playmaker in the open field, and a very shifty athlete in traffic.
Names to Watch: Cole Hussung and Nick Lopez (kicker), Carter Schwartz (punter), Hayden Travelstead (long snapper), Jadon Thompson (returner)
Louisville at least has some experience behind Travelstead at kicker, albeit brief. Cole Hussung and Nick Lopez have both played in games at their previous stops (Michigan and Cal, respectively), but between the two players, only Lopez has attempted a field goal at the college level.
Carter Schwartz is a new arrival from Trinity High School in Louisville, averaging 42.8 yards per punt in his senior season and landed about one of every five punts inside the 20. Keep an eye on him as a future starter for Louisville here and a potentially solid punter in the coming years.
Some names for Louisville to watch at the return spots will be Jadon Thompson and Isaac Guerendo. Both have special teams experience at their recent stops (Cincinnati and Wisconsin, respectively) and have also scored special teams touchdowns in their careers.