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The WBN Kentucky Football Position Previews: The Special Teams


Most fans give little thought to the play of the special teams units. The offense and the defense are typically the squads that put most of the points on the board, but the play of a team’s special teams can be the difference between a win and a loss and one blocked punt or kickoff return for a touchdown could push a team to a victory. Kentucky will have the benefit of returning both starting kickers from last year, but will be replacing their long snapper (J.J. Helton), a kick returner (Derrick Locke), and their kick returner/punt returner/holder (Randall Cobb). While it looks like senior cornerback Randall Burden is close to locking up the starting punt returning job, the kickoff returners are likely to change multiple times throughout the year. That considered, I’ve left the returner jobs off of this list because there are just too many options to list. Gene McCaskill, Darryl Collins, Demarco Robinson, Raymond Sanders, Dale Trimble, Eric Simmons, and Daylen Hall are all possibilities to return kicks for the Cats at some point.

The Projected Starters

#93 – Craig McIntosh – K – JR – 6’0 / 193 – Lexington, KY

Mcintosh initially walked on to the football team two years ago while on a ROTC scholarship to UK. After Lones Seiber graduated, the ensuing competition to replace him for the placekicking duties became a mess. Ryan Tydlacka, Joseph Mansour, and Mcintosh battled it out for the starting job with Mcintosh finally coming out on top. He was a consistent kicker for the Cats last year on field goals and extra points and should be a solid option again this season.

#9 – Ryan Tydlacka – P – SR – 6’1 / 190 – Louisville, KY

When Tim Masthay graduated, everyone knew production would inevitably drop off and whenever you lose a player that starts for the Super Bowl champions two short years after graduation, there are always going to be big shoes to fill. Despite the looming shadow of Masthay, Ryan Tydlacka was able to step in and excel as Kentucky’s punter. He has a big leg, but his ability to drop kicks deep inside enemy territory is where he really separates himself from the pack. He should be one of the SEC’s top punters this season.

#57 – Jon Thomas – LS – JR – 5’11 / 237 – Louisville, KY

Maybe the most commonly overlooked position on a football team, the long snapper only needs one bad snap to lose a game. Kentucky will bring in Jon Thomas to handle the job and he will be in his fourth year with the program. While a lot of teams utilize a backup tight end or offensive lineman for the job, the walk-on from St. Xavier High School will focus solely on long snapping for the Cats.

The Main Contenders

#88 – Joseph Mansour – K/P – SO – 6’2 / 188 – LaGrange, GA

The Kentucky staff took a lot of fans by surprise when they brought in Mansour on scholarship. Rated as the nations #2 Punter by, he was also pegged as the starting kicker for the AJC’s all-decade team in Georgia. Mansour will handle the kickoff duties this season and looks to be the primary backup to both McIntosh and Tydlacka as well. After this season, Mansour will be the leading candidate to take over the starting punter job for Tydlacka.

The Best of the Rest

#90 – Patrick Simmons – K – JR – 6’2 / 196 – LaGrange, GA

Simmons is a walk-on kicker from one of Kentucky’s favorite recruiting pipelines in LaGrange. While he is unlikely to see the field much, it probably won’t matter as he is on track to go to medical school anyway.

#42 – Jay Willmott – P – FR – 6’1 / 235 – Georgetown, KY

Wilmott made the team as a walk-on and will most likely redshirt this season. While he’s probably not a household name outside of Scott County, he was one of the best kickers in the state and helped his team make a deep run into the 6A playoffs. He will definitely be in contention to take over for Tydlacka at punter next season.

#81 – Kyle Budde – LS – FR – 6’6 / 225 – Mason, OH

Budde is a walk-on long snapper and is likely to redshirt this season. If he can handle the extra duties, he has the size to be utilized as an emergency tight end or defensive end as well.

The Future

Landon Foster – K/P – 6’2 / 180 – Franklin, TN

It’s pretty rare for a team to use a scholarship on a specialist, but to have two within two recruiting classes of each other almost never happens. Foster must have really shown some potential this summer, because he was able to garner scholarship offers from the Wildcats, Tennessee and Western Kentucky in addition to heavy interest from schools like Alabama, Miami and Missouri. He can play kicker or punter at the college level.

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