Position series - Special teams

Cardinal Authority is running a position series as a new preseason football feature to help you get familiar with the entire University of Louisville roster. The final day of the series takes a look at the special teams positions.

OVERVIEW

It's the youngest group on the team.

Both players battling for the punter position and both vying to be the kicker are played that have never played in a college game prior to this season.

But special teams coach Kenny Carter said the "talent is there," and noted the group was working hard and "really competing, it's been fun to see."

"We put a lot of emphasis and spend a lot of time on special teams," Carter said. "We have a ways to go and we have some young guys, but we have capable guys."

While there are return guys who have been in the position before, Carter said the player that will be back returning punts is still up in the air.

He said a kicker and punter could be named early next week.

KICKER POSITION

There are two kicker battles going on in preseason camp.

Redshirt freshman John Wallace of Central Hardin and redshirt sophomore Matthew Nakatani of Shelby County are battling for the spot to do field-goals and extra-points for the Cardinals.

From all indications, Wallace has the stronger leg but Nakatani is more accurate. Carter said both had solid preseason camps.

"That is a really good competition," Carter said. "John, by far, has the stronger led but Matt has been so accurate. John has been accurate to but it's close."

Added long snapper Grant Donovan: "Those guys are both good."

Wallace made a 52-yard field goal in the spring game. He barely missed 57 and 59-yard field goals during his senior season at Central Hardin.

Nakatani is the son of jockey Corey Nakatanki.

Wallace, who is 6-foot and 190 pounds, is also battling true freshman Josh Appleby for the position of kickoff guy. Both guys have big legs.

While in high school, Appleby won a national kickoff classic.

PUNTER POSITION

The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Appleby and walk-on Ryan Johnson (5-11, 200) from DeSales High School are battling for the punter position.

Carter said both have had strong days in camp.

"Both have done a good job of improving," Carter said. "They still need to focus on finishing punts. The little detail things, but that's part of being young."

Carter noted a recent day that five of six punts had a hang time of 5.0 seconds or better, which the coach said was "phenomenal."

Appleby has a scholarship and Carter said to play and perhaps play early is "why you sing a guy" at that position.

But Carter admitted that Johnson isn't giving up easy.

RETURN GAME

The main guys in the return game are also up in the air for the Cardinals, especially punts where as many as five guys have been working in the spot.

Scott Radcliff is the player Carter called "Mr. Dependable" and returned a lot of punts last season, along with sophomore Eli Rogers.

Sophomore Kai Dominguez and redshirt freshman Charles Gaines have also been working at the position, along with star sophomore receiver DeVante Parker.

"We have a lot of great returners back there," Radcliff said. "I believe whoever the coaches decided to put back there will do great things.

Carter said Parker has been used some because the coaches "want to get him some more touches," while Parker said it's the first time he's fielded punts.

"It's been fun," he said. "I get to touch the ball more."

Adrian Bushell, Gaines, Jeremy Wright and Senorise Perry are among the players that could be used to return kicks.

EXTRA POINTS

*Backup quarterback Will Stein returns as the holder on field goals and extra points and is expected to be backed up by Johnson.

*Donovan is the long snapper and there's a feature on the front page about him. Lineman Chase Petersen is listed as his backup but Radcliff can also snap.


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