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.


The University of Louisville has a lot of veteran guys back in key positions, including in the special teams.

Special teams coach Kenny Carter is working this season with a lot of the same players he worked with all of last season and noted "that's a nice thing."

"We have some guys back and they have some talent," Carter said. "So, that's always a nice way to start off in the kicking game."

Carter called placekicker John Wallace "one of the best in the country," and he will begin his second season as the kicker, while Ryan Johnson is the punter and Grant Donovan is back as the long snapper.

Even the backups are the same as last season, while Carter and head coach Charlie Strong said the kickoff team has changed around the scheme a bit.

"We always have to get better and I believe you will see we have done that," Carter said. "We've improved in a lot of areas."


John Wallace won the kicking battle in preseason last year from Matthew Nakatani and turned in a sensational season.

Wallace, a graduate of Central Hardin High School in Cecilia, Ky., is a 6-foot, 188-pound sophomore. He's on the Lou Groza Watch List heading into the season.

"John is fantastic," Carter said. "He should have been first-team All-Conference (in the Big East) last year. He's very talented ahs just has such a strong leg.

"John came through for us a lot last year."

Wallace booted 16 field goals in 2012, hitting 10 of his first 11 on the season with the lone miss a 57-yarder to end the half against Cincinnati. He connected on a career-long 45 yarder against Pittsburgh an was 38 of 42 on extra points.

Carter is also excited because he has a very capable backup.

Sophomore Matthew Nakatani was forced to kick against Missouri State when Wallace was injured. Nakatani was 2-for-2, including a 45-yard field goal.


Former DeSales High School star Ryan Johnson is a walk-on who started last season behind scholarship player Joshua Appleby.

Both guys punted in the opener and then Johnson took over.

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Johnson averaged 39.4 yards a kick and had 20 of his 49 punts land inside the 20-yard-line. His long of the season was 57 yards.

"I feel like I have done what I needed to do to get better," Johnson said last week, noting he has cut down his delivery time.

Appleby will serve as the backup, while Carter said "both guys are very capable. They're both very talented guys."


U of L didn't have a kick or punt return for a touchdown last season but did have some woes on the kickoff coverage team.

Charlie Strong said the Cardinals have added some more speed in the return game and have also upgraded the kickoff coverage team.

Strong said he told Carter to use a pool of 18-25 players for kickoff coverage, most of the players being starters or key reserves.

The Cardinals' staff have also changed the scheme up a bit because Strong said "we weren't very good at it last year," referring to kick coverage.

Speedy Florida transfer Robert Clark is listed as the first-team punt returner and tops on kickoffs along with defensive back Devontre Parnell.

Corvin Lamb, Eli Rogers and Kai De La Cruz are also listed in the return game, while Strong said freshman James Quick will also see time there.

"We have a bunch of those fast, little guys," Strong said.


*After two years of quarterback Will Stein as the holder, the Cardinals will turn to punter Ryan Johnson for those duties. Wide receiver Kai De la Cruz is the backup holder for the Cardinals.

*Grant Donovan is starting his third season as the long snapper with lineman Chase Peterson as the backup snapper.

*The special teams series will continue later today with features on holder Grant Donovan, punter Ryan Johnson and kicker John Wallace.

*Cardinal Authority will wrap up the outlook to the season tomorrow with top newcomers and guys to watch as ‘surprise' players.

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