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 third day of the series takes a look at the special teams positions.

OVERVIEW

In recent years, special teams has been a place where many University of Louisville fans have wanted improvement from the team.

Well, that should be coming this season.

U of L coach Bobby Petrino and his staff have seen a major improvement with the specialist since spring practice ended.

The U of L staff will also use starters in every aspect of the special teams, according to special teams coach Tony Grantham.

"We want to get the best guys on the field with each and every aspect of the game," Grantham said. "You could be the starting Mike linebacker and run with the first (kickoff) group.

"We want the best guys on the field. At the same time, we want to get some young guys on there so they can gain some confidence and prove themselves, earn their stripes so to speak."

Kicker John Wallace booted 27 and 29-yard field goals in Saturday's scrimmage, while backup Jon Brown made a 42-yard field goal.

"I have been really happy with our specialists," Petrino said. "They have really performed well. I'm excited about what we have with those guys. We have some guys with some experience and that's nice."

KICKER POSITION

John Wallace is a junior kicker from Central Hardin High School and has two years of experience for the Cardinals.

The 6-foot, 195-pound Wallace has been named to the initial watch list for the Lou Groza Award. He's on the watch list for the second consecutive preseason.

As a sophomore, Wallace drilled 20-of-24 field goals and 52-of-54 extra points. His season-best last year was a 43-yard field goal in the Russell Athletic Bowl against Miami.

Wallace took over the job two years ago as a redshirt freshman and started that season by hitting 10 of his first 11 field goals. He finished the season 16 of 21, including the game-winning field goal against Cincinnati.

"It's nice to have someone like that," Petrino said. "He's been solid."

Jon Brown is now listed as the backup for the Cardinals. He's a 5-foot-10, 185-pound freshman for the Cardinals.

Wallace is also expected to kickoff, while junior Josh Appleby is also in the mix.

PUNTER POSITION

Ryan Johnson also returns for a third year as the U of L punter, which gives the staff confidence in the specialists.

The 5-foot-11, 201-pound Johnson averaged 41.2 yards on 39 punts as a junior. He had five touchbacks and 11 inside the 20-yard-line.

Johnson averaged 39.4 as a sophomore and his leg appears to be stronger this season.

Appleby is listed as the backup and during the first week of practice was running second strong. U of L didn't punt in Saturday's scrimmage.

RETURN GAME

Petrino and Tony Grantham have mentioned Eli Rogers, Charles Gaines, Kai De La Cruz, James Quick, Corvin Lamb and DeVante Parker as potential return guys on kickoffs and punts.

"It's the same as the offense does, we want to find a way to get our playmakers the ball," Grantham said. "Some guys have potential to make big plays and they need the ball in their hands. Those guys will contribute in the special team aspects, returns and things like that."

EXTRA POINTS

***Grant Donovan has been one of the most dependable special teams players the past three seasons. He's entering his fourth year as the long snapper for the Cardinals.

***Ryan Johnson will again be the holder on extra points and field goals for the Cardinals. He held that position last season.

***Wide receive rKai De La Cruz will again serve as the backup holder for the Cardinals.

***The back up long snapper listed for the Cardinals on the roster is Colin Holba. He's a 6-foot-3, 233-pounr redshirt sophomore walk-on from Eastern High School.


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