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Looking ahead to the 2017 football season what's left for the Louisville football team on special teams

Cardinal Authority takes a look this week at what's left for the University of Louisville football team. We will look at offense and defense later in the week but here's a look at the special teams.

Some of the biggest questions mark heading into the 2016 season for the University of Louisville football team were on special teams.

The only special teams returning player from the previous season was long snapper Colin Holba.

The Cardinals had to replace one of the top kickers in school history - John Wallace - and punter Josh Appleby. The Cardinals had some questions in the return game and the special teams were a worry for head coach Bobby Petrino.

But not heading into the 2017 season.

Petrino said late in the season that his team has "done some really good things" on special teams with Blanton Creque taking over the kicking duties and Mason King turning into one of the top punters in the ACC.

Here's a look at each position and what the Cardinals have coming back, including current commitments:

KICKING DUTIES

Sophomore Evan O'Hara handled the field-goal and extra-point duties to start the season, while Creque was the back up. But after hitting 3 of 6 field goals in the first three games, the staff made the change to Creque.

The redshirt freshman from Shelbyville, Ky., never relinquished the duties.

Creque hit 16 of 19 field goals, including four against North Carolina State and three in the bowl game loss to LSU. He made a long of 47 in the bowl game and never missed more than one in a game. Creque also hit 39 of 40 extra points.

The staff rotated kickoff duties for a good portion of the season with Creque getting eight touchbacks in 59 attempts and senior Anthony George getting three touchbacks in 39 attempts. O'Hara only attempted six kickoffs.

The word was the staff was looking to add a scholarship kicker to the fold, but that switched late in the season with the success of the current players. Creque and O'Hara will lead the charge into the offseason and will compete with freshman walk-on Austin Laszewski.

The Cardinals will also add walk-on Jakson Wine from North Oldham High School in Goshen, Ky. The 6-foot, 200-pound Wine is rated the No. 1 kickoff specialist nationally by ProKicker.com and checks in as the No. 6 kicker overall. His average on kickoffs is 70 yards.

PUNTING DUTIES

King, a redshirt freshman from St. Xavier High School, handled the punting duties the entire season.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound King averaged 43.87 yards on 55 punts this season with a long of 60 yards and 16 inside the 20-yard line. His average was the highest by a U of L punter in a single-season with a minimum of 25 punts.

Wilbur Summer averaged 43.1 yards in 1975, while Klaus Wilmsmeyer averaged 43.0 in 1990.

King will get some stiff competition from freshman Austin Johnson, a scholarship punter from DeSales High School. Petrino lauded Johnson for his ability and leg strength prior to the season, so the two will battle in the offseason.

LONG SNAPPER

Louisville hasn't had a bad snap in at least seven years. Grant Donovan was perfect for four years and Colin Holba followed that with three years of perfection in the position. So that's the big question heading into the offseason.

Kyle Goss, a freshmen from Shelbyville, Ryan Betlach, a junior from Lexington and Brendan Lowery, a sophomore from Barrington, Ill., are three walk-ons on the current roster who will battle for the position.

But the Cardinals are adding a scholarship player - Mitch Hall - to the mix. The standout from Clayton, N.C., participated last weekend in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and is considered the No. 2 long snapper in the country.

RETURN GAME

Petrino said late in the season the Cardinals needed better blocking for some longer returns, but all the playmakers return.

Sophomore Jaire Alexander was the top punt returner with 19 attempts for an average of 10.9 yards a return, including the touchdown back in September against Florida State.

Malik WilliamsTraveon Samuel and true freshman Seth Dawkins all had double-digit kickoff returns with Williams averaging 22.5 yards and Dawkins averaging 21.8 yards an attempt. Samuel returned 11 for 17.3 yards a return.

The Cardinals also have a couple of current commitment - including Greenwood, Ind., athlete Russ Yeast - who will be explosive-type guys in the return game for the Cardinals.


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