Here is how the kicking units are starting to shape up this preseason.
At this stage, Anthony Fera is said to be leading for the duties. Recruited as a place-kicker, he has impressive leg strength but is said to be inconsistent. "He's got a lot of power when he boots it and has done better with his placement," an observer said.
Fera has the ability to "get a hang time over 5.0 (seconds), which has had the staff pretty excited." But a lack of consistency continues to be an issue. "I guess it is Fera's job to lose," an observer said, noting that Fera is taking a team-first approach by handling the punting duties instead of focusing entirely on place-kicking.
Newcomer A.J. Firestone and Alex Butterworth are both walk-ons that the the PSU staff is taking a close look at this preseason. Firestone has shown good fundamentals and "decent leg strength" and Butterworth "has gotten under some balls," but both "have work to do to to make a move on Fera," according to one observer.
Observers believe Butterworth has the most long-term potential. He just has to get stronger and refine his mechanics.
As an aside, sophomore punter Russell Nye is not on the preseason 105-man roster "in order to help make room for Firestone and Butterworth, so the coaches can get a look," but he is expected to be return after preseason drills.
Returning starting field-goal specialist Collin Wagner is the man here, at least for short-range field goals. He was 14 of 17 from inside 40 yards last year. Unfortunately, he was 1 of 5 from outside 40 yards, with a long make of 47 yards.
If and when Penn State goes for the long field goals this season, the staff may give Fera the nod. His range extends to nearly 60 years.
This is another area where Fera can help. Wagner had 74 kickoffs last year, but only 10 touchbacks. Through the early part of the preseason, Fera, who redshirted last season, has been handling the bulk of the kickoffs.
Some interesting face on the kickoff coverage team have included Drew Astorino, Stephon Morris (before he was hurt), Jake Fagnano, Derek Thomas, Jamie Van Fleet, Gerald Hodges, Andrew Dailey, Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, Shawney Kersey and Justin Brown.
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