Position Preview: Special Teams

Taking a look at special teams for Syracuse football entering the 2016 season.

The Syracuse Orange football team starts their first season under head coach Dino Babers on Friday. Heading into the opener, the special teams have a chance to shine. 

Depth Chart


Starter: Cole Murphy      


Starter: Sterling Hofrichter                        

LONG SNAPPER             

Starter: Matt Keller  
Backup: Nathan Hines                        


Starter: Zachary Mahoney  
Backup: Sterling Hofrichter   


Starter: Brisly Estime 
Backup: Ervin Philips    

Known Quantities

Syracuse's special teams actually features a lot of returning players. Cole Murphy is back as the kicker. He is a solid, fairly accurate place kicker with decent power in his leg. Murphy had a good year in 2015 and is looking to build upon that in 2016.

As a kick returner, Brisly Estime is back. He was an exciting, electric returner last season who can take one to the house at any time. Should he stay healthy, he has a chance to become one of the best returners in Syracuse history. Estime is a big special teams weapon for the Orange. 

If Estime goes out, who steps in? That is a big question. True freshmen such as Moe Neal and Sean Riley may be the best bets. 

Matt Keller has experience at long snapper and is as steady as it gets at the position. Though largely unheralded, it is an important piece of the kicking unit. 

Replacing a Heisman Candidate

Syracuse has the task of replacing key special teams starters that the Orange need to step up for this unit to build on a successful 2015. It starts with the punter position. Gone is Riley Dixon, leaving some pretty big shoes to fill.

Enter redshirt freshman Sterling Hofrichter. Hofrichter is a bit of an unknown at the division one level. Sure we've seen him in practice and pre-game, but never in a game situation. On paper, he has a strong and accurate leg. The field position battle is critical, and Hofrichter will have a big impact on that. 

The holder position is also replacing Riley Dixon. Backup quarterback Zack Mahoney was the backup holder last season and is ready to take over this year. He was solid in practice last season and was again in the spring.

Coverage Units

There will likely be some turnover amongst the coverage units that performed well in 2015. Generally some true freshmen enter the mix with some veteran backups as well. 

Linebackers and defensive backs make up a large portion of this group. Due to the quality athletes that have been brought in over the last couple of recruiting classes, there is potential for this group to be good once again. 

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