Florida State’s special teams unit was once again in the bottom half of college football, ending the season ranked as the 87th unit according to Football Outsiders’ FEI ranking. The good news? There’s a new head coach who places emphasis on special teams. In Coach Mike Norvell’s last season at Memphis, his special teams ranked 4th (again per FEI rankings) nationally. The bad news? The kicking responsibilities will be handled either by walk-ons or scholarship players with no collegiate experience.
Last year’s starting punter, Logan Tyler was suspended before transferring. In his place, walk-on Tommy Martin punted for the remaining 12 games of the season. Martin averaged 39.2 yards per punt and booted an eye-popping 70 times in 2019. Martin, now a redshirt junior, will compete with the punter from down under Alex Mastromanno. The true freshman enrolled early and will be participating in spring practices. There’s some mystery as Mastromanno was unknown to FSU supporters until his commitment and signing on December 18th. There is some early buzz around the Aussie, as he took part in the tradition of throwing a football over the Pike fraternity house, only with a punter twist.
For the first time since 2012, field goal kicking responsibilities will be handled by someone not named Aguayo. Love him, hate him, fear him (if you’re a reptile), Ricky Aguayo has graduated and now FSU will rely on the untested leg of redshirt freshman Ryan Fitzgerald. The 2019 enrollee was named a five-star kicker by Kohl’s kicking. At his time of graduation from high school, he held numerous Georgia State Records, including the most field goals made over 50 yards in a career (8).
It’s unclear if redshirt junior walk-on Parker Grothaus will again handle kick off responsibilities or if Fitzgerald will assume these duties as well. In 2019, Grothaus inherited kick off responsibilities after Tyler’s suspension and transfer. Grothaus averaged 62.3 yards on his 60 kickoffs. Of those, 42 were touchbacks.
Redshirt junior Grant Glennon will once again handle long snapping duties for the third year in a row.
Senior DJ Matthews is expected to once again return punts for the Seminoles. Matthews has a career punt return average of 10.4 yards. FSU has several other players that returned punts in high school that could step into the role if necessary, such as Travis Jay and Akeem Dent to name a few.
Isaiah Bolden returned 6 kickoffs in 2019, averaging just over 25 yards per return. Returning to the team is Anthony Grant, who was one of the primary kickoff returners in the 2018 season. This is another position where FSU has other capable athletes that could step in if necessary.
Coach John Papuchis is Florida State’s fourth special teams coach in 4 years. He previously held this position at both Maryland and Nebraska. His coaching of the special teams and the results on the field will be under much scrutiny. And if this unit’s progress stalls out, there will once again be much groaning from the fans. No pressure, coach.