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2022 FSU position previews: Special teams

Can a weakness once again become a strength for the Seminoles?

NCAA Football: Florida State at Wake Forest Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

As the Florida State Seminoles report for the start of fall camp, we’re continuing our breakdown of FSU’s position groups. From the known commodities to the unknowns looking to break out, we’ve got a look at all the players you need to know.

Next up: special teams. A point of pride for Mike Norvell-coached teams, FSU had a bit of a fall-off on special teams after a successful 2020. Its return and coverage units were, at best, a non-factor in games and at worst, a factor in several losses.

There are questions as to who will be receiving the ball — but as far as who is kicking it, that’s solidified.

Florida State Seminoles football: Special teams

Main names to know

Ryan Fitzgerald, kicker

Consistency will be key for the Coolidge, Georgia product in 2022. Fitzgerald solidified his starting slot in 2021, earning primary duties over Parker Grouthas after going back and forth throughout the previous season. The redshirt sophomore steadied himself a bit over the course of the season, sending 10 of his 13 kicks over the crossbar while going 37 for 40 on extra points. Fitzgerald rose to the moment in a major way in a game-winning kick vs. Syracuse (he also sent the FSU vs. Notre Dame game to overtime after missing a kick earlier in the contest) and may have a few more game-winning opportunities presented to him this season.

Alex Mastromanno, punter

The thunder from down under. In his second season with the Seminoles (and of American football), Mastromanno become a force in the punt game, averaging 42.7 yards per kick. A Ray Guy Award watch list member, he kickefd eight punts of at least 50 yards, forced a fair catch on 54.1 percent of his punts and landed 18 punts inside the 20-yard line with no touchbacks — the only punter among the ACC’s top 10 in punting in 2021 without a touchback. Dating back to his debut with FSU, he has a 93 consecutive punt streak without a touchback.

Returning players

Keyshawn Helton, wide receiver, return specialist

FSU’s primary punt returner in 2021, Helton failed to log any significant takebacks on the season outside of a 31-yard return vs. Jacksonville State. Averaging just 4 yards on eight returns and logging 7 fair catches, Helton didn’t get a chance to showcase his athleticism as a returner in 2021, and with an infusion of talent this off-season, he likely won’t be able to this year.

Ontaria Wilson, wide receiver, return specialist

Wilson served as the alternate option to Helton in 2021, but failed to spark any sort of success in the return game on punts. He averaged 3.4 yards per return, logging 5 fair catches and muffing 2 punts.

Ja’Khi Douglas, athlete, return specialist

A gifted athlete, Douglas has still hasn’t quite figured it out how to utilize his talents to make a major impact on special teams. He logged 7 kickoff returns in 2021, averaging 16.2 yards.


Mycah Pittman, wide receiver, return specialist

In addition to raising the talent level of the wide receiver room, Pittman has been consistently lauded as a potential boost to the Seminoles’ return game. He had a chance to showcase his talents all throughout spring, highlighting an ability to not only be aggressive when returning, but also mindful of catching and taking the yards that the kicking team allows you.

Trey Benson, running back, return specialist

Last season, the Seminoles tabbed running back Jashaun Corbin to bring back kickoff returns — and it worked decently well, with the now-New York Giant leading the team in return yards and grading out as FSU’s best returner. With Benson healthy and ready to ride, it’s easy to imagine him sliding into a similar role.

Deuce Spann, wide receiver, return specialist

Spann is an absolute speedster — according to his former offensive coordinator at Illinois, he clocks a 4.2 40-yard, an impressive feat at 6-foot-4. With playing time in the wide receiver room going to be hard to come by, Spann could have a chance to make a major impact via the return game, likely on kickoff.

Azareye’h Thomas, defensive back, return specialist

A two-way player on high school, the true freshman got some reps at punt return throughout the spring. There are quite a number of more experienced names ahead of Thomas, so it’s not likely he gets a significant amount of time back deep (though it’s not out of the realm of possibility.)

Mac Chiumento, punter

A true freshman preferred walk on, Chiumento started at punter for all 4 years of his high school career at Seabreeze High in Daytona Beach. With Mastromanno firmly entrenched as starting punter, it’s not likely we see Chiumento handling kicking shoes there. However, given his experience handling kickoffs in high school, he could earn time as a kickoff specialist.