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Friday, July 10, 2015

Penn State Nittany Lions Kicker, Punter & Snapper News

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July 10, 2015 - kicker Quinn Nordin commits
"Penn State today landed a verbal commitment from Rockford (Mich.) High School placekicker Quinn Nordin.... Nordin said his recruitment came down to the Nittany Lions and Michigan, but coach James Franklin prevailed in the end and landed the No. 1 kicker in the 2016 class, according to 247 Sports composite rankings and Kornblue Kicking.... Nordin is a 6-1, 180-pound prospect considered 'one of the strongest placekickers in the nation' who 'continues to make gains with his consistency and accuracy,' according to his profile. 'Quinn has a great work ethic, athleticism and toughness. He's also gained significant recruiting attention as a high level lacrosse player, but is focused on playing football in college'." - Penn Live

June 21, 2015 - punter Blake Gillikin commits
"Penn State has picked up a new class of 2016 commitment, and unlike its previous recruiting additions, this one is a specialist. Atlanta, Ga., Westminster junior punter Blake Gillikin announced his verbal commitment to the Nittany Lions Sunday afternoon, just days after narrowing his list to the Lions, Georgia, and Northwestern. Gillikin is ranked as the fourth-best 2016 punter by Kohl's Kicking and Punting, and is one of two specialists the Lions have offered in this cycle; the other, Michigan native Quinn Nordin, is still undecided." - Penn Live

April 18, 2015 - spring Blue-White game
"Penn State began the post-Sam Ficken era by trying to rattle its rookie kickers. Before Saturday’s Blue-White Game, the Nittany Lions trotted out the early favorite for the job, Joey Julius, along with Chris Gulla, Tyler Davis, Nick Boumerhi and Troy Stivason for increasingly long attempts and increasingly louder distractions. Leading the pack were Julius, a redshirt freshman who passed up a soccer scholarship to walk-on last year and kick at Penn State, and Davis, a true freshman from Illinois who enrolled in January. Both Julius and Davis connected from 55 yards out." - Times Leader

March 28, 2015 - punter Jake Metzer commits as preferred walk-on
"Central Bucks West punter Jake Metzer has committed to Penn State as a preferred walk-on, he announced on his Twitter account on Saturday evening. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior visited State College last weekend and got the word about an official walk-on offer from the coaching staff on Friday." - 247Sports

March 17, 2015 - spring kickers & punters
"Penn State will enter James Franklin's second spring practice at Penn State with six kickers on its roster, all walk-ons. It also has three punters, also not on scholarship, including returning starter Daniel Pasquariello. Head coach James Franklin implied Tuesday that both jobs are wide-open entering the spring, and while some may have a leg up on others, nothing is decided yet. Including one, or any, of the current booters will receive a scholarship down the road.... There's Chris Gulla, who punted some a year ago but will now focus entirely on kicking. Hummelstown Lower Dauphin product Joey Julius seemed to be the next man up a year ago if something happened to Ficken. Newly-enrolled kicker Tyler Davis, an Illinois native, was ranked a five-star prospect by Chris Sailer Kicking, and Troy Stivason and Nick Boumerhi return, as well. Franklin indicated they could have one place kicker and one kickoff specialist, but results will likely determine that.... Logic would indicate that the battle to punt would be less intensive, considering Pasquariello improved throughout last season and finished with a 37.3 per punt average and 13 punts inside the 20. Yet, that may not be the case. Franklin said in October that there was "a good gap" between Pasquariello and Gulla compared to IMG Academy product Robby Liebel. He pointed to consistency as the reason, but offseason improvements have him in the mix." - Penn Live
March 3, 2015 - kicker Jordan Wombacker commits as walk-on
The race to replace Sam Ficken will include kickers from Switzerland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Carolina, and perhaps New Jersey. Another Keystone State native has added his name to the list. Penn State received a verbal commitment from Hickory, Pa., kicker Jordan Wombacker Tuesday night. He will walk-on and is expected to arrive at the university in June.... Wombacker connected on 8 of 15 field goals and 50 of 55 extra points in 2015, and earned a four and a half star rating from the staff of noted kicking experts Kohl's Kicking. The specialist group reports Wombacker had opportunities from IUP, Slippery Rock, and Duquesne, and the kicker said he registered a 62 percent touchback percentage in 2015." - Penn Live

December 27, 2014 - kicker Sam Ficken ties & wins Pinstripe Bowl
"Kicker Sam Ficken, who was using Derek Jeter's old locker, hit a 'walk-off' extra point on the very same field — a single of his own — to lift the Nittany Lions to victory in the Pinstripe Bowl. 'It's a storybook ending,' Ficken said of his own career finale. 'I couldn't have written a better way for it to go.' Penn State defeated Boston College, 31-30, in the seniors' final game, thanks in large part to Ficken's heroics at the end of regulation and in overtime. While it may have been his kick that clinched the game, the senior kicker was quick to deflect any notion that the victory was all his doing. 'In no way did I win this game,' Ficken said. 'My team put me in a position to help them win. That's the way I look at it today.' The Lions (7-6) needed a 44-yard field goal from Ficken to send the game into the extra period. And as Boston College (7-6) scored the go-ahead touchdown, no one foresaw that Ficken could again be the one to put the Lions on top. But disaster struck for the Eagles as kicker Mike Knoll shanked the extra point to keep their lead at six, 30-24.  Ficken, who knows the pains of missed field goals, said he never roots for another kicker to miss, but admitted he was 'a little excited' given the circumstances." - Daily Collegian

December 15, 2014 - kicker Joe Julius early frontrunner to replace Sam Ficken
Toward the end of Penn State's practice on Saturday, the majority of the team made a semicircle in Holuba Hall, watching the team's kickers not named Sam Ficken attempt field goals. Special team coordinator Charles Huff said the point of the drill is to put more pressure on the kickers with the attention of the rest of team on them. The young Penn State kickers had plenty of eyes on them Saturday, but they'll have more on them next season when one of them takes over the job for Ficken. With the way Penn State coaches sounded Saturday, Lower Dauphin graduate Joe Julius sounds like the favorite to do so. Julius, a freshman walk-on from Hummelstown, joined the Nittany Lions' roster this season as a true freshman whose goal is to eventually garner a scholarship. Though the only action he received was on the practice field, Huff noted Julius has 'done a good job of getting better each day'.... Julius' main competition to be Ficken's replacement will come from Chris Gulla, a redshirt freshman punter/placekicker. Gulla, a Toms River, NJ native, began the season as the Lions' starting punter, but that job was eventually overtaken by Daniel Pasquariello. In addition to Julius, Penn State has three other walk-on freshman kickers on its current roster in Troy Stivason, Nick Bouhermi and Luke Hayek." - PennLive

November 11, 2014 - punting wins games
Penn State helped snap its four-game losing streak with better punting.
Changing its special teams helped the Nittany Lions (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten) stop giving up good field position in its win last week at Indiana. 'We've gone away from kicking to specific areas on the field,' Penn State coach James Franklin said Tuesday. He said he now tells freshman punter Daniel Pasquariello to 'kick it as far as you can anywhere within the 531/3 yards of the field.' Against the Hoosiers, Pasquariello punted nine times and averaged just 37.3 yards per kick. But Indiana began 10 of its 15 drives at or behind its own 20. Two others started at the 22 and 27." - Delaware Online

November 1, 2014 - Sam Ficken kicks, punter struggles in loss to Maryland 
While Penn State's kicker experienced the highs on Saturday, it was the team's punter, Daniel Pasquariello, who saw the lows. Ficken was on point against Maryland as he booted all four of his field goal attempts through the uprights, including three from farther than 45 yards out. It was largely because of Ficken that Penn State was still in the game, but the punting game did the Nittany Lions no favors in their 20-19 loss to Maryland. The senior kicker got the scoring underway in the first quarter when he nailed home his longest kick of the year to that point, at 47 yards. He got into a rhythm and hit two more in the next quarter, one from 25 yards out and the other from 46. His best kick came as the game was winding down in the fourth quarter and the Lions needed him the most. From 48 yards out, Ficken had no troubles and topped his season-high set earlier in the game to hand Penn State a 19-17 lead. The Lions didn't hold on, but for Ficken, the confidence rolled with each boot.... Pasquariello and Chris Gulla both have had their fair share of struggles in 2014 and Saturday, it was Pasquariello. He punted the ball eight times for an average of under 37 yards per punt – more than seven yards less than the average for Maryland. But Ficken has taken the punters under his wing and said he saw some improvements. He even connected with Gould this week and arranged for the punters to review film with the Chicago Bear. 'They went over film for about an hour and a half...just fine tuning what they were doing well, what they weren't doing well and that seemed to help'." - Daily Collegian 

October 28, 2014 - punting competition
Gulla, one of 13 freshmen or redshirt freshmen playing for the Lions this fall, split punting duties with first-year Lion Daniel Pasquariello in a 31-24 double overtime loss against Ohio State. The Australia native punted for an average of 31.5 yards over four attempts. Gulla averaged 37.5 over the same number. Neither has been consistent over seven games, and that's part of the problem. Thus, even though Gulla won the job out of camp, Franklin declared the job open heading into a Noon contest with Maryland at Beaver Stadium Saturday. 'I think kicking, shooting hoops, things like that they tend to be streaky, especially when you're young and inexperienced you can be streaky,' Franklin said Tuesday. 'We're going to do some things and try and help them and we made adjustments last game. We're going to continue to do those things, we're going to use our directional punt team, do some things to try to help them, put the pressure on the other 10 guys, take it off them, but we made that adjustment last week.  No different than anything else.  There is no magic wand'.... Penn State brought in a walk-on, Robby Liebel, from Florida this summer. He will be in the competition too, the head coach said, but he likely won't factor. 'I think there is a good gap right now between those two guys and Liebel,' Franklin said. He does have a strong leg. He's a big guy, but just like the issue that we're having with those other two guys that we talked about before is the consistency'." - PennLive

September 9, 2014 - coach wants improved kickoffs
"Penn State ranks 85th in the country in yards per kickoff. It's touchback percentage ranks even lower. James Franklin knows this. And he wants it to change. The Penn State coach made that clear during his weekly news conference Tuesday.... The responsibility to clean that up falls in part on kicker Sam Ficken and in part on the kick coverage team. Franklin said both need to improve for the Lions to improve their 61.3 yards per kickoff. Ficken has booted just two touchbacks on 10 kickoffs so far this fall. What does the kicker he need to do differently? 'I think one of the things that happens there is Fick does a great job of getting hang time,' Franklin said, 'which if you watch his field goals and his PATs, that ball gets up and gets up in a hurry which is great on field goals, especially short and intermediate field goals'. That doesn't translate to successful kickoffs, though." - Penn Live

August 30, 2014 - Sam Ficken kicks game winner over UCF
"On two important occasions during the Croke Park Classic, Sam Ficken showed he has what it takes to deliver a hit and avoid one. That's what athletes do, don't they? After hitting his second field goal of the day, a 33-yarder that put Penn State up 13-3, Ficken kicked off. He then had to stick his nose into traffic and make what might have been a vital tackle on 6-3, 237-pound returner Jordan Adams. Then, after hitting his fourth field goal of the day, a 36-yarder as time expired that won the game 26-24, he had to run for his life. He did survive. 'There's like 310-pound linemen running after you. And I didn't wanna get dog-piled. So, I decided running was the best option.' It was probably as fast and as far as he'll ever run in a football game. It had to be over a 100 yards looping around the massive Gaelic football pitch in a mad dash to escape his adoring teammates as the Beatles evaded delirious teenage girls half a century before." - Penn Live

August 25, 2014 - punting competition
Penn State will have a starting punter by the time the Nittany Lions arrive in Ireland. That doesn't mean that punter will be the top guy all season, special teams coordinator Charles Huff said Monday. Walk-ons Chris Gulla, Daniel Pasquariello and Robby Liebel are all in the mix to hit punts in the team's season opener against Central Florida. Huff said the staff would likely decide on which would start against the Knights during a meeting in the 'next day or so'. 'Right now it's a dead heat, which is good, that means we've got a lot of competition,' Huff said. 'We've explained to them that it's a marathon, not a sprint, that the guy who wins the job today doesn't mean the competition's over for the year'." - 247 Sports

August 17, 2014 - punting competition
"Coach James Franklin has been impressed with the punters during preseason camp, and it seems clear that whoever is most consistent will get the job. 'I'd rather you punt it 38 yards every single time than one time punt it 56 yards, another time 26 yards,' Franklin said this week. The biggest asset the team has from a punting standpoint is that there's a lot of competition for the job. 'Whoever becomes the guy is going to be tested because he's going to have to compete every day from now until we get to Central Florida,' special teams coordinator Charles Huff said. 'We know whoever it is, you run into an issue when you don't have anybody to push the guy who is in front. You worry about getting lackadaisical or falling in a groove. But when you come out every day and you have two or three guys that are going to compete, when you win the job, you won it fair and square'." - Altoona Mirror

August 4, 2014 - punting competition
"The two main competitors this fall are both walk-ons. New Jersey native Chris Gulla, who kicked and punted in high school, redshirted last fall behind Butterworth and then (and now) returning placekicker Sam Ficken. Gulla is now joined by Australian Daniel Pasquariello as the two believed leaders in the clubhouse for the punting job. Florida IMG Academy product Robby Liebel is listed on the program's roster at the position, as well. 'It's been good,' Gulla said of his year on campus. 'I'm definitely happy I redshirted. Getting to spend time with guys like Ficken really helped me develop better as a punter and adjust to the school life here. I'm definitely ready to start competing in camp.' Pasquariello was not available for comment Monday per program policy that does not allow true freshman to speak to the media. Gulla said the two warm up together and kicked with each other throughout the summer. 'It's fun,' Gulla said. 'It will be fun to translate that into camp.' The sophomore said the special teams' unit has been working well as a whole, before adding distance is not the main objective he and the rest of the Lions' punters set out to accomplish this summer. Instead, Huff and the Lions' staff have emphasized more finer parts of the job. 'It's a lot of location and hang time which is really what me and Dan have been working on and seeing improvement on,' Gulla said. 'That's our big focus, just keeping it in that 40, 45 range, right outside, to limit returns'." - Penn Live

July 24, 2014 - long snapper Nick Cox accepts
"@JesuitFootball senior long snapper Nick Cox has accepted a preferred walk-on position at #PennState" - Tampa Tribune

July 22, 2014 - kicker & punter competitions
"A similar talent grab happened to fill up the specialists room, though all of them are coming as walk-ons. Hummesltown Lower Dauphin prospect and kicker/punter Joey Julius is already on campus, and Athens booter Troy Stivason is expected in August. The same philosophy was applied at punter, where walkon Chris Gulla was left to handle the duties by himself after former Nittany Lion punter Alex Butterworth graduated. Though the New Jersey native is the leader in the clubhouse for punting duties heading into camp, Australian native and new Penn State walk-on Daniel Pasquariello is expected to challenge for the job, as is St. Petersburg, Fla., IMG Academy product and walkon Robby Liebel. The additions could be seen as much needed competition for a unit that has often struggled throughout the last couple of years. According to Sam Ficken, though, it also has another major benefit that should help the senior accomplish one of his biggest personal goals. 'On a personal level, I think staying healthy is obviously big,' Ficken said. 'I kind of lacked in that category the last two seasons, so obviously there [is a personal goal]. I think it's just a matter of taking care of my body and not over kicking is probably the biggest issue'." - Penn Live

July 2, 2014 - Aussie punter Daniel Pasquariello to walk-on
"Penn State should enter the 2014 season with no fewer than four candidates to win the starting punting job. The most intriguing among them is Daniel Pasquariello, who comes to State College from Prokick Australia, a Melbourne-based training ground that specializes in teaching punting. 'Daniel can kick with both feet and even kick it over his shoulder whilst facing the wrong way,' his coach, Nathan Chapman, wrote in an email to Lions247, 'so I'm sure you will get a thrill out of some of his skills'.... Chapman sent Penn State special teams coach Charles Huff some film of the 6-foot, 200-pound Pasquariello, who spent one year with Prokick Australia after attending Xavier College High School in Melbourne, and the Nittany Lions liked what they saw enough to ask him to be a preferred walk-on. He will compete with redshirt freshman Chris Gulla, the Nittany Lions' lone returning punter, as well as freshman walk-ons Robbie Liebel and Troy Stivason." - 247 Sports

June 10, 2014 - kicker Joe Julius and the all the specialists
"If you would've asked Julius a year ago what he'd be doing in his future he said his mind would've already been made up. 'I would've been playing soccer," he said. "I was a soccer player. I stuck with soccer and I kicked once a week on Fridays. I think now that I'm just coming into it I have so much more excitement about this and I'm just ready to go at it.' Julius hit 32 of 49 field-goal attempts during his high school career and made 12 of 19 field goals last year. He also showcased his big leg by turning 141 of his 187 kickoffs into touchbacks. Putting his high school success behind him and preparing to join fellow walk-on kickers Nick Boumerhi and Troy Stivason at Penn State later this month is the next challenge on the all-state kicker's radar. Sam Ficken returns as the only known commodity on the Penn State special teams unit....
Penn State has former preferred walk-on specialist Chris Gulla on the roster too and how Gulla fits into the program could change how much or how little impact the three new walk-on kickers have. Gulla came to Penn State with better success as a field goal kicker than punter, but the Lions spent extensive time working him into becoming a punter, a role he's expected to take on this season. Ficken backed up Gulla as the punter this spring and the senior kicker is expected to continue working on punting this summer in case he'd be needed to do so in an emergency role this season." - Penn Live

April 12, 2014 - Blue-White spring game punting
"The punter was far from a given, with the graduation of Alex Butterworth and no scholarship options on the roster. Redshirt freshman Chris Gulla punted for both teams Saturday, 12 kicks for just under a 40-yard average with what appeared to be very good hang time." - Lancaster Online

April 7, 2014 - punter Chris Gulla
"This season Penn State needs the walk-on specialist to become their punter. With former punter Alex Butterworth gone due to graduation, the Nittany Lions redshirted Gulla last season knowing this day was coming. Senior Sam Ficken is still in line to maintain his kicking duties and while Gulla could inherit that role in the future, the redshirt freshman is the only punter on the roster. Penn State will add a handful of walk-on specialists this summer, but the punting job is one the Lions have been grooming Gulla for since his arrival last summer. '[Gulla’s] still got some work to do. I’ve been pleased with his attitude and approach,' Penn State head coach James Franklin said. 'I think Ficken has had a great spring so far. I think a lot of times we talk about the kickers but the snappers, the holders, [Ryan] Keiser’s been really good at holding, so it’s all of them together. I’ve been very impressed with Ficken. Gulla still has got some work to do but I’ve been pleased with him as well'.” - Penn Live

April 2, 2014 - kicker Sam Ficken: kicks more, runs less
"Senior kicker Sam Ficken ended Wednesday's practice with a 55-yard field goal, keeping the Nittany Lions from running sprints. 'Ficken has been money all of camp,' RB Akeel Lynch said. 'He's made a lot of improvement. Anytime it has been double or nothing for running at the end of practice, we put it on Ficken's leg and he's been clutch every time'." - Penn State

March 30, 2014 - kicker Luke Hayek commits
"Luke Hayek, a 5-9, 165 kicker from Shelby. N.C. announced his intention to attend Penn State on Twitter. 'Finally official. I have committed to Penn State University to play football. Going from a Golden Lion to a Nittany Lion.' Hayek visited Penn State the weekend of March 22-23. He will apparently be an invited walk-on." - Lancaster Online

February 3, 2014 - kicker Joe Julius to walk-on
"Lower Dauphin kicker Joe Julius announced on his Facebook page today that he will walk on at Penn State next season. Julius is the fourth kicker to announce his intentions to walk on at Penn State in 2014, joining Nick Boumerhi, Jorge Powell and Troy Stivason. Julius was once committed to play soccer at SIU-Edwardsville, but changed course and made his intentions known to play football instead. He was an all-state kicker at Lower Dauphin last season and made 12 of 19 field goals, including clutch kicks in the District 3 and PIAA playoffs. The 5-11, 200-pound Julius boomed touchbacks on 45 of his 52 kickoff attempts last season and netted a long field goal of 46 yards. He will participate in the Big 33 Football Classic at Hersheypark Stadium this summer." - Penn Live

February 2, 2014 - kicker Nick Boumerhi commits as walk-on
"Philipsburg-Osceola P/K Nick Boumerhi will walk on at Penn State. Committed on Saturday evening." - 247sports

January 25, 2014 - kicker Jorge Powell commits as preferred walk-on
The Nittany Lions added a preferred walk-on commitment from Miami (Fla.) Belen Jesuit Prep placekicker Jorge Powell. "It's been great so far," Powell said on Saturday evening. "It seems to be the best fit for me and I really like the new coaching staff." The 5-foot-10, 170-pound prospect was previously committed to a scholarship to Tulane. He decommitted from the Green Wave on Jan. 20. He also had an offer from Florida Atlantic. Powell is the No. 2 kicking prospect in the country according to Kornblue Kicking's Fab 50 rankings. He is the No. 11 kicking prospect nationally according to Kohl's Kicking. Powell hit 9 of 12 field goals this season with a long of 47 yards. He was 28 of 30 on extra points as a senior and had 40 touchbacks as a senior." - Lions247

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