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Penn State kicker Jake Pinegar seeks improvement while helping his team stay safe

Pinegar, a junior who kicked 11 field goals in 12 tries last season and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention, knows the importance of every player being accountable and helping each other stay safe now that they're back on campus.

Penn State kicker Jake Pinegar  watching a kick against Rutgers last November.
Penn State kicker Jake Pinegar watching a kick against Rutgers last November.Read moreBarry Reeger / AP

Penn State kicker Jake Pinegar felt no trepidation earlier this month about returning to campus during a pandemic after nearly three months away, welcoming a chance to begin voluntary workouts after being back home in Iowa.

Now the important issue for the junior and his teammates is to make sure they are accountable to one another and not take any chances that would jeopardize the health of anyone and perhaps even threaten the start of a new season.

“That’s obviously a huge emphasis,” Pinegar said last week in a Zoom conference call. “In order for us to have a season, everybody’s got to do their role. They’ve got to watch out, they’ve got to be more careful. Everybody wants to have a season, so the importance of that has been preached heavily, and you know it’s a huge emphasis on what we have going on right now.”

“A pretty obvious thing not to do is to go out in public and be in large groups and things like that, especially without wearing a mask or taking precautions, staying apart from people. So they’re just preaching to us, do the obvious, don’t put yourself in those situations where you’re putting yourself or your teammates at risk for the virus, kind of just hang out, do what you have to do and stay safe.”

Pinegar said the team’s sports performance and medical staffs have made it “pretty smooth for everybody here” when it came to setting up workouts at the Holuba Hall indoor facility for small, socially distant groups.

“Every station, every rack, everything like that, is fully distanced apart,” he said. “They’re spreading everything out – the running, the working out – and it’s just in small, incremental groups with the guys that are on campus right now. You only see the guys that you lift with because they need time to sanitize, spray, wipe, clean every little piece of Holuba before another group is even allowed in there.”

Pinegar enjoyed a fine 2019 season as the Nittany Lions’ primary kicker, making all but one of his 12 field-goal attempts, with a long of 47 yards against Indiana, and being named honorable-mention All-Big Ten.

Jordan Stout, the Lions’ kickoff specialist, came on for three field goal tries of more than 50 yards, with a program record 57-yard kick.

Pinegar, who was 16-for-24 on field goal kicks in his true freshman season, said the hiring of Joe Lorig as the special-teams coordinator before his sophomore year helped him because “he held me to a very high standard, which made me a better player overall.”

“I kind of had to step my game up and take my game to a different level,” he said. “But I think a lot of it, too, was just me being there for another year, having another year of experience under my belt, knowing what to expect, just being more comfortable out there.”

The Nittany Lions were forced to leave campus in mid-March before the start of spring practice, but Pinegar managed to keep up his routine after returning to his home in Ankeny, Iowa, where he had access to his high school field.

“I was able to take full advantage and get out there and practice like I would be here every day,” he said. “Lifting weights, I have stuff in my basement at my house that I was able to use. I was able to go up and run and do all those sorts of things. The whole country was hit by it, but I was in a spot, especially where I was at, where it wasn’t too out of hand. So I was able to do a little bit more stuff.”

Since returning to Happy Valley, with Holuba Hall open only for voluntary workouts, Pinegar has been kicking on the practice field at State College High School with Stout and long-snapper Chris Stoll. With his confidence and comfort level at a high after last season, he now works to improve some technical skills for whenever the 2020 season starts.

“I think a big part of this offseason is just correcting the small things – my approach, my stance, my steps, smoothing things out to where it’s just more trying to get to that muscle memory stage,” he said. “Probably the biggest thing that I’m working on right now is just little small details to my approach and my swing.”