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Punter Blake Gillikin shows consistency and excellence | Penn State special teams preview

The junior from Georgia has the Nittany Lions' second-best career punting average (43.30 yards) and led a unit that was 25th in the nation last season in net punting.

Blake Gillikin has been a consistent punter for the Nittany Lions.
Blake Gillikin has been a consistent punter for the Nittany Lions.Read moreRANDY LITZINGER / ICON SPORTSWIRE

Here are position-by-position breakdowns of the Penn State depth chart leading up to the start of the 2018 season.

Previously, we reviewed the quarterbacksdefensive linemenreceiverslinebackersrunning backs, defensive backs, and offensive linemen. Here are the Nittany Lions' special teams players:


Blake Gillikin

6-2, 193, Jr., Smyrna, Ga.

Gillikin has been a model of consistency and excellence in his two seasons as the Nittany Lions punter. He has the program's second-best career average, 43.0 yards, and has placed 25 punts inside the 10-yard line. Gillikin punted for a 43.2-yard average last season, good for 35th in FBS, and sparked Penn State to a 39.93 net average (25th) thanks to a coverage team that ranked 20th. He also can kick off, although head coach James Franklin would rather see him focus on punting. Gillikin excels in the classroom, carrying a perfect 4.0 grade-point average as a kinesiology major through his first two years.


Jake Pinegar

6-2, 195, Fr., Ankeny, Iowa

Pinegar is the only scholarship player in what has become a five-way competition to be the Lions' kicker and their kickoff specialist, two jobs that presumably will go to different players. Pinegar kicked a pair of 60-yard field goals and went 9 for 13 overall as a senior last season at Ankney (Iowa) Centennial High School. He played in the defensive backfield during his sophomore and junior seasons but stuck to kicking last year.

Carson Landis

6-2, 195, R-Fr., Macungie, Pa.

Landis is the only kicker in camp who was on the Penn State roster last season. He kicked in last April's Blue-White Game, knocking a 34-yard field goal through the uprights.

Justin Tobin

6-2, 190, Jr., Langhorne

Tobin attended Neshaminy High School.

Rafael Checa

6-2, 201, Fr., Chevy Chase, Md.

Like Tobin, Checa walked on to the team just before training camp.

Vlad Hilling

5-10, 216, Fr., Holidaysburg, Pa.

Like Tobin and Checa, he walked on to the team just before training camp.

Return specialists

DeAndre Thompkins

5-11, 188, Gr., Hubert, N.C.

Thompkins, a starting wide receiver who had the highest per-catch average (15.8 yards) on the team last season, ranked fifth in FBS in punt returns last year with a 13.3-yard average.

K.J. Hamler

5-9, 176, R-Fr., Pontiac, Mich.

Hamler, also a wide receiver, is a former high school track star who reportedly has returned both punts and kickoffs in training camp.

Journey Brown

5-11, 210, R-Fr., Meadville, Pa.

Brown, expected to be in the rotation at running back, is a two-time PIAA state 100-meter champion who might become the No. 1 kickoff returner. Special teams coordinator Phil Galiano smiled at media day when asked about Brown's ability as a return man. "His speed, No. 1 — he hits a crease, he's gone," Galiano said. "There's no one that's going to catch him, so that excites me."

Brandon Polk

5-9, 180, R-Jr., Ashburn, Va.

Polk, a wide receiver, returned 10 kickoffs as a freshman and averaged 20.9 yards.