Like many schools, the Navy kicking game has been hit or miss for many years. In college football, it is hard to find consistently good kickers, punters, long snappers, and even holders. Obviously, unlike the NFL, teams cannot simply fire a specialist and hire a new one for the next week. And often, benching the starting and going with the backup isn’t a better option.
In 2018, Navy started Bennett Moehring at kicker, Owen White at punter, and Michael Pifer at long snapper. Moehring graduated but the Midshipmen return White and Pifer. Moehring holds the Navy record for most career extra points with 141. After missing a game-winning kick in the 2017 Army-Navy game as a junior, Bennett Moehring bounced back the next year, and made 85 percent of his field goals. Furthermore, he redeemed himself a year later in the 2018 Army-Navy game with a clutch fourth quarter 47-yard field goal to bring the Midshipmen within a score.
Taking over for Moehring will be J. R. Osborn. Osborn has a clutch field goal already under his belt at Navy. In 2017, while Moehring was out with a lower-body injury, Osborn filled in against SMU. As a sophomore, he scored his first collegiate points, at home, to give the Midshipmen the lead late in the fourth quarter. The majority of Osborn’s playing time has been handling kickoff duties. He started the 2018 season as the kickoff specialist against Hawaii. Unfortunately, Osborn hurt his groin in that game and was shutdown for the rest of the season. Because Moehring was a senior, there was likely no rush to bring Osborn back in preparation for this upcoming year.
The rest of the Special Teams
Owen White will be returning for his senior campaign to punt for the Midshipmen. White has a strong leg and the potential to hit massive bombs down the field. He has shown this strength at times. However, his consistency has not been great. Part of this is due to the Midshipmen utilizing a pseudo-rugby style punt at times. Because it is a much different swing of the leg, and Navy uses it at different times during the season, and even specific games, White must be prepared for both types of punts, furthering the demand of performance.
Michael Pifer will be covering down on long snapping duties for the second year in a row. Pifer has recently been gaining a significant amount of attention from outside sources regarding his ability. To many, a long snapper is simply throwing a ball, upside down, between his legs. But in reality, long snapping is a special craft that requires precision, focus, and incredible consistency to do it at the highest level. Given that Pifer is a senior, could we have another Joe Cardona or Austin Cutting on our hands?
Lastly, Jacob Springer, a junior safety turned striker(Navy’s outside linebacker position) is listed as both the starting punt returner and kick returner. Additionally, he is listed as the starting striker. For the Midshipmen, it’s normal to have a defensive back catching punts...returning kickoffs, a little less. But for an outside linebacker to be also a returner, this is odd for any school. Simply, the best man for the job should have the job. If that’s Springer, then great. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if Coach Ken Niumatalolo switches up his returner after a game or two. It would make more sense to put someone with fresh legs back to return punts, instead of someone who is exhausted from the defensive stand he just made. Furthermore, as Springer grows into the striker position a bit more, he will bulk up, making him less elusive as a returner. Backing up Springer on the depth chart are two slot backs, with CJ Williams listed as the backup punt returner and Tyreek King-El as the backup kick returner heading into fall camp.
Overall, Navy has a great deal of experience in their special teams’ starters, but will their performance match? We will soon find out.