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2023 TCU Football Preview: Special Teams

The return game is an unknown, but the Horned Frogs have fifth-year continuity at Kicker & Punter

Griffin Kell & Jordy Sandy return for a fifth season with the Horned Frogs
TCU Athletics |

Opening kickoff of the 2023 TCU Football season is less than two months away, with the Horned Frogs coming off an undefeated regular season and Fiesta Bowl CFP Semifinal victory in Sonny Dykes’ debut season as Head Coach and set to host the Colorado Buffaloes on September 2. While TCU will be without many key pieces from last season’s squad, the kicking game returns both its starters: placekicker Griffin Kell & punter Jordy Sandy are back for a fifth season in Fort Worth.

The phrase “college kickers” is often a meme meant to describe the uncertainty that comes when a placekicker steps up in a key moment and promptly sails an attempt comically off the mark. Griffin Kell became the exception to that rule, developing into a model of consistency in 2022, making 62 of 64 extra points (96.9%) and 17 of 19 field goal attempts (89.5%), with a long of 54 yards. As was the case for many Horned Frogs, 2022 was by far Kell’s best collegiate season, as he earned First Team All-Big 12 honors and has cemented his name forever as in TCU history with his walk-off game winner in Waco. He’ll look to continue that success in his fifth season in Fort Worth, as he earned Preseason All-Big 12 honors going into 2023. Luke Laminack handled kickoff duties in all 15 games of 2022 as a true freshman, including 49 touchbacks on 106 kickoffs, he also handled the placekicking vs. Tarleton State, converting 1-2 FGs and 6-7 PATs. Other kickers on the roster include freshman Nate McCashland and redshirt freshman Easton Black.

Joining Kell for a fifth season with the Frogs is punter Jordy Sandy. The Australia native has twice earned All-Big 12 honors, Second Team in 2020 and Honorable Mention in 2022. Last season Sandy was called upon for 63 punts for an average of 39.9 yards per punt while only conceding three touchbacks and pinning 18 punts inside the 20 yard line. Those pin-point kicks hold extra meaning for Sandy and the For Worth community, as he committed to donate $20 to Fort Worth Hope Center for Autism for each punt downed inside the 20, with many of his teammates, TCU fans, and local businesses joining the cause to match donations. For his career, Sandy has 30 punts of 50+ yards, 80 punts downed inside the 20 yard line, and just 14 touchbacks in 224 attempts.

For the first time in what seems like ages, the returner role is an unknown for the Horned Frogs, as Derius Davis returned a punt for a touchdown in his first ever game as a freshman in 2018 and was been a frightening sight for opposing kickers and punters ever since. With Davis now a 4th round NFL draft pick for the Los Angeles Chargers, TCU will look for a new weapon on the receiving ends of kicks. The top candidate for the job is Alabama transfer JoJo Earle who had 16 punt returns as a true freshman for the Crimson Tide, averaging 5.5 yards per return. Earle also returned punts and kicks while at Aledo High School and when he has gotten opportunities in space he’s shown the speed and elusiveness to follow in the mold of Davis and Jalen Reagor and KaVontae Turpin. Another candidate is Major Everhart, the redshirt freshman has converted from running back to wide receiver and has similarly displayed track speed and wiggle in the open field. One dark horse option is true freshman Jordyn Bailey, who did return kicks (39.2 yard average per Max Preps) and punts (20.4 yard average) at Denton Ryan; just like Derius Davis, he could make an impact in the return game day one. The sleeper candidate is Shadrach Banks, the former 4-star WR recruit turned 250 lb linebacker returned three kicks for TCU in 2022 and must be a nightmare to see in the open field as a defender: a freight train sprinting towards you with a 20 yard head start, good luck. As fall camp gets under way there will likely be clarity as to who will fill the role as the primary returner, and it may end up being someone else entirely.

Although listed on the roster as a TE, Brent Matiscik returns as the long snapper. The three-time Academic All-Big 12 honoree served as the long snapper in all 15 games in 2022. The roster only lists one player as a long snapper: redshirt freshman Logan Frederic.