This is the final in an eight-part series breaking down the Cal Poly football team’s depth chart.
Who’s back: The Mustangs have six players listed on the kickoff return depth chart. Sure-handed Roland Jackson Jr. and cornerback Chris Fletcher top the list, followed by leading returner Kyle Lewis, who fielded 20 kickoffs for 415 yards in 2014 (a 20.8-yard average). The kicking game proved challenging for Cal Poly last year after Stephen Pyle injured his hip flexor two games into the season. His replacement, Zach Schottenfeld, made 51 of 54 point-after attempts and was successful on his lone field goal. The two should have a spirited competition leading up to the season opener at Montana. Redshirt freshman Alex Vega brings a strong leg to the competition, as well. Head coach Tim Walsh said Vega has shown “huge potential as far as leg strength goes. But he’s got to demonstrate consistency when he uses it, both in field goals and kickoffs.”
Who’s new: Freshman Nicolas Marrone rounds out the depth chart behind the three returning kickers. The Clovis West High graduate made 63 consecutive point-after attempts as a prep senior and was selected to play in the Fresno City-County all-star game. Despite his somewhat slight 5-foot-9, 160-pound frame, it didn’t take long for Marrone to impress his older teammates. “The kid’s got a cannon,” Pyle said. “Especially with punt. He’s done all the right things to come in here and (compete).”
Pyle’s take: “Everybody can punt, everybody can kick and everybody can do field goals. With that comes a lot of competition. But it makes you not be complacent. It makes you strive to be better and makes us focus. It’s been a really great camp so far.”
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Projected depth chart:
K: Zach Schottenfeld, Soph., 6-1, 185. Alex Vega, RFr., 5-9, 175. Nicolas Marrone, Fr., 5-9, 160.
PK: Stephen Pyle, Sr., 6-0, 185. Zach Schottenfeld, Soph., 6-1, 185. Alex Vega, RFr., 5-9, 175. Nicolas Marrone, Fr., 5-9, 160.
P: Stephen Pyle, Jr., 6-0, 185. Elias Stokes, Jr., 5-11, 190. Nicolas Marrone, Fr., 5-9, 160.
H: Zac Powell, Sr., 6-2, 220. Elias Stokes, Jr., 5-11, 190. Carson McMurtrey, Jr., 6-4, 198.
LS: Zac Powell, Sr., 6-2, 220. Billy Shipman, Jr., 6-3, 275.
SS: Weston Walker, Sr., 6-4, 275. Billy Shipman, Jr., 6-3, 275.
PR: Chris Fletcher, Sr., 5-9, 185. Willie Tucker, Sr., 6-3, 200. Kory Fox, RFr., 6-0, 170.
KOR: Roland Jackson Jr,. Sr., 5-10, 150. Chris Fletcher, Sr., 5-9, 185. Kyle Lewis, Soph., 6-0, 202. Alex Suchesk, RFr., 5-10, 185. Kevin Griffin, Soph., 5-10, 168. Kori Garcia, Jr., 5-10, 195.
What to watch: Cal Poly seems pretty well set in the return game. Tracking the kicking competition over the next couple weeks could be a little more interesting. Pyle is the lone senior among the group and he said the foursome has embraced the competition so far. Pyle and Schottenfeld have been the most consistent in all phases, head coach Tim Walsh said, and the unit is “miles better than we were a year ago.” Injuries threw a proverbial wrench in the Mustangs’ kicking game last fall and the potential of having four healthy kickers in the mix would certainly be welcomed. Walsh said he would prefer to take only two kickers on the 58-man travel roster.