The Wolfpacker

July-August 2020 Issue

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 46 of 51

JULY/AUGUST 2020 ■ 47 SPECIAL TEAMS Elite Group BY JUSTIN H. WILLIAMS S pecial teams coordinator Todd Goebbel, who is in his second season at NC State and 22nd year in coaching at the college level, returns all three of his starting specialists. Junior place- kicker Christopher Dunn, redshirt junior punter Trenton Gill and sophomore long snapper Joe Shimko are all back to form one of the ACC's top specialist units. Dunn was a second-team All-ACC selection and took home the team's most valuable special teams player award each of the past two seasons. Last year, he made all 28 extra point attempts and was 21 of 24 on field goals (87.5 percent) for a team-best 91 points. He finished 11th in the country and second in the ACC with 1.75 made field goals per game, and was tied for 12th nationally and second within the league in field goal accuracy. Gill, a former walk-on that earned a scholarship and the starting job during the 2019 preseason camp, was a third-team All-ACC pick. He set the single-season school record for average yards per punt with a 47.6 mark. He led the ACC in the statistic and finished third nationally. Shimko, the No. 7-ranked player at his position in the 2019 class according to Rubio Long Snapping, was on the field for every punt, field goal and extra-point try as a freshman last season. "He graded out higher than I've ever seen from a snapper, especially in college," said Worth Gregory, a special teams quality control coach for NC State last season. "I wish they did preseason All-American and all-conference stuff for snappers because he would be on them if someone just watched his film. He's an NFL snapper." SPOTLIGHT PLAYER JUNIOR KICKER CHRISTOPHER DUNN Dunn is an elite kicker with a proven track record as a two-time second-team All-ACC selec- tion. Entering his third season as the Pack's start- ing kicker, he was named the preseason third- team All-ACC choice by Athlon in 2020. The Lexington, N.C., native is a perfect 79 of 79 on extra point attempts in his college career and has a chance to shatter all of the school's kicking records with two years of eligibility remaining. As a freshman, Dunn set the single-season school record for field goals made in a season, with 23, and followed that up with 21 as sophomore to also secure the second spot on that list. The 2019 semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award (the nation's top kicker) already ranks fifth in school history for field goals made (44) and fourth in career field goal percentage (88.0). PROJECTED DEPTH CHART STARTERS No. Name Year Ht. Wt. Hometown 32 Christopher Dunn (K) Jr. 5-8 180 Lexington, N.C. 97 Trenton Gill (P) R-Jr. 6-4 217 Hillsborough, N.C. 91 Joe Shimko (LS) So. 6-0 205 Belmar, N.J. WAITING IN THE WINGS — Ian Williams (K) Fr. 6-3 225 Charlotte, N.C. ■ PRESEASON ANALYSIS ★★★★ Among country's best; ★★★ Among ACC's best; ★★ Solid or has potential; ★ Too unproven STARTERS ★★★½ Junior kicker Christopher Dunn, redshirt junior punter Trenton Gill and sophomore long snapper Joe Shimko are among the best trios in not only the conference but also the nation. Gill was even named a second-team preseason All-American by Walter Camp and Street & Smith's. All but one player who returned a punt or kick last year for NC State also return, led by redshirt junior Thayer Thomas, who has proven to be outstanding handling punts. His 13.7 yards per punt return last year would've tied for fourth nationally if he had enough attempts to qualify. The rest of the unit's personnel will likely be decided in fall camp, but assuming NC State can at least maintain its production from last year it should have a top-tier unit in the ACC. DEPTH ★★ While ideally the Wolfpack wouldn't have to dip into the reserves, there is some cushion in the event of injury. Gill could probably kick, if needed. Freshman Ian Williams, the nation's No. 6 kicker in the 2020 class according to Kohl's Kicking, rounds out the Pack's specialists on scholarship and presents another op- tion if something were to happen. EXPERIENCE ★★★½ The starting specialists each have at least one complete season as a starter under their belts, so the combination of Dunn, Gill and Shimko should bring the necessary amount of experience required to con- tinue their success from last year. Behind the starters, experience could pose an issue as all of the reserve specialists would be playing in their first-ever collegiate games if called upon. Returner-wise, the major players from last year are all back, as well as several of the top coverage options. OVERALL ★★★½ Special teams will be one of the Wolfpack's strongest groups in 2020 and could prove to be even more productive than last year's stellar season if the offense reaches the red zone more often. While Gill will attempt to break his school record for punting average this year, he would be called upon less and Dunn will have more field goal opportunities if the offense improves. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN BY THE NUMBERS 11 Consecutive made field goals by junior kicker Christopher Dunn to end last season. It is the fifth- longest successful kick streak in school history. 6 Teams in the ACC that blocked a punt in 2019, including NC State (vs. Ball State). 84.7 Was the overall special teams grade Pro Foot- ball Focus awarded the Wolfpack in 2019, which ranked 11th nationally and sixth among Power Five squads.

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