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Pinegar aims to finish career ‘right way’

Commentary

UNIVERSITY PARK — In an age where too many college athletes respond to adversity by racing to the transfer portal, may I present Jake Pinegar.

Penn State’s placekicker for the better part of three years (2018-20), Pinegar was beaten out by Jordan Stout in 2021 and forced to watch virtually the entire season from the sidelines.

Now Stout, whose big leg was also a punting and kickoff weapon, is gone, awaiting this week’s NFL Draft as “probably the highest-drafted specialist,” James Franklin said.

Pinegar, who led the Big Ten in scoring as a freshman with 101 points, accepted his fate and chalked it up to a learning experience.

“Me and Jordan are really good friends,” Pinegar said following Saturday’s Blue-White Game. “I love that guy so there was no bad blood. It’s just a good learning experience to sit back and have a different perspective. It taught me a lot.”

Pinegar was bothered by a summer back injury, which contributed to the loss of his position. His track record of 28-of-33 field goals inside 40 and just five extra point misses in 143 career tries has built a reliable resume that has kept his confidence high.

At no time did he seriously consider a new school.

“I had some things personally going on that made it difficult, and I wasn’t as healthy as I needed to be,” he said. “You play here three years and one year doesn’t go your way, you don’t leave. You stay here, and you finish what you built. That was my whole mindset.”

Pinegar lacks Stout’s range — he’s 9-of-18 outside 40 — but he’s working on that. He went 5-for-6 in the Blue-White Game with a late miss from 49. Redshirt freshman Sander Sahaydak is providing competition; he was true from 46 and 49 Saturday.

“Over the longest time, I was the guy looking up to younger kids on the specialist unit,” Pinegar said. “Now I’m an older guy, and I’ve taken on that role. I laid my foundation and had a good career so far. This year is where it’s time to take it up a notch and finish it the right way.”

With the Lions attempting to rebuild from a 11-11 record the last two years – not to mention facing a road schedule that includes Purdue (opener), Auburn and Michigan – Pinegar knows special teams will be magnified.

“It’s always going to be a tough schedule in the Big Ten,” Pinegar said. “Close games are what you get when you come to Penn State and play in the Big Ten.”

Franklin said the spring’s top priority is “who’s going to be the punter.”

Switzerland native Barney Amor is one candidate. He averaged 42.8 on 60 punts at Colgate in 2019 before transferring.

Amor is competing with the likes of freshman Gabe Nwosu, a 6-foot-6, 220-pounder who Franklin said punted “the hell out of the ball,” Saturday (stats weren’t kept).

Another possibility is incoming scholarship freshman Alex Bacchetta, the nation’s top-rated high school punter from Atlanta. Former Lion and current New Orleans Saints punter Blake Gillikin worked out with Bacchetta, Franklin said, and called him “the best freshman he’s ever seen.”

Amor was the Lions’ award winner for special teams excellence this spring.

” I think we’ve made strides as a unit,” Amor, who grew up in Bucks County, said. “Jordan was phenomenal, and that’s a big gap to fill.”

At least on the placekicking side, the Lions can rely on Jake Pinegar.

Rudel can be reached at nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

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