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New Faces, New Era: A Look Ahead At The Special Team Unit

With Coach Petrilli joining the staff at least I won’t have as much ill will against the “Mean Green”

Syndication: Journal-Courier Noe Padilla/Journal & Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Looking ahead at the special team unit left me asking more questions instead of finding answers. We lost a lot with Charlie Jones leaving for the NFL and Mitchell Fineran graduating. And because Purdue is not so great at updating rosters there is still a lot left up in the air here. Here’s who we have returning and what we know so far. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some things get changed up and Walters may need to hit the portal when it opens back up for some help or maybe a rising star comes out during spring ball.

New Coach: Chris Petrilli

Coach Walters has been revamping his staff since being hired as head coach for Purdue including adding on a new special teams’ analyst back in February to replace Karl Maslowski. Petrilli was the outside linebacker/special teams coach at North Texas prior to his hire at Purdue. He has also had coaching stints at Charleston Southern, College of Idaho, Boise State and Drake.


Ben Freehill · 6’1” · 190lbs. · Redshirt Senior

Prior to Purdue, Freehill started his career at Oklahoma State and was a highly touted kicker in high school out of Illinois. In the 2021 season have appeared in the final 6 games averaging 60.7 yards a kick and 15 touchbacks

Caleb Krockover · 5’9” · 195lbs. · Redshirt Junior

Julio Macias · 6’5” · 230lbs. · Redshirt Freshman

Long Snappers

Nick Taylor · 6’4” · 225lbs. · Redshirt Junior


Jack Ansell · 6’2” · 205lbs. · Junior

Ansell was the starting punter for Purdue and expect him to retain his role this season. He dropped 13 punts inside the 20-yard line and forced 23 fair catches. He set a career long 54-yard boot against Illinois last season and averaged 38.25 yards per punt.

Brendan Cropsey · 6’1” · 190lbs. · Redshirt Junior

Punt Returners

Andrew Sowinski · 6’0” · 195lbs. · Sophomore

Kick Returners

Deion Burks · 5’11” · 180lbs. · Redshirt Sophomore

Had 14 returns for 278 yards last season. Had career high against Florida Atlantic for 80 yards.

Dylan Downing · 6’0” · 210lbs. · Junior

Returned one kick against Michigan for 14 yards last season.


My big question is who will be the placekicker to replace Fineran. It’s an absolute crucial role as we know and we struggled at times last season. Julio Macias is projected to have a good leg and I can see him being the replacement as of now, we just haven’t seen in him a game atmosphere yet. With Jones being our go-to on returning I’m expecting to see Burks get some more touches. Again, a lot is still being worked around, hopefully we will have a better idea after the Spring Game on Saturday, April 22nd.