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Who will be Penn State’s punt returner in 2024?

Penn State has a number of positions to pay attention to during the annual Blue-White spring game as spring football practices come to a close for the year. Among them is the punt returner role, which was left vacant with the departure of Daequan Hardy. With one final week of spring football practices, there appears to be a leader in the clubhouse to take over the primary role this fall according to Penn State special teams coach Justin Lustig.

In a recent session with the media, Justing suggested Kadan Saunders may be the guy to beat for the top punt-returning role this season. Saunders brings with him some experience from doing so last season before Hardy proved to be more valuable as the season went along.

“It’s still an open battle at punt returner but I would say he’s in the lead right now, especially with his experience,” Lustig said, according to Lions247. “One thing about punt return is that you can design the system around who the guy is a little bit, too. Kaden maybe wasn’t quite as dynamic as Daequan Hardy, but I still see some ability to hit big returns.”

Saunders had 14 punt returns for a total of 86 return yards last season, with no touchdowns and few big-yard returns of note. Hardy provided some needed explosiveness in his time returning punts with 17 returns for 248 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Of course, as Lustig noted, having a punt returner who is comfortable simply fair catching a punt and preventing the ball from trickling down field for additional yardage is an overlooked asset.

“He’s able to just catch the ball and not let it bounce down the field, and that’s super valuable,” Lustig said about Saunders. “That doesn’t show up in the stats, but that’s as good as a 15-yard return. If you can average 15 yards a return, you’re gonna be top 10 in the country.”

When Penn State wraps up spring practices with the Blue-White Game later this week, pay attention to Saunders in this role. Others that could see some opportunities to field punts could include Liam Clifford and Cam Wallace.

Penn State’s spring game is scheduled for Saturday, April 13 at 2:00 p.m. ET.

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Story originally appeared on Nittany Lions Wire