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Syracuse Football Preview: Special Teams

Brady Denaburg (15, orange) kicks off in a 2023 matchup against Clemson.
Brady Denaburg (15, orange) kicks off in a 2023 matchup against Clemson.

It’s a new era for Syracuse football: Big changes on the offense, big changes on the defense, and even big changes on special teams. The Orange hired James Vollono, a man with over 20 years of coaching experience, to become the new special teams coordinator this offseason.

“I want to relay Fran Brown’s messages,” said Vollono. “Detailed, Accountable, Relentless, Tough. We want to put the R in that on special teams, we want to be relentless.”

Vollono comes over from Troy, where under his leadership on special teams, the Trojans took home back-to-back Sun Belt Conference championships. Vollono enters a special teams room with plenty of familiar faces in it, but with plenty of work to be done.


On fourth down scenarios under Fran Brown, redshirt junior Jack Stonehouse will continue to take the snaps. In his first season in the 315 after transferring in from Missouri, Stonehouse saw success. The California native averaged over 44.5 yards per punt, which ranked him top 20 in the nation. The strong season earned Stonehouse third-team All-ACC honors, and placed him in the history books, with the second-best season in program history in terms of net yards. The junior aims to build off this feat under Vollono heading into his second season in the ‘Cuse.


Similarly, when SU needs the ball put through the uprights this season, junior Brady Denaburg will once again be the man called. The Florida native rose into his role in his sophomore season, becoming one of the team's captains. Denaburg connected on 36 of 37 PATs in 2023, however went just 10 of 16 on field goals, finishing with the lowest field goal percentage of qualified kickers in the ACC. Three of the six misses came from over 50 yards, a spot where a lot of trust was placed in Denaburg by former head coach Dino Babers.

“With [Denaburg], it’s about focusing on one thing at a time,” Vollono said. “Everyone can see he can kick the ball a country mile, right, we gotta get him to hit the checkdown.”

Under the new regime of Brown and Vollono, major emphasis has been placed on Denaburg’s technique as he prepares for season three as the everyday placekicker.


Entering last season, the Orange were unsure who would rise into the full-time long-snapper role. Enter Tom Callahan, a Fordham transfer who took the position in the opening matchup and would never look back. Callahan’s performance this past season was unsung, as the redshirt junior played every game and helped punter Jack Stonehouse have one of the best seasons in program history. Barring any rising competitors, the position appears to be all Callahan’s heading into his senior season at SU.

Kick Returning

Now here’s a position where there’s plenty of competition. The kick and punt-returning spots have been locked down in the past, especially by receiver Trebor Pena. In 2022, the sophomore led the ACC in average kickoff return yards. With his 2023 season derailed due to injury, the previous regime turned to many different options, including receivers Darrell Gill Jr and Donovan Brown, as well as running back LeQuint Allen. With Pena poised to take a bigger role in SU’s passing attack this season, Vollono has a large variety of speed to choose from when deciding who takes the snaps. There’s still a whole summer ahead to come to that decision, but expect a platoon of players to make impacts as of now alongside Pena.

The Syracuse football season begins at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 31st when SU hosts Ohio. Listen to every Orange football contest on 88.3 FM and