This is part of The Sun’s position-by-position preview of the football team.
Last year, Cornell football’s special teams unit was one of the most mercurial parts of the squad. While senior punter Chris Fraser was excellent throughout the season, other units played remarkably inconsistently, missing tackles on kickoffs, muffing punts and missing field goals and extra points. A more polished special teams unit could be the difference between a win and a loss in close games.
Coming off a third consecutive first team all-Ivy appearance, Fraser is one of the best players in program history, according to head coach David Archer ‘05. If he garners a first team all-league spot once more, he will be the first player in Cornell football history at any position to earn the coveted honor four times.
“I think we have the best punter in the country and so does the NFL,” Archer said in reference to NFL teams who are scouting out Fraser, who has professional football aspirations. “They’re all coming through for him.”
Aside from taking a unanimous spot on the conference first-team last year, Fraser was named to the STATS FCS all-America third team. In early August, the senior earned first team’s all-American honors.
However, there are more players than just Fraser on special teams for Cornell. Junior Mac Pope will be snapping the ball to the all-American. Sophomore Zach Mays will start the season kicking as No. 1 on the depth chart.
Mays, who was a highly touted recruit out of high school, went through some “growing pains” last year, according to Archer. In the 2015 season, Mays connected on two of his four field goal attempts, including a kick that would prove to be the game winner in the team’s lone victory of the season, a 3-0 win over Columbia. Last year, Mays also went 10 for 12 on extra point attempts.
Despite last year’s inconsistencies, he has impressed the coaching staff in practice so far and earned the starting role. Seniors Joe Pierik and Michael Hobson are “battling” for the second slot, Archer added.
Senior receiver Ben Rogers is returning as a punt returner while sophomore running back Chris Walker will take most of the kickoffs to start the season. Senior receiver Marshall Deutz and sophomore receiver Lars Pedersen will also rotate through.
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