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2023 Central Michigan Chippewas Positional Previews: Special teams

CMU hopes to put one of their worse special teams campaigns in recent memory behind them.

Central Michigan v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images


  • Luke Elzinga (transfer to Oklahoma)
  • Marshall Meeder (transfer)


  • Tristan Mattson (transfer from Arkansas State)
  • Jake Walrath (transfer from Tarleton State [FCS])


  • Josh Rolston
  • Ryan Peluso
  • Dylan Hertzburg

It’s a complete sea change for Central Michigan, who had one of the worst special teams units in the country in 2022.

Luke Elzinga, the lone bright spot in what was otherwise a very bleak year in the third phase, transferred out to Oklahoma, where he is expected to be the starter after three-straight all-MAC seasons. He averaged 42.4 yards per punt over his CMU career, with 61 kicks inside-the-20 and 24 kicks of 50+ yards.

Marshall Meeder, whose regression in 2022 was especially notable after two extremely strong seasons, also left the program in the offseason after a campaign which saw him go 5-of-11 on field goals and 23-of-25 on extra points.

That doesn’t leave a lot in the cupboard in terms of starting experience. Josh Rolston is the only returning incumbent starter; the former kickoff specialist went 1-of-3 on his field goal tries in 2022.

To combat this, CMU brought in two specialists in the transfer portal to try and shake up the room.

Rolston will be battling Arkansas State transfer Tristan Mattson for the placekicking job. Mattson is a fellow kickoff specialist with no former placekicking experience at the FBS level. It’ll be a true unknown what to expect from CMU in this phase until the games start to count.

Jake Walrath is the penciled-in starter at current due to his experience at the FCS level with Tarleton State. Walrath is Tarleton’s second-best punter by the numbers in program history, averaging 40.9 yards per punt, with a career-best mark of 42.6 yards per punt in 2021. He was a three-year starter for the Texans and will bring stability to the position in the wake of Elzinga’s departure.

Other options at punter include redshirt sophomore Ryan Peluso (five-foot-nine, 155 lbs.) and redshirt freshman Dylan Hertzberg (six-foot, 175 lbs.), who served as backups to Elzinga in 2022 but did not see any action.

This is the last of our Central Michigan football previews. If you missed any of the previous parts, please check out our 2023 MAC Football Preseason Preview storystream here!

CMU’s season kicks off Friday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. Eastern time in East Lansing, Michigan, where they are set to play the Michigan State Spartans.