Jake Pinegar has played a lot of football for Penn State. Thirty-seven games to be exact.
Last season, he had to take a little bit of a back seat for the first time in his career.
After attempting double-digit field goals his first three seasons with the Nittany Lions, including 24 as a true freshman in 2018, Pinegar was a backup to the do-it-all Jordan Stout in 2021.
Stout, who was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth round of this past spring’s NFL Draft, assumed the lead role in all three phases of the kicking game in 2021 (field goals, kick-offs and extra points). He was was the Big Ten’s Punter of The Year.
That slid Pinegar down the pecking order, and he attempted just two field goals all season. Both came in the Outback Bowl loss to Arkansas, where he made one attempt and missed the other.
While his playing time dipped, Pinegar’s mindset, however, didn’t change.
“To me, nothing changed much,” Pinegar said at Penn State’s media day. “I’m always working to be the best version of myself. When (Jordan) kind of took that larger role last year, I didn’t take my foot off the gas. I kept working and kept striving to do as much as I could. This offseason, I think I’ve taken a a big leap and made some big strides.”
Complacency has never set in for the Ankeny, Iowa, native.
“I’ve worked a lot on coming through the ball more, trusting my target line and swing” Pinegar said. “I’ve worked a lot on kick-offs as well. Just want to improve my range on everything so far.”
It’s also important not to forget that despite last year’s diminished role, Pinegar has had a productive career for Penn State up to this point.
The redshirt senior ranks fourth on the program’s all-time career extra points list (138), sixth in field goal percentage (74.0), 10th in field goal attempts (51), 11th in makes (37) and is eighth on the all-time scoring list (244 points).
He’s also just the 14th Nittany Lion to ever reach at-least 200 career points and broke. the Penn State freshman scoring record in 2018 with 101 points, passing Kevin Kelly’s previous mark of 99.
That experience will come in handy as Pinegar competes in camp with redshirt freshman Sander Sahaydak for the lead field goal role.
While new Special Teams Coordinator Stacy Collins said there isn’t a specific timeline in place right now to name a starter, both Pinegar and Sahaydak have impressed so far in camp.
“It’s been a great competition,” Collins said at Saturday’s media day. “They’ve both struck the ball extremely well the last four days. We need to trend and continue to do that. That competition has been a tight one and excited to see how both those guys prepared themselves through spring. They trended extremely well through the spring and finishing through the spring game.”
Whether he wins the starting job or not, Pinegar is looked at as one of the leaders in the team.
That comes with having been around the program for five years now and the level of professionalism he’s demonstrated every day, regardless of where he’s listed on the depth chart.
“This is my fifth year, so I’ve been around this program for a long time,” Pinegar said. “There are a couple of us with the special teams unit as well that have been here a while. We’ve seen this program be successful and what it takes to reach that level, so we try to do our best to teach those younger guys what it means and what it takes to win.”