Vikings Special Teams Coach Name Drops Several Players who Are Shining

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Depth players need to carve out a role on special teams to make the final roster.

Sure, someone like backup QB Jaren Hall is a notable exception, but the rule almost always applies: a backup on defense or offense usually needs to find a way of contributing on special teams. As a result, the recent presser from Matt Daniels was notable. The Vikings special teams coach name dropped a few players who have been performing really well.

The Vikings Special Teams Coach
&
The Players Who are Shining

Less than a minute into his presser, Matt Daniels takes on a question about players who are standing out. He identifies a trio of players, a pair of linebackers and a wide receiver. Per the Vikings special teams coach, William Kwenkeu, Ivan Pace, and Lucky Jackson have been performing well.

Shelley as a Starter
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell and linebacker William Kwenkeu. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

“There’s been a couple of guys,” Daniels explains, “that quickly come to mind. I think Will Kwenkeu has been doing a great job coming off of injury.”

The Sp/T coach then brings things around to Ivan Pace, an UDFA linebacker who has been getting plenty of attention during training camp. Daniels praises Pace for his ability to evade blocks: “Ivan Pace has flashed a lot. He’s been showing some really great punch within the box, really shown to be able to be able to be really, really slippery in terms of taking on guys, working the edges.”

Vikings Receive Even More Praise for 2023 UDFA Class
Nov 5, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (0) reacts after sacking Navy Midshipmen quarterback Xavier Arline (not pictured) in the second half at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

To finish off his answer, Daniels brings things around to depth receiver Lucky Jackson, someone who “has been quite a surprise.”

“He’s really starting to really put in some really, really good work,” Daniels notes, “and a lot of good things on tape. And I’m excited about watching him play.” Prior to being employed by the Vikings, Jackson was playing in the XFL. Making the jump to the top football league and then making a 53-man roster is a massive challenge, but Jackson seems to be setting himself apart.

Of the trio of players whom Daniels discusses, Pace is the one who has inspired the most intrigue among Vikings fans. During his final college season, Pace put together some monstrous numbers for the Cincinnati Bearcats. The off-ball linebacker had 136 tackles, 9 sacks, 20.5 TFLs, and 4 PDs. He’s only 6’0″, 235, so there are some concerns about whether he’ll be able to stand up to the physicality of the NFL.

As of right now, Daniels doesn’t seem overly concerned about Pace’s size, or lack thereof. Brian Flores is also going to have an important opinion when it comes to whether Pace deserves a roster spot. After all, the team’s LB3 spot is wide open. Jordan Hicks and Brian Asamoah are the top pair but nothing else has been determined after those two.

Sep 24, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (0) runs onto the field prior to the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

For Jackson to get onto the team, a lot will need to go right. Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, and Jalen Nailor are near locks to make the team. Seeing Minnesota keep anymore than two more receivers would be a surprise. The former XFLer will thus need to overcome a crowded competition that features Jalen Reagor, Thayer Thomas, Brandon Powell, Blake Proehl, Trishton Jackson, and a few others.

Finally, there’s Kwenkeu. Last season, Kwenkeu joined the Vikings, so he shares the benefit of being a Kwesi Adofo-Mensah addition. The sophomore LB was even in on some defensive action, seeing 13 snaps for Ed Donatell’s group. Across his 6 games, Kwenkeu also got involved in 94 special teams snaps. Age shouldn’t be an issue for him since he’s still only 26 (Pace is 22 and Jackson is 26).

Of course, the practice field can only go so far. Performing admirably during preseason action will be a critical part of the competition for Kwenkeu, Pace, and Jackson. A week from today, the Vikings will venture into their opening preseason game when they travel to Seattle to take on Pete Carroll’s Seahawks.

Keep an eye on #47 (Kwenkeu), #40 (Pace), and #15 (Jackson) when the special teams units step on the field.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Sports Reference CFB helped with this piece.

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