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Rutgers Football: Who Will Be The Starting Kicker, Punter, And Returners? (Part 3/3)


One of the mantras Rutgers football will use this season and possibly beyond is #10Strong. This is the idea that if all the position groups on the football team (quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, cornerbacks, safeties, and special teams) work together as a collective group and play at the best of their ability, the team will be successful.

“That really is one of the ultimate goals of the program,” head coach Chris Ash said during spring practice. “We have 10 position groups of the football team when you count the offense, defense and the specialists together. If we can get 10 units operating at maximum capacity, then we’re going to have a chance for success. That’s really what it’s all about for us.”

With that being said, last week, we took a look at the offensive and defensive positions as well as how any incoming freshmen affects the team this season and beyond.

Last up, we have the specialists and special teams as a whole.

Special teams is sometimes looked at as the non-important facet of the game, yet a game could change because of a coffin corner punt that pinned a team inside their 5-yard line, a 50-yard field goal that won the game in overtime, a blocked kick that shifted momentum, or a kick return touchdown to start the game that game energy to the sideline.

The Scarlet Knights have stressed the importance of special teams and have had a returner who has took it to the house on multiple occasions the past three years as well as a unit that has led the nation in blocked kicks since 2009 (44). They’ve had decent kickers and punters as well.

This upcoming 2016 season features less clarity at the kicking spots, but here is what each special teams spot holds.

Kicker: Rutgers entered spring practice with only one place kicker on the roster in fourth-year junior David Bonagura. The departure of Kyle Federico leaves a void that only Bonagura got practice for. The Scarlet Knights will had walk-on kicker Jared Smolar to the mix this summer, as the two will vie for the starting job. Rutgers could try to add someone else to the mix, but it is unlikely at this stage of the game.

Punter: Like Bonagura, redshirt sophomore Michael Cintron developed an iron leg as the Piscataway, N.J. (St. Joes Metuchen) native handled all punting duties during the spring as redshirt senior Tim Gleeson recovered from back surgery. Until Gleeson is healthy for training camp, Cinron gets to strut his stuff. In the spring game, Cintron booted 13 punts with four downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

Kick/Punt Return: Janarion Grant has been the star in the return game for the Scarlet Knights the last three years as the Trilby, Fla. native has taken six total punt and kick returns back for touchdowns. The electric senior speedster appears primed to take over that role again, but if Grant figures to be a vital part of the offense, Ash and Co. may have him sit special teams out. Incoming athlete/wide receiver Dacoven Bailey could be a candidate for the job as could redshirt freshman Jawuan Harris, who spent the spring on the Rutgers baseball team. We’ll have to see how this shakes out.

Check out Part 1 on the offense HERE and Part 2 on the defense HERE.

**In addition, DoubleGSports will be on hand at the Tri-State Showcase Satellite Camp at FDU on Wednesday.**

Who will win the punting battle? What about the kicker competition? Will Grant return kicks? Tweet me on these questions and more @ChrisWasky

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