Rutgers Special Teams Preview 2012: Big Question Looms at Placekicker

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Rutgers Special Teams Preview 2012: Big Question Looms at Placekicker
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The departure of kicker San San Te leaves a gaping hole in Rutgers' special teams in 2012.

The luxury of having a senior placekicker is a double-edged sword. There is a certain security knowing that at the critical moment, a veteran is going to trot onto the field to attempt a kick that will win the game.

But as Rutgers saw with departing kicker San San Te, seniors graduate, and at some point the position must be handed off to a newcomer. Onto the shoulders of that successor the hopes of a team, coach, University and fanbase rides with each kick.

It is a tremendous burden to bear.

"College football is so competitive now,” theorizes former Iowa State kicker Jamie Kohl via Sports Illustrated (who now heads up skills camps for college kickers). “The kicks mean a lot more. The games are tight because of scholarship limits and other factors, and a lot of times it comes down to precious kicks."

Into that scrutinized position walks true freshman Kyle Federico from Ponte Verde, California, who was a 3-star recruit (Scout.com) coming out of high school. Scout.com also tabbed him as the No. 11 kicking prospect in the country for 2012.

Even though he had a career-best kick of 50 yards in high school and kicked a game-winning 27-yard field goal in a playoff game, Federico only kicked four field goals as a senior, and was just 8-for-13 as a junior.

If Federico's qualifications seem somewhat lacking, it may be for that reason that the Scarlet Knights have sophomore Nick DeLouisa listed as their backup kicker.

There's a hundred guys out there who can hit a 55-yard field goal in practice, says Nebraska Cornhusker's kicker Brett Maher via ESPN. But the secret is to be able to transfer that over to a game in a big-time situation. That's why it's so difficult to predict, because you never know how a guy is going to react until he's put in a situation like that.

Elsa/Getty Images
Jeremy Deering will serve as the primary kick returner in 2012.

While the placekicker may be an area of concern, the Knights are solid at punter. Senior Jason Doerner returns, having posted a 40.3 average last season, with a long of 58 yards. Backing up Doerner is Manalapan, NJ freshman Anthony DePaula.

Punt return responsibilities are to be split among senior Mason Robinson, sophomore Miles Shuler and junior Quron Pratt. Pratt, more valuable as a wide receiver, is not likely to be pressed into duty unless injuries strike. Robinson, listed as the main returner on the Rutgers spring depth chart, had only two punt returns in all of 2011, averaging just 2.5 yards.

Leading kickoff returner Jeremy Deering will reprise the role that saw him average 31.2 yards per return in 2011 with a long of 98 yards and a touchdown. After spending 2011 as a running back, Deering will return to his wide receiver position this season. Freshman Paul James will share duties with Deering.

Overseeing the Rutgers special teams this season is coach Joe Rossi, who had previously served as the defensive coordinator at Maine from 2009 to 2011.

But, without question, the success of the 2012 season—no matter how well Rossi coaches and the rest of the special teams players fulfill their roles—could well rest on the performance of freshman kicker Kyle Federico.

I've tried, through the years, to find a formula for guys who are successful, and to be honest with you, there are different personalities that get it done, concludes Jamie Kohl via ESPN regarding placekickers. It comes down to the individual athlete and how he copes with situations.

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