Tuesday Practice Report: Special Teams Focus

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Special teams coordinator Vince Okruch addresses the major struggles in return coverage at Washington in today's practice report. We examine at roster changes, and a note on wide receivers.

The Headline – The film review was not fun for Rutgers special teams coordinator Vince Okruch after No. 14 Washington victimized his unit in the return game.

Washington scored half of its points on special teams in a 48-13 victory to go along with 35.7 yards per return. The Huskies returned both a kick and punt for a touchdown.

“Both situations, there were multiple players on each unit that did not escape the block scheme that Washington had used,” said special teams coordinator Vince Okruch. “It was not a new scheme. I think the biggest disappointment was it sped up so fast for us. We didn't adjust like we've practiced adjusting.

“We would have liked to have had a better kick in both situations but regardless of that, it's the other 10 guys' job to find the football, locate it and eliminate the vertical return. We did some work Sunday afternoon on some escape techniques when we're being blocked. We did the same thing today in our punt period.”

Rutgers tinkered with its ones and twos on special teams but did not explore any significant depth chart changes after struggles against Washington.

“They are who they are and they're ours,” Okruch said. “We love them like nobody can believe. We just have got to become better fundamental football players. It wasn't like we were kicking to some bad players now either. We're not the first guy those guys have exposed. We need to improve in our football awareness, our football IQ.”

While kick and punt coverage disappointed, Janarion Grant and his blockers impressed Okruch and coach Chris Ash on film.

“That guy is special,” Okruch said. “The first one, quite frankly, we missed a block and as you look at it on film that being the first live kick of the season, it happened so fast. It's faster than we can recreate out here [in practice]. We flipped our hips and their guy was already passed us. We made the adjustment on the sideline, coaching him up on what to do. Then next one was for 32 yards and I believe the third one was for 32 yards. If our guy can return it 32 yards every time we receive a kickoff, outstanding.”

Worth Noting – Rutgers classes began Tuesday morning, which allows for a roster expansion beyond the 105 limit from training camp. Additions at Rutgers practice included freshman receiver Ahmed Bah and walk-ons Chris Parker, Alex Schoen and Jack Clements.

Michigan transfer Ahmir Mitchell attended part of practice but did not participate.

“If I had to give advice to a freshman, you have to take responsibility for your academics, being on time for football, being tired. Everyone's tired,” said team captain Julian Pinnix-Odrick. “Doing things that you may not want to do that people are asking you to do and not complaining all the time. Sometimes you complain and, whatever, you have to get stuff off your chest, but nobody cares. That's the thing. That's what you learn as we grow up in this world. Not many people care. If you have something to do, you've got to get it done.”

Quote of the Day – “I thought we played really hard. The receivers, assignment wise, we didn't really have any mental errors. We were doing our job all game, we've just got to make more plays.” – wide receiver John Tsimis.


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