The questions filtered in, should Ito take over the punter's position due to Radigan's somewhat inconsistent performance last season? Do we really want Ito to sit back there because some teams would see an opportunity to injure him and take away our kicking game for a mere 15 yard penalty? All these questions were finally put to rest when Coach Schiano made it clear at the start of the season that Radigan would be the starting punter.
Radigan came into the preseason camp more focused than usual. His past experience and seeing the potential for what this team was ready to do led him to prepare for what should be Rutgers finest season in many years. He came in focused on getting his timing down to improve his flow on the kick and has, "quickened up the pace to avoid having it blocked." So far, so good; Radigan was touched for the first time against Ohio but the potential blocker was far too late to influence the punt and drew a flag (see image to the right).
Schiano has always been quick to praise Radigan, believing he has the ability to take his talent to the next level. He showed what could be in the final game for Rutgers last season as he averaged over 50 yards and placed two inside the 20 yard line during the Insight Bowl. That confidence in Radigan has paid off has he as come out on fire in Rutgers first three games.
The consistency is there and for Radigan it's just about growing up. "The improvements I've made, I think, just come with maturity more than anything else. It's my fourth season now and I have faith in the guys blocking for me." Knowing that you have a second to set up for your kick can do wonders for a guy's confidence. Instead of being worried about getting the ball off, Radigan has turned to how far he can get that kick.
Confidence transforms into success and considering the highlight reel he is putting together Joe is certainly chock full of it. His first of the season was not pretty as he, "lost a little bit of a handle, came off the side of my foot…hopefully that's past me and the rest will just get better." When you punt the ball for 78, 52, and 66 yards it's safe to say that the best is already here and he shows no signs of slowing down. "You can only get a kick like that if you out-kick the returner," said Joe, and I don't think anyone can fault a returner for not expecting the punter to kick the ball over 60 yards each time he comes out.
The new concern for the punt team is the coverage. They gave up some big returns to Ohio that gave Head Coach Greg Schiano some fits. In their defense, the punt team did not even have to worry about a return in its first two games, despite punting six times. So really they got their first work in covering this past Saturday. The Flyers are Schiano's greatest concern as they are close but need some help getting that last step. Joe sees his role as, "getting the ball in the air higher. If I do that it will give the guys more time to get down to cover." Schiano has seen fit to place some speedy guys on the ends like Glen Lee who have the ability to get 60 yards down the field and cover. Radigan thinks the punt team is progressing and will make the adjustments necessary because every guy is coming in focused and set on doing their job.
It seems that Joe is serving notice to his team and his conference. He currently leads the Big East Conference in punting, averaging 45.1 yards a kick and is only getting better as he currently sits at #12 nationally. He has hit four within the 15 yard line and the defense has turned those opportunities into zero points (for the offense). The competition with Ito was helpful, but it didn't do anything to affect Radigan's training. "I don't need extra motivation outside of myself. I'm pretty focused on what it takes for me to be the top punter I can be," added Radigan. Well that focus may just turn into conference honors as Joe continues to fine tune his skills.
Having solidified his position as the starter by delivering under pressure Radigan has shown signs of being able to take his game to the next level.
"Hopefully by having a good year that will springboard me to getting noticed for free agency or even a draft spot," stated Radigan.
He was surprised to hear he was leading the Big East and it was clear he was happy with the way his preparation has brought him into this phase of his career. If he consistently kicks the way he has these past few games he may have to start kicking on Sundays as well.