Review of the RU Special Teams

A new season is dawning, which means renewed hopes, expectations and unanswered questions. SOR will attempt to fill in the gaps of where Rutgers football stands heading into the 2008 campaign. Today's installment: special teams.

This area is the biggest question mark for the Scarlet Knights entering the 2008 season. Gone is one of the best place kickers in school history as well as the special teams coach. New players are going to be expected to fill in the gap left by kicker Jeremy Ito, and they will learn a new system under coach Chris Rippon.

The Scarlet Knights are also still searching for a reliable return man. Punt returners had a case of fumbleitis in 2007, and RU averaged fewer than 10 yards per return last season. The kick return game also took a big hit when starter Kordell Young was lost for the season in the third game.

While Ito performed his dual role of placekicker and punter admirably in the 2007 season, the Scarlet Knights see an upgrade in the punting game this season. Ito was employed as a punter as a short-term solution while Rutgers waited for Teddy Dellaganna to become ready for action this year.

Key returning players:

Holder Andrew DePaola. This is one of the most underrated areas of football, and Rutgers has been fortunate the last five years to have the sure hands of DePaola and Anthony Cali before him spotting the ball for kicks. DePaola switched from quarterback to wide receiver this year, but he should still handle holding duties.

PR Dennis Campbell. If he can hold onto the ball, Campbell is shifty enough to make some noise in the punt return game.

KR Tim Brown. “The Ghost” emerged as a late season return threat for the Scarlet Knights in 2007. Brown, a true junior, is the fastest player on the squad and is a potential scoring threat every time he touches the ball. Brown split time with running back Mason Robinson as a returner late in the 2007 season.

Key additions:

PK San San Te. The product of Hickory High School in Concord, N.C., was a highly-rated prospect coming out of high school. A redshirt freshman, Te was ranked the No. 5 placekicker in the country by during the 2007 recruiting season.

P Teddy Dellaganna. The sophomore transfer from Bakersfield (Calif.) Community College has a booming leg and will no doubt help Rutgers improve on its abysmal 35.7 yards per punt average in 2007. Reports are that his hang time approaches 5 seconds, which should limit opposing return games as RU’s coverage team has the ability to get downfield on punts.

Key losses:

PK/P Jeremy Ito. The four-year starter casts a long shadow at Rutgers in special teams. Ito finished his career at RU as the all-time leader in field goals made (80) and missed just one PAT in his last two seasons on the Banks. He ranks as Rutgers’ all-time leading scorer with 400 total points.

Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi. It was no secret that Rizzi was being groomed for a head coaching job. The special teams coach roamed the Rutgers sidelines for the last six seasons, including three seasons as the assistant head coach and one year as associate head coach. Rizzi left Rutgers to take the head coaching job at Rhode Island, his alma mater. Replacing Rizzi is Chris Rippon, who spent the last three years as the special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach at Mississippi. Prior to the Ole Miss gig, Rippon was a coach for 12 years at Syracuse (pre-Greg Robinson), including four seasons each as the special teams coordinator and the defensive coordinator.

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