Can they earn one against Syracuse?
"I don't know, I hope so," Rutgers football head coach Greg Schiano said after Tuesday's practice.
Although Schiano admires his opponents' coverage schemes, he believes that Rutgers (3-5, 2-2 Big East) maintains the capability for a big return.
"But they're a pretty good cover team so I think we have potential, without a doubt," Schiano said. "We have good returners. We've feel like we've been close."
In fact, earlier this season, a costly penalty prevented Dennis Campbell from earning his first punt return touchdown of his career.
Furthermore, Schiano prides himself on special teams' contributions, as evidenced by the 31 defensive/special teams' touchdowns RU has recorded, since he joined the program in 2001.
When asked about senior linebacker Kevin Malast's key interception against the Panthers, Schiano referenced Zaire Kitchen, who forced an important fumble in the same contest.
"I think so," Schiano said of Malast's momentum-changing play. "Zaire's takeaway was even bigger. But they were both big."
Schiano has also constantly shifted returnmen, before he gave cornerback Jason McCourty an opportunity to handle kickoffs. The senior defensive back gained 31 yards on his first collegiate return against UCONN (2-2, 6-3 Big East); he produced 97 on five returns against Pittsburgh (2-1, 6-2 Big East) prior to the bye week.
"He's very natural at it," Schiano said of McCourty. "He has a good feel."
Schiano said the young offensive line has improved.
"We're getting better," he said. "We're young. We have young guys who are learning how to play the position. And we've been spoiled around here with guys who were experienced, strong, developed. These guys are developing."
Can Rutgers defense make Syracuse one dimensional and shut down their running game?
"No one has been able to do it, so I don't know," Schiano said. "I don't think we're going to be able to do that. They're a good running football team. They're really a downhill football team, pretty effective."
Schiano on Kordell Young's production so far:
"Yeah, I think he battled through yet another injury," Schiano said of Young, who not only repaired a torn ACL in the offseason, but another unrelated knee issue that forced the third-year back to miss four games. "It wasn't a relapse from surgery. He's really overcome one of much bigger magnitude, surgical repair."
Schiano also said holder Andrew DePaola returned to practice.
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