Spring preview: Special Teams questions

Rutgers opens spring practice Tuesday, with its first of 15 sessions. In the first of a three-part series, ScarletReport.com checks out the questions facing the special teams units. From the loss of kick returner Devin McCourty, to his punt blocking skills, to the kicking of San San Te, there is plenty to look at.

Spring practice is usually reserved for fundamentals and gaining reps for inexperienced players who are expected to be key contributors in the fall, with the one caveat usually being the quarterback position.

If the quarterback is not settled in the spring, most coaches will try to come up with an answer by the end of spring practice. However, with Tom Savage entrenched as the starter, spring practice will be used to shape most of the position battles, but not decide them.

In the first of a three-part serious, ScarletReport.com looks at the special teams questions Rutgers has heading into spring practice.

1. Is Te secure?
Junior placekicker San San Te was coming back from back surgery, and was an inconsistent 18 of 28 on field goal attempts. Inside 40 yards, Te was accurate, hitting 15 of 19.

However, he was 3 of 10 beyond 40 yards, and coach Greg Schiano said red-shirt freshman Kyle Sullivan will get a look as well. It would be shocking if Te lost his job, but the coaching staff wants more consistency than it received in 2009.

2. Who will return kicks?
Devin McCourty was a staple in the kick return department. He averaged 25.4 yards on a team-leading 14 returns, including one for a touchdown. He usually lined up next to Joe Lefeged, and when McCourty wasn't back there, Tim Brown was his replacement.

Lefeged should return as a kickoff returner, but who will join him? The list could be long, and likely will not be settled until fall camp and some of the speedsters – like Jordan Thomas, Jeremy Deering and Jawaun Wynn --- get into the mix.

But if Rutgers spends much time on it in the spring, Abdul Smith, Aaron Hayward, Logan Ryan and Darrell Givens may be capable of doing it.

3. Who is the gunner?
One of the reasons Rutgers' punt game was so successful was the coverage of McCourty, who repeatedly beat blockers down the field to make plays and minimize punt returns.

Again, plenty with get a shot at McCourty's spot, with Ryan and Smith both possibilities.

4. Is there a blocker?
A staple of Rutgers has been the ability to block punts. McCourty was the best at it as he combined speed, quickness and feel to become one of the best. Is there another McCourty-type on the roster?

5. Is it a snap?
Schiano thinks the long-snapper is so vital Andrew DePaola wasn't used as a receiver so injury wouldn't keep him from being the long snapper. With DePaola gone, Clem Udovich and Robert Jones will compete for the spot.

6. Who is holding on?
Punter Teddy Dellaganna was replaced as the holder by Patrick Kivlehan for the St. Petersburg Bowl. With Kivlehan contending for a spot on the two-deep, will the job go back to Dellaganna?

7. Fair catch role?
An awful lot was asked of freshman Mohamed Sanu last season, including returning punts. He fair caught the majority of chances, and averaged 3.9 yards on 17 returns. Will Rutgers stay with Sanu as the punt returner, or look for an explosive player in the return game.

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