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Opponent Special Teams Preview: Rutgers

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How do the Scarlet Knights stack up in the kicking and returning game?

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

When talking special teams for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, it's all about senior wide receiver Janarion Grant. With sub-4.4/40 speed and some shifty moves, Grant is a weapon. He ran three kickoffs back for TDs last season and also took a punt to the house.

Here’s all four TD returns:

Okay, two were against WSU before the Cougs woke up and started playing football last season. Still, it’s obvious that Grant has some serious skill as a return man. He doesn’t even look like he is running that fast, which is usually a sign that a guy that can change his speed easily and when he hits top gear, pull away. Will the Huskies try to kick away from Grant? Maybe.

Rutgers lost both their kicker and punter to graduation and will have first-time starters at both positions. Redshirt junior David Bonagura was named placekicker over freshman Jared Smolar. While this is Bonagura’s fourth season in the program, he has never kicked in a game. Head coach Chris Ash indicated Bonagura will "most likely" handle kickoff duties as well. Bonagura has a fairly strong leg, hitting the crossbar on a 49-yard attempt back in April during the Rutgers Spring Game; he was 2-4 on field goals in that spring contest.

As for punter, redshirt sophomore Michael Cintron will get the starting nod. Cintron averaged 51 yards on three punts last season, including a long of 57 yards. The converted soccer player looks to bring consistency to the punting game this season. Rutgers returns an experienced long snapper in junior Alan Lucy, who has 25 games long-snapping for Rutgers to his credit.

There was a time in recent program history when Rutgers had such a propensity for blocking kicks that it became news. The Scarlet Knights averaged four blocked kicks per season for the better part of a decade, but last season blocked just two. That’s still not bad, and just one less than Washington blocked in 2016.