In the final installment of the Rutgers football preseason roster breakdown, The Daily Targum goes to the third phase of football and predicts the starters on special teams this season. The Knights made all but two field goals last year, set new program highs in the punting department and had some of the best highlights of the 2020 season courtesy of the return team.
Punter: Adam Korsak
Korsak, a fan favorite and a team captain in 2020, continues to set the mark for a punter both at Rutgers and around the nation. The Australian played in all nine games, being named Second Team All-Big Ten by the media and Third Team All-Big Ten by the coaches.
His net punt average of 42.27 ranked eighth in the nation, second in the conference and set a new program record for the third straight season. Korsak’s 43.0 overall punt average in 2020 was the fourth-highest in school history and he also holds the program record for the longest punt, a 79-yard effort against Northwestern in 2018.
The former Australian rules football player gives the Knights a field position advantage every time he steps up to punt the ball back, and he will be called on to continue his historic form in 2021.
Kicker: Valentino Ambrosio
Korsak is not the only Rutgers specialist to make the transition to football from another sport, as Ambrosio spent his first two years in college playing soccer. In 2020, the kicker started the final six games of the season, hitting 9 out of 11 field goal attempts and all but one extra point. Ambrosio showed the clutch factor that a big time college kicker needs, hitting a game-tying and game-winning field goal in the overtime victory over Maryland.
Experience has been helpful for the former soccer player, who is coming into the season more confident than ever.
“It’s night and day,” Ambrosio said in an interview with the Asbury Park Press. “I just kind of went out there and did my thing and got more confident. Now with fans being back, I think I’m more than ready to go.”
Kickoff Returner: Aron Cruickshank
Cruickshank will feature at wide receiver for the Knights this season, but his biggest impact could come from his position as a returner. In his first season on the Banks in 2020, the transfer from Wisconsin was one of four players in the country to return two kickoffs for touchdowns.
He set the standard for returners in the conference, being named First Team All-Big Ten by the coaches, media and the Associated Press. In addition, Cruickshank was awarded the Big Ten Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year and has been placed on the Paul Horning Award watch list for the 2021 season.
Punt Returner: Avery Young
While sophomore wide receiver Joshua Youngblood brings a lot of potential after his return performances at Kansas State, Young comes into the season after serving as the primary punt returner in 2020. The junior cornerback recorded 41 yards on 10 returns and set up a touchdown against Ohio State by throwing a lateral across the field after catching a punt.
This is one of the most interesting position battles on the roster, and the Sept. 2 matchup against Temple will give the fans their final answer on who will be returning this season.
While the special teams unit works hard throughout the preseason, be sure to stay tuned for more preseason coverage of the Rutgers football team.
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