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Future of Rutgers Football 2023: Special Teams

Senior placekicker Jude McAtamney and sophomore placekicker Jai Patel will look to make an impact on special teams for the Rutgers football team in the 2023 season. – Photo by Rich Grassle /

It is officially springtime, and spring training for the Rutgers football team is underway. In the 10th edition of Future of Rutgers Football, The Daily Targum previews the 2023 Special Teams unit.

The special teams unit is often overlooked in football. Though special teams has always been a strength for the Rutgers football team under head coach Greg Schiano, it faces a lot of changes going into the 2023 season.

In the 2022 season, the Scarlet Knights had a strong special teams unit in part due to standout punter Adam Korsak. Korsak spent five years on the Banks and holds the NCAA records with 349 career punts and 15,318 career punt yards. Last year he won the Ray Guy Award, which is historically given to the best punter in the nation.

Korsak has now run out of eligibility and entered the NFL Draft, leaving Rutgers with big shoes to fill at the punter position.

Sophomore punter Flynn Appleby will be the one attempting to fill those shoes. Appleby, like Korsak, hails from Australia and played in the Australian Football League.

"Flynn has done a nice job. He continues to do a nice job," Schiano said.

A position where the Knights have not had as much success is at kicker. In the spring practice, there has been a kicking battle for the starting position between senior placekicker Jude McAtamney and sophomore placekicker Jai Patel.

"(McAtamney) had a couple that today that got away from him … in the competition, he really kicked well," Schiano said. "(Patel) has been kicking well all camp."

McAtamney started as a kicker last year and had an up-and-down season, making 23 out of 24 extra-point attempts and 12 out of 18 field goal attempts. The player has a strong leg but struggles at times with his accuracy.

His leg was able to find the uprights through a wide range of distances for Rutgers: McAtamney was perfect from the 20-29 yard range, 4 for 7 from the 30-39 yard range and 5 for 6 from the 40-49 yard range.

Patel, on the other hand, did not play as a freshman but had a decorated high school career, earning USA Today All-New Jersey honors and being rated as a four-star kicker.

The Knights will also have to figure out who their new kickoff and punt returner will be. Last year Aron Cruickshank handled most of the kickoff and punt return duties for the team.

As a team, Rutgers took its 26 kickoff returns for 541 yards and 13 punt returns for 108 yards in the 2022 season. The Knights will look to build on that effort this year.

Junior cornerback Max Melton is also a weapon on special teams, as he led the nation with three blocked kicks. Melton could be a candidate to return kickoffs and punts.

With Rutgers searching for its first six-win season under Schiano’s second term, special teams will be a key unit where the Knights could find an edge. More clarity on the special teams unit will come after the spring game.

For more updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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