The Ledger had an interesting update on Jeremy Ito today.
Greg Schiano continues to insist that he would prefer his senior doesn't handle all three duties this season, he reiterated that's what will happen until -- or unless -- someone out-performs Ito in one of those areas."I know he can do all three," Schiano said. "I'd rather him not, if one of the other guys can step up and take something off his plate. But we're going to play the one who does the best job."
An increased workload would be an issue, which is why Ito is competing with walk-ons and a JC transfer for the punting job. However, I've often thought about the possibility of Ito's future being at punter. He won the punting job last summer results-wise, but Schiano didn't want to take the job away from Joe Radigan, who did, in fairness, respond with a strong season.
However, accuracy has always been an issue with Ito, so much so that I've often wished Rutgers had a chipshot artist like Art Carmody. Ito has a knack for making the clutch kicks, but often misses the chip shots. Rutgers lost to Illinois a few years ago because he missed several easy kicks.
In 2005, he only made 74.1% of his kicks. He missed 3 kicks between 30-39 yards. In 2006, his percentage increased to 75.9%. He missed 1 FG inside 30 yards, and four more between 30-39. In that sense, Ito is fairly overrated as a kicker, despite his prowess when the game is on the line.
Enough tarnishing him, here's the big reason why Ito is considered a good kicking prospect: he has one hell of a strong leg. Camp reports have regularly stated that he makes kicks from 60+ yards out in practice. These reports should come with a grain of salt however, because it is much harder to be successful in game, but it does give an idea of how strong his leg is. He also handled kickoff duties starting last year, which did seem to be tiring him out late in 2006.
One explanation I've heard for Ito's accuracy issues is that Schiano is too confident in his leg, and puts him in situations that very few other kickers have to deal with. In 2005, Art Carmody (the other kicking prospect I'm most familiar with) made 87.5% of his kicks, but only 5 over 40 yards and 0 over 60. A similar story in 2006, with 84% total, but 4 over 40 and 1 over 60. Ito, in comparison, attempted 10 between 40-50 (made 6/10) in 2005, and 2 over 50 (made both) in 2005, and 3 between 40-49 (made 2), and 3 over 50 (made 2) last year.
If I had to compare Ito to anyone in the NFL, it'd be a slightly better John Hall. He's the first person that comes to mind of not being super-accurate but having a booming leg.
The chances that Ito punts this year are next to nil, and he certainly will retain the kicking job. However, when projecting his future in the pros, does anyone else think a kicker with a strong leg but accuracy issues projects better to punter? I think that'd best utilize his skills, but maybe there are some other factors that go into successful punting that I'm discounting.
Oh, and one other small tidbit: I've heard from several people that QB Mike Teel might actually be the best punter on the Rutgers team, even though he hasn't done the job since high school besides a few times in practice. The next Tom Tupa!
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