With just one week from now until Rutgers kicks off their 2016 season at #14/#18 Washington, there are still some battles for starting and backup roles. Last night after practice, head coach Chris Ash announced the starters in the kicking game.
Redshirt junior David Bonagura was named the starting placekicker over freshman Jared Smolar. While this is Bonagura’s fourth season in the program, he has never seen any game action. He starred at Ramapo high school and kicked a 48 yard field goal in the waning seconds to win the 2012 North I, Group III State Championship. In NJ Advance Media’s report from last night’s practice, Keith Sargeant wrote Ash indicated Bonagura will “most likely” handle kickoff duties as well. In the Spring Game back in April, Bonagura went 2-4 on field goal attempts, including hitting the crossbar and missing from 49 yards out on the final play.
As for punter, redshirt sophomore Michael Cintron will get the starting nod. His only competition was redshirt senior Tim Gleeson, who has been limited during training camp after having back surgery after last season. The former St. Joseph’s of Metuchen multi-sport star 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.
The kicking game is often overlooked, but will be a crucial part of the special teams unit bouncing back this season. Bonagura is replacing four year starter Kyle Federico, who went 28-37 on field goal attempts, making 76% in his last two seasons. That’s pretty solid for a college kicker, and he was underappreciated at times. Oddly, Federico did struggle with extra points, missing five attempts total in 2014 & 2015. Bonagura has the leg to connect from long range, but he must adapt quickly to game action. His impact on kickoffs will be important as well, as starting field position for opponents was a major issue last season. His performance will be vital to the success of Rutgers this season.
Other position battles of note that have not been decided include backup quarterback, linebacker and the offensive line according to Sargeant in his practice report.
He indicates the backup quarterback spot is between TCU graduate transfer Zach Allen and redshirt sophomore Gio Rescigno. It seems Hayden Rettig continues to fall down the depth chart. At linebacker, the battle for strongside linebacker is between Najee Clayton and fifth year senior Greg Jones. J.J. Denman appears close to winning the starting right tackle position over Zach Heeman, who would be a valuable backup.
Rutgers will hold a simulated scrimmage practice today at 11 a.m. in preparation for their opening game next weekend at the same time. We are one week away from the official start of the Ash Era!