Rutgers will have both the Big Ten’s and Huge 12’s finest kick returner in 2021. Greg Schiano hints at strategies to utilize Aron Cruickshank and Joshua Youngblood
The Rutgers coach understands teams can never have adequate players with the capability to go the distance each time they field a kickoff.
And it’s why Schiano is giddy about having 2 players who have actually earned the distinction of the finest return-specialist in a Power 5 Conference on his lineup for next season.
Joshua Youngblood, a transfer from Kansas State who signed recently as part of Rutgers’ 24-player recruiting class, was the Huge 12 Unique Teams Gamer of the Year in 2019.
Aron Cruickshank, who came to Rutgers a few months after producing a kick-return goal for Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, measured up to his buzz with the Scarlet Knights by earning the 2020 Big 10 Return Specialist of the Year honor for the Scarlet Knights.
” I am excited,” Schiano stated, “about the total skill that we are going to have on our group.”.
He must be.
Youngblood led the nation in 2019 with three kickoff returns for touchdowns and finished with a 35.9 yards-per-return average.
Cruickshank was among only 4 players nationally to score several goals off kickoffs and ranked seventh nationally with a 26.8 yards-per-return average.
It asks the question: Is Schiano hoping the NCAA implements a guideline that mandates groups to kick 2 footballs on kickoffs in 2021?
Schiano smiled and pointed to special teams coach Adam Scheier, who schemed up a system that ranked 16th nationally in kick-return yardage (25.7 per-return) in 2020.
” I believe we’ve shown that with one football there’s manner ins which two guys can carry it on the exact same play,” Schiano said.
Indeed, the Scarlet Knights scored a goal off a punt return in a loss at Ohio State in November when Avery Young threw an across-the-field lateral to Bo Melton, who sprinted 58 yards to the end zone. Rutgers tried comparable technique plays on kick returns without as much success.
” We have fun with that,” Schiano said. “As a program we look forward to coming up with some creative methods to utilize those talents on special groups. As you understand we’re enthusiastic about special teams in our program. So we’ll figure out some ways (to use Cruickshank and Youngblood).”.
Schiano has a long history of producing gamers who stood out as returners. In 2005, Wille Foster was called the Huge 10 Unique Groups Gamer of the Year while Tres Moses (early 2000s) and Tim Brown (late 2000s) likewise were difference makers in the return video game throughout his previous tenure.
Cruickshank became the latest Scarlet Knight to thrive in that role, scoring a 100-yard kick-return touchdown at Purdue and a 98-yard kick-return goal in the season finale versus Nebraska.
He hopes Youngblood can make a similar impact in his first season after transferring in from a Power-5 program.
A 2020 Preseason All-Big 12 selection who played in 2 of Kansas State’s very first four games before entering the transfer portal, Youngblood starred scholastically at Berkeley Preparation, the Tampa, Fla.-based high school program where Schiano coached as an assistant during his boys’ playing professions. Youngblood will sign up with present Rutgers lineman Mayan Ahanotu and 2021 signee Austin Dean as former Berkeley Preparation stars on the Rutgers football group in 2021.
” My freshman year, he was our protective planner (at Berkeley Preparation),” Youngblood told NJ Advance Media’s Todderick Hunt after his commitment to Rutgers in December. “We type of got close due to the fact that I was his scout group quarterback. It was fun getting to know him and see how he coaches the defense.”.