Pratt shows off special teams prowess against EMU
When senior safety Jeremy Deering left Saturday’s game after sustaining an injury on the Rutgers football team’s opening kickoff, Quron Pratt knew he would have to fill another roll.
Pratt is the Scarlet Knights’ second-team kick returner, and the senior wide receiver was suddenly handed another responsibility.
Pratt responded with a 99-yard touchdown return in the first quarter in Rutgers’ 28-10 win against Eastern Michigan, the first kick return of his career.
“It was a left return, but I saw a cutback lane to the right and I took full advantage of it,” Pratt said. “We had great blocking, great double teams on the front line and I can’t express how I feel just for the great blocks they had and doing what they had to do so I could make that play.”
It was one of two returns for the Palmyra, N.J., native, who also fielded a 32-yard return in the second quarter.
It was not the first time Pratt had returned a kickoff for a touchdown. He said he took one to the house “many times” during his time at Palmyra High School.
Sophomore wide receiver Leonte Carroo saw Pratt’s experience when he fielded the kick.
“I wouldn’t say he was eager, he just knew he was next in line,” Carroo said. “When Jeremy went down, he’s next on the depth chart. When they called his name, he was very calm and cool. He knew when he saw it open up he was going to score. It was just a well-deserved touchdown.”
The return was Pratt’s highlight of the day on special teams, as he also made a nice open-field tackle on a punt in the second quarter.
But special teams was the only way Pratt could get involved Saturday, as senior quarterback Chas Dodd attempted just nine passes after junior quarterback Gary Nova left the game with an injury. Pratt registered no catches on the day.
The way he stayed involved without the ball in his hands as much impressed head coach Kyle Flood, who said the way Pratt approaches special teams reminded him of former Rutgers specialists.
“None of it surprises me because he prepares as well as any player on our program,” Flood said. “He is an elite-level preparer, the likes of Devin, Jason McCourty, Logan Ryan, those types of people, and he did a tremendous job today on special teams for sure.”
If Deering is able to play this week against Arkansas, it remains to be seen if Flood will stick with Pratt on kickoffs.
If he does not, Pratt knows he will be ready if he fills the duty again. He has done it before.
“Talking about it before, they tap your shoulder and your next up, so you have to go out there and do it and that’s what I did,” Pratt said. “I’ve prepared myself for that situation taking the second-team reps so when it’s my time, I can go out there and do what I have to do.”
Flood said he was impressed with senior center Dallas Hendrickson’s first-career start.
Hendrickson replaced senior center Betim Bujari, who was scratched from Saturday’s game because of an injury.
“Very pleased. Very pleased,” Flood said. “I thought Dallas operated well at center. We had one snap issue where I believe the snap was early, I’m not completely sure if it was or not but it created a penalty for us.”
The lone error came in the first half, when Hendrickson snapped the ball before Dodd was ready. The play resulted in a false start.
“Chas and I were just on the wrong page,” Hendrickson said of the play. “It was on me, it was my fault. We just need to come back [in practice] and get better.”
Senior defensive end Marcus Thompson had another sack in the victory, giving him three on the season and one in each of the Knights’ first three games.
Thompson said during training camp that his goal was two per game.
While that prediction has not come to fruition, Flood knows Thompson’s production will catch the eyes of opposing coaches who will assign more double teams on the side he lines up on.
“That’s not easy to do and I’m sure that teams are going to give him more and more attention as the year goes on,” Flood said.
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @Bradly_D. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.