Federico strives to overcome inconsistencies, peak in third year
Coming off two seasons plagued with injury and inconsistencies, junior placekicker Kyle Federico is confident this is his year to peak.
It just might have to wait until the summer to unfold.
Following the graduations of four-year long snapper Robert Jones and holder J.T. Tartacoff, the Rutgers football team’s special-teams unit is undergoing a transition phase.
True freshman long snapper Alan Lucy, who Federico helped recruit, will not arrive in Piscataway until training camp. Senior middle linebacker Kevin Snyder is currently handling Lucy’s duties, and so far the unit has labored.
In Rutgers’ first spring scrimmage April 5, Federico and junior backup kicker Nick Borgese combined to go 1-for-6 on field goals, including two misses from inside 30 yards.
Gusty wind and filler specialists did them no favors, but head coach Kyle Flood voiced his displeasure after the scrimmage.
Federico made no excuses either, saying Saturday he has since focused only on himself.
“You can’t really worry about no matter who’s new snapping, holding — all you can focus on what you do,” Federico said. “You’ve just got to trust those guys and their abilities, and all you have to worry about is kicking the ball.”
Inconsistencies have gone on ever since a hip injury sidelined Federico for the final eight games in 2012. Borgese converted just 5-of-8 field goals the rest of the season as Rutgers shied away from the kicking game.
Then Federico struggled to regain his form early last year, missing a potential game winning 43-yarder in the season opener at Fresno State. He finished just 12-for-18 on field-goal attempts but came on strong at the end of the year, splitting six of his last seven through the uprights.
“After getting hurt, I felt like I just kind of fell back down, and I had to build myself back up at the beginning of last season,” Federico said. “Halfway through last season is when I started to really feel confident in everything I did, and I really just saw a difference in the way I hit the ball and the outcome of my kicks.”
With another full spring and training camp to pinpoint the finer details, Federico strives to make kicking a consistent commodity for Rutgers in the Big Ten.
“One of my plans this spring was to build consistency and keep doing better week in, week out,” Federico said. “I think I can really just key in on the basics every single time I kick. ... Little things make a big difference with kicking and it’s just really a precise job. I’m just going in there, trying to do all the basics correct, and I know ... everything else will be fine from there.”
Junior running back P.J. James and junior tight end Tyler Kroft, two of Rutgers’ biggest offensive weapons, worked individual position drills yesterday without contact.
James and Kroft are listed as out for the spring on Rutgers’ injury report with shoulder injuries, meaning they are not participating in team periods of practice.
Junior wide receiver Leonte Carroo, who led the Knights with nine touchdown catches last season, is currently limited with a lower body injury. Sophomore wideout Ruhann Peele is out with a similar diagnosis.
The key players’ omissions from spring are likely more precautionary than long-term issues. Flood said he expects training camp to paint a clearer picture of the offense.
“Nothing that they’ve had to deal with to this point do we feel like will even go past the midway point in the summer,” Flood said. “We think by the midway point in the summer we should be in pretty good shape.”
In the meantime, Rutgers is seeing benefits in building depth and versatility.
Peele’s absence means sophomore Janarion Grant is taking nearly all first-team reps at slot receiver. Grant, who made a significant impact last season on special teams with two touchdowns, is getting a chance to flash his elusive speed against linebackers.
“It’s starting to pay off. I see myself getting better every day because last year I wasn’t getting in as many reps as I can at slot receiver,” Grant said. “But now I’m getting more than I ever could have.”
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