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Penn State Football: Even With Missing Pieces, Rutgers Not Without Big Threat

by on September 16, 2015 6:00 AM

It is safe to say the past month has not been particularly positive for Rutgers.

Head coach Kyle Flood is under an internal investigation for contacting a professor. Six now-former players were dismissed and arrested following a break-in incident on campus. Just this week, star receiver Leonte Carroo was arrested and suspended indefinitely for assault.

So things could be going better.

From the football perspective, it sets up for a very shorthanded Rutgers team making its way to State College this weekend. Add in injured star defensive tackle Darius Hamilton not making the trip and that's yet another blow to the Scarlet Knights' arsenal.

But sometimes all you need is a single player to change a game. And Rutgers is hoping that return specialist Janarion Grant is that player. He's a player already on James Franklin's radar.

"I think the biggest thing is we look at it as a tremendous challenge. It's exciting when a great player comes in and you have an opportunity to maybe do some things to make sure he doesn't have a big impact in the game," Franklin said on Tuesday. "That's something that's going to be really, really important. These are the type of guys that when you aren't good in terms of your fundamentals or techniques, they can hurt you, and hurt you in a big way."

How much of a threat is Grant? For one, in only two games so far this season he has returned three special teams kicks for touchdowns. Two kickoffs to the house and a punt. In fact, Grant is averaging almost 40 yards per kick return and 17 per punt. That's nothing to laugh at. In fact, it's a very good way to lose to a team that's missing quite a lot of players.

Considering that Penn State's net punting average puts the Nittany Lions at 96th best, or rather, worst in the nation only heightens Franklin's concern.

"We want 40 yards. We want a 4.0 hang time. We want the location we're looking for. We're not getting that right now," Franklin said. "To me, you can probably live with two out of the three. You'd like all three. You'd like the distance, the hang time, and you'd like the location."

"Right now we're not getting the hang time or the location, which is really stressing our coverage units...I make the argument I'd rather you punt it 37 yards out of bounds than 50 yards with no hang time down the middle of the field. That's what we need to do."

Wherever the ball ends up when Penn State inevitably has to punt this weekend, Franklin will almost certainly just be happy as long as the play doesn't end with six more points oo the board.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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