Purdue Football 2020: Position Previews – Specialists

Specialists

JD Dellinger – Starting Kicker

5th Year – 6’2” 200 lbs

JD Dellinger kicks a game winning 39 yard field goal against Northwestern in 2019. (Robert Shipley)

After taking a redshirt year in 2018, JD Dellinger returned to the scene as almost a new man.  Dellinger’s game improved dramatical at all facets of the game but maybe the most notable was his kickoff game, where he was 40/59 on touchbacks.  Having a kicker that can give a defense a great starting position almost every possession change is a huge luxury to have, especially in Diaco’s “bend don’t break” defense.  On XP’s Dellinger was Mr. Consistent again converting on all 35 PAT’s, he is 91 of 92 in his career.  The other area where Dellinger greatly improved was field goals where he went 13 of 16 on field goals goof for the fourth highest field goal percentage in a season in school history.  Dellinger was 50% on Field Goals longer than 40 yards, missing on 42 and 52 and was 11 of 12 inside of 40 with a miss at 39.  I really like those numbers, being hopefully better than 50-50 on 40 or longer will definitely be sufficient in college football as well as being nearly perfect inside of 40, something Dellinger has said he wants to do this year.  Bottom line is, Purdue has a kicker that they can rely on to be a weapon and someone we could potentially see playing on Sundays some day, in JD Dellinger.

Caleb Krockover, Chris Van Eekeren, and Edward Dellinger will serve as backup kickers in 2020.

Brooks Cormier – Pro Style Punter

Sophomore – 6’5” 220 lbs

Brooks Cormier booms a punt out of Purdue’s own end zone against TCU in 2019. (Dave Kovich)

Last season Brooks Cormier was brought in as a scholarship specialist to replace Joe Schopper at the punter position and they found themselves a Punter with the potential to play on Sundays in a few years.  Cormier without a doubt has NFL level leg strength, something he showed off a couple of times in 2019 including a 69 yard punt against Minnesota.  Cormier averaged 40.2 yards per punt last year which is okay, but when you think about how strong some of his punts and using the eye test you could tell Brooks was fairly inconsistent last year.  This is something he and the staff both saw and something Brooks has said himself that he has worked on constantly in the offseason.  Being able to flip the field with a booming kicker could be a huge weapon for Purdue this season, so if Brooks Cormier has improved that consistency, they will be in a great spot in the punt game.

Zac Collins – Rugby Style Punter

Junior – 6’0” 180 lbs

Last season Zac Collins made his Purdue debut after walking on to the team in 2017.  Collins is a big change up at punter compared to Brooks Cormier because Collins utilizes the rugby punt method opposed to the typical pro style punt.  If you haven’t seen a rugby style punt before essentially the punter glides forward with the ball after receiving the snap, holding on to the ball as long as possible to allow the team to get down field in coverage and then kicks a line drive at the last second.  Many teams have found this particularly effective against elusive return men, which is why I think Collins will see some situational play depending on the opponent in 2020.  Collins averaged 39 yards per punt and had one third of his punts fair caught in 2019 in addition to a season high 61 yard punt against Northwestern.  Between Cormier and Collins Purdue should have a really solid or even great punting tandem in 2020.

Brendan Cropsey will serve as a backup punter this season.

Nick Zecchino – Starting Long Snapper

Senior – 6’0” 205 lbs

Nick Zecchino was a grad transfer from UCONN, seems like Purdue has a lot of those on their roster now, in 2019 and took over the long snapper role after Long Snapper and gadget man extraordinaire Ben Makowski graduated.  Honestly outside of trick plays, which Purdue did not run much with a long snapper in 2019, a long snapper is best when nobody knows who he is, and I am willing to bet most of you didn’t know Nick Zecchino was the long snapper in 2019.  Mission accomplished Nick, nobody knows who you are, let’s keep it that way and remain consistent in 2020.

Hunter MacDonald, Brooks Royal and Nick Taylor will serve as backup long snappers in 2020.

Return Men

Rondale Moore waits for the opening kickoff against TCU in 2019. (Dave Kovich)

Instead of writing about specific players that might participate in the return game, I just wanted to address the return game as a whole and mention some of the guys who will have a shot at getting back there.  In 2019, Purdue had a decent kick return game, but was still unable to get the breakthrough kick off return. This is something Purdue is definitely wanting to change in 2020, so much to the point that they brought in new Special Teams Coordinator, Marty Biagi.  Biagi is known for having elite kicking games and being creative in the return game and even engineering an amazing fake fair catch that went for a touchdown while he was at North Texas las year.  Obviously, Rondale Moore is the most likely to return the kicks this season, other guys like Marcellus Moore, Geovonte Howard or any of the quick guys on the team may get some runs at kick off return.  I think potentially we could see some two return man kick return plays with both of the Moore’s in 2020, including potentially some vintage kick return reverses.  As for the punt return game, Rondale Moore struggled early in the season and had a punt return muffed in the season opener against Nevada, which proved costly in Nevada’s come from behind victory.  Ball security at the Punt position these days is almost more important than the return ability of the return man and that will be the case for Purdue in 2020.  Obviously Rondale is the go to in the punt return game, but if Purdue is looking for someone for ball security I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone like David Bell get some run if ball security remains a concern.  Purdue has mentioned Geovonte Howard, Zander Horvath, and King Doerue as potential punt returners that have been taking reps.  The overall return game in 2020 should be looking to improve in all facets and will hopefully get that breakout punt or kick return. 

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