WEST LAFAYETTE — Purdue is seeking a boost from its special teams throughout the 2019 season.
For Boilermakers special teams/defensive line coach Kevin Wolthausen, fall camp is about finding the right players to fill the right spots on all special teams units.
“To me the proper use of personnel is the most important thing in special teams,” Wolthausen said. “More so than scheme or anything. Putting guys in the right spot to do what we ask them to do, if you’re going to do a certain technique and have the wrong guy doing it, it’s not going to look good, no matter what you do.”
As for position battles, junior J.D. Dellinger enters Purdue’s camp as the starting kicker, while sophomore Zac Collins and freshman Brooks Cormier are competing for the starting punting job.
Dellinger has made 20 of 29 field goals in his college career, with a long of 40 yards. This season, with the departure of Spencer Evans, Dellinger will handle both field goals and kickoffs.
“I’ve really put a lot of time into it so hopefully it translates into some results this year,” Dellinger said of kickoffs.
Specifically, Dellinger said he’s focused on his technique and rhythm running to the ball into kickoffs.
“Rhythm and technique is what helps me make the right kind of contact so I can just obliterate it as far as it will go,” Dellinger said.
In the punting competition, Cormier has shown a booming leg so far in Purdue practices. A five-star rated punter out of Tuscaloosa, Ala., the 6-foot-5, 218-pound Cormier was initially a high school tight end, with goals of playing for the hometown Alabama Crimson Tide and being the next O.J. Howard. Eventually, though, Cormier turned his focus to punting and committed to Purdue over UCF in June 2018.
“I definitely have had some good days,” Cormier said. “I’ve had a couple of days where I’ve been off. But you know, every day we’re just coming out here and competing with each other, constantly.”
Cormier caught the eye of college coaches around the country when he hit multiple 65 yard punts at Kohl’s Professional kicking camps in May 2018.
“Far and high I’ve got,” Cormer said of his punting. “Directionally, I think I can do, too. It’s just the op(eration) time is the major thing and getting faster with it. In high school you didn’t have to go as fast because guys were not as fast. But up here, everyone is fast. You’ve got to get the ball off quick or else it’s blocked.”
In the return game, speedy sophomore receiver Rondale Moore is back to return both punts and kickoffs. Moore combined for 744 punt and kick return yards in 2018, but Purdue coach Jeff Brohm is pushing for more explosive plays in the return game this season.
Junior receiver Jackson Anthrop is back after returning a combined five kickoffs and punts last season. Wolthausen said freshman receivers T.J. Sheffield and Milton Wright, redshirt freshman receiver Amad Anderson Jr. and junior receiver Jared Sparks could help return punts and kicks as well.
Wolthausen said it will be important in camp to establish a return team that can give returners the chance to break big plays.
“We’ve got to get our returner started,” Wolthausen said. “That’s the emphasis. There’s nothing magical. If he’s got guys in his face, if there are no lanes for him to see, he can’t, Devin Hester would have a hard time, he’s in the Hall of Fame as a returner. So we’ve got to get him started. That’s the ultimatum.”