March 30, 2010

Spring Battles: Special Teams

It's been a long time since Kent State entered spring football practice with its special teams units set. In past years, the Golden Flashes often found themselves in need of a kicker or a punter, and sometimes it was both.

That's not the case heading into the 2010 campaign as sophomore Matt Rinehart has nailed down the punting job and the emergence of freshman Freddy Cortez has shored up the kicking game.

And that's a good thing because the roster is void of any other scholarship specialist.

Rinehart, a 5-foot-9, 171-pounder from Dover, Ohio, won the job as a freshman in 2008. He started all 12 games that season and earned the team's Outstanding Special Teams Award after punting 49 times for 1,799 yards, a 40.0-yards per punt average. Eighteen of his punts landed inside the opponent's 20-yard line and six of his boots traveled 50-yards or more.

In 2009 Rinehart punted 70 times for 3,025 yards, a 40-9-yards per punt average, and had a long of 80 yards. Even more important, Rinehart did not have a punt blocked.

Rinehart's 2009 performance was strong enough to lead the Mid-American Conference. Northern Illinois junior Josh Wilber finished second with a 40.5-yards per punt average.

For his efforts Rinehart became just the second Kent State punter to be named first team all-MAC.

Cortez entered his first fall camp with the intent of winning the starting place kicking job, and that's exactly what the 6-foot, 200-pounder from Fort Mead, Fla., did. Cortez opened the season as the Golden Flashes' kickoff specialist and attempted all field goals and extra points.

His first field goal attempt, a 22-yarder, was blocked by the Coastal Carolina defense but he went on to finish 13-of-19 on field goal attempts with a long of 46 yards. He ended the year hitting on 10 of his last 11 tries.

Cortez converted 24-of-26 extra point tries.

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