By Sean Anderson
KINGSTON, R.I. – There may not be a more exuberant bunch than the Rhode Island specialists. A group with a strong bond and a stronger dedication to its technique is due for another solid year.
Sophomore kicker C.J. Carrick (New Hyde Park, N.Y.) returns for his second year with the program. Carrick led the team in scoring last year with 50 points. He went 9-for-15 on field goals and 23-for-25 on extra points. Carrick hit a 42-yard field goal against Central Michigan last year, his longest of the season. His 23 extra points were the most for a Rhody kicker since Louis Feinstein had 26 in 2011, and the nine field goals were the most since Feinstein has 11 in 2010.
Also making their returns are kickers Diogo deSousa (Mansfield, Mass) and Matt Sawicki (Floral Park, N.Y.). Redshirt freshman deSousa and redshirt sophomore Sawicki are both viable options at the kicker position as well. deSousa possesses a very strong leg, while Sawicki is an accurate kicker.
Regardless of who is kicking the ball, the Rams can count on a reliable hold from redshirt junior Anthony Garro (Westerly, R.I.). Garro appeared in all 11 games as the holder last season and will be competing with freshman Perry Shelbred (Waccabuc N.Y.) for the punter spot in camp. Shelbred was recruited by both FBS and FCS schools coming out of high school.
The Rams will be fielding three long snappers on the roster for 2018. The starter going into camp will be junior Joe DeLeone (Millburn, N.J.). DeLeone has the most experience out of all the specialists, appearing in each of the last 16 games as the team's long snapper. DeLeone will be joined by freshman Griffin Saks (Durham, Conn.) and senior Jordan Koester (Woburn, Mass.).
With the loss of Harold Cooper to graduation, Rhode Island will have competition at kick returner in camp. Seniors Ahkema Evans (Coatesville, Pa.) and Khayri Denny (Reston, Va.) have filled the role at times in previous years, and transfer Ahmere Dorsey (Wilmington, Del.) averaged more than 30 yards per return for Nassau Community College.
On punt returns, the Rams have two of the league's best on the roster. Junior Aaron Parker (Brandywine, Md.) excelled in 2016, averaging 9.1 yards on 12 returns. Last season, sophomore Matt Pires (Lincolndale, N.Y.) earned All-CAA Football Third Team honors after averaging 8.8 yards on 13 returns, including a program-record 90-yard touchdown return against Elon.
Check GoRhody.com Wednesday for a look at the running backs on the 2018 roster.