Saints assistant Darren Rizzi puts Syracuse punter Nolan Cooney through his paces

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John Sigler
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Blake Gillikin is expected to be the New Orleans Saints punter of the future, but the Saints won’t just give him the job. The second-year pro spent his rookie season studying under Thomas Morstead, which could give him a leg up on any competition. That’s not going to stop the Saints from scouting out their options.

Saints special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi was spotted by NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill at Syracuse’s NFL pro day working out punter Nolan Cooney, an All-ACC selection in 2020. A fifth-year senior with just one season of punting experience, Cooney led the nation with 74 punts for an NCAA-most 3,314 yards (a clip of 44.8 yards per punt), with a net yards per punt of 41.7. 25 of his punts traveled 50 or more yards, and 24 landed inside the opposing 20-yard line.

And he has an inspiring backstory. Syracuse named Cooney their Jim DaRin Courage Award winner in 2019 after he survived a battle with testicular cancer. After redshirting the 2017 season, he worked as the team’s holder on field goal tries and extra-point attempts in 2018 and 2019 before earning the punting job in 2020.

He’d be an interesting option to bring into training camp to push Gillikin for the right to succeed Morstead. Even if the Saints ultimately don’t bring in Cooney, it’s still great to see his hard work paying off with attention from the NFL.

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