While Jerry Nunez’s recruiting didn’t go as planned last season following a successful four-year run as the placekicker for the Naples Golden Eagles, he didn’t have to wait long to earn his first college start.
Nunez suited up as a freshman for Indiana State on Saturday in a 41-25 win over Butler and nailed field goals of 29 and 37 yards to help the Sycamores begin the season.
Evangelical Christian School graduate Andrew Lunsford, whom Nunez beat out for the starting duties during the preseason, took control of the team’s kickoffs and booted seven for 426 yards, which yielded an average of 60 yards per kick.
Nearly a year ago, Nunez left his career with Naples without many Division I offers. Some programs inquired about the 5-foot-11 and 185-pound kicker’s interest in walking on to their teams.
But Nunez left many of those offers on the table. The Naples record holder for longest field goal (53 yards) committed to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision team and didn’t look back.
The Sycamores return to the field on Sept. 10 with a date against Minnesota.
Breakout junior debut: Palmetto Ridge graduate Ron Johnson broke out in the opening game of his junior season for Connecticut, rushing for 69 yards on 15 carries for two touchdowns in a 24-21 win over Maine on Thursday.
The 5-foot-11 and 220-pound running back also had two catches for 14 yards. A year ago, he was the third leading rusher on the team and had five touchdowns.
Bittersweet start for Benkert: Island Coast alum and University of Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert, a junior who transferred from East Carolina, debuted for the Cavaliers with a superb line at the position, going 26 of 34 for 264 yards and three touchdowns on one interception.
But Virginia lost to Richmond, an FCS program, 37-20 in Charlottesville before nearly 50,000 fans. The 6-foot-4 and 230-pound signal-caller also had 3 yards on eight carries.
SWFL flavor in Bulls win: Three players with Southwest Florida roots started and two others played significant snaps for South Florida on Saturday during the program’s 56-20 win over Towson at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Oddly enough, it was the nonstarter, Immokalee graduate and South Florida junior D’Ernest Johnson, who made the biggest impact, rushing six times for 33 yards and catching one pass for 23 yards and a touchdown.
The performance followed a season in which the 5-foot-10 and 180-pound back was third on the team with 1,250 all-purpose yards, where at times during the 2015 season, he ran the ball, caught passes and returned kicks.
Fellow Indians graduate Jaymon Thomas, a sophomore with the Bulls, started his first game at safety and logged seven tackles — including one for a loss — and one fumble recovery.
Deadrin Senat, another Immokalee graduate, started and had four tackles, while Dunbar alum Ryshene Bronson started at wide receiver and caught one pass for 9 yards. North Fort Myers alum Marlon Gonzalez played in his first game following a redshirt year and produced one tackle at defensive end.
Solid start with Razorbacks: Island Coast alum and Arkansas sophomore Ryan Pulley began his campaign on solid ground, amassing two tackles and one pass breakup in a 21-20 win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
Finding his place with Gamecocks: Island Coast alum Jordan Diggs, a senior with South Carolina, did not start in his first game of 2016, but he did log two tackles in a 13-10 win over Vanderbilt on Thursday during the opening night of college football. He’s converting from the spur position, where he started last year and produced 49 tackles, one fumble recovery and one interception, to safety.
Walker fits in with Eagles: Naples graduate and Boston College sophomore Michael Walker, a wide receiver with the Eagles, began his second season with two catches for 35 yards and one rush for 4 yards in a 17-14 loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Quality start for Johnson: Island Coast alum Tyrell Johnson, a 5-foot-7 and 164-pound junior wide receiver for the University of Arizona, recorded two catches for 28 yards and had three kick returns for 65 yards in a 18-16 loss to BYU on Saturday at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.