Back in the 1970's the Pop Warner team I played on found itself at a disadvantage. We were the smallest team in the league and other teams could 'run over us' on special teams. What did our bat s*** crazy coach do? He had us go for it on 3rd down every game and we finished near the top of the league three years in a row.
So it worked for us but we were teenagers playing for a guy who thought he was the second coming of Vince Lombardi.
I've never seen Presbyterian play, so help me out here.
Are they like an FCS version of The Citadel in basketball? As in, there are particular circumstances (e.g. ultra-tough academics) that mean they can't recruit the quality of players needed to run a "standard style" offense going up against the same style of opponents, so they have to do something quirky to compensate?
The school is poor in the sense they were forced (together with 10 other schools like them with Div. I basketball) to be classified at a minimum as FCS whether they offer football scholarships or not. The Pioneer Football League came into existence for schools with Div. I basketball but are too poor to have a fully funded FCS football program.
This means the school has to compete against schools offering up to 63 athletic scholarships in the playoffs if their school should win the Pioneer Football League. Presbyterian doesn't offer football scholarships so they have to recruit quality athletes with rich parents.
The problem with the onside punt is that you have to have a guy hang back onside, which is a dead giveaway to the opposition way before the kick is made. The only reason that it ever works is that you only see it once every three years so no one prepares to see it. If you did it every game the return team would be ready and waiting for it and it would never work.
Perhaps strategies would evolve where it becomes useful more often than not irrespective of whether the return team knows its coming or not.
For example, instead of lining up 15 yards back of the LOS for the regular slow long stride for a deep punt, the punter could line up perhaps half that distance for a quick high pooch kick 20 yards downfield.
This would nullify no yards with the onside players now only 7 yards back at the kick with a running start from further back. It would make fielding the punt a trickier and returning even harder. Your 20 yard punt would just about net 20 even if you didn't come up with the ball.
It wouldn't have to be executed everytime but could prove useful as you'd essentially be creating a loose ball or prone returner modestly into opposition territory every time you did it.
The downside if this strategy were employed more frequently is that with no yards being nullified by kamikaze onside players bearing down on unprotected returners, there would probably be some new contrived bandaid rule change for safety and we'd be back to square 1.
If you wanted an onside punt to be routinely useful, it's success rate would have to be at least close to 50%. Even if executed as you describe to maximize the odds of success, it would effectively be defended just like an onside kickoff with those same odds of success which are nowhere near 50%.
Good thinking though, as I'm certain that every ST coach in the last 40 years has tried to work out the same plan but hasn't been able to defeat the odds.