<
>

Rutgers Scarlet Knights spring wrap

2010 overall record: 4-8

2010 conference record: 1-6, eighth in Big East

Returning starters:

Offense: 10. defense: 5. Punter/kicker: 1

Top returners:

WR Mohamed Sanu, WR Mark Harrison, QB Chas Dodd, RB Jeremy Deering, DL Scott Vallone, LB Khaseem Greene

Key losses:

SS Joe Lefeged, DE Alex Silvestro, DE Jonathan Freeny, LB Antonio Lowery, C Howard Barbieri

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Jordan Thomas* (417 yards)

Passing: Chas Dodd* (1,637 yards)

Receiving: Mark Harrison* (829 yards)

Tackles: Antonio Lowery (108 tackles)

Sacks: Alex Silvestro (5.5 sacks)

Interceptions: Khaseem Greene* and Brandon Bing (2 interceptions)

Spring answers

1. More speed: Greg Schiano's main goal in making several offseason position changes was adding more speed to a defense that has long been built on that trait. He seemed to have accomplished that this spring. Moving Khaseem Greene from safety to weakside linebacker, David Rowe from corner to safety and leading returning rusher Jordan Thomas to corner all brought more speed to the Scarlet Knights defense. Steve Beauharnais looked more natural at strong side linebacker than in the middle. Schiano hopes that will help shore up a defense that fell apart in the latter half of 2010.

2. Brandon Coleman: The 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman receiver might have been the story of the spring for Rutgers. He showed elite speed to go along with his size, making him almost unstoppable at times in the passing game. His play made Schiano question whether redshirting Coleman was a mistake last season. Coleman seems poised to become a star quickly.

3. Skills set: As far as skill position players go, the Scarlet Knights might have the best-looking cast in the Big East. Along with Coleman, there's 6-foot-3 Harrison -- arguably the top returning receiver in the Big East -- and 6-4 Tim Wright, who was the team's best receiver last preseason before suffering a knee injury. Jeremy Deering's move to full-time running back was a major success, and De'Antwan Williams had his best spring yet. They'll give incoming super recruit Savon Huggins a challenge. We haven't even mentioned the incredibly versatile Mohamed Sanu yet or D.C. Jefferson, a wildly impressive physical specimen who could be devastating at tight end if he puts it all together. Rutgers could do a lot of damage on offense if it figures out its one main question mark.

Fall questions

1. Offensive line concerns -- again: Those hoping for a miraculous turnaround for the offensive line -- which allowed an NCAA-worst 61 sacks a year ago -- were sure to be disappointed. There were some minor signs of encouragement, but losing starting left guard Desmond Wynn for the spring with a knee injury and then having expected starting center Dallas Hendrickson go down with a season-ending torn ACL did little to help. David Osei showed great progress and should take over at center, and Antwan Lowery, Andre Civil and Desmond Stapleton got lots of valuable reps. But this is still the No. 1 concern for the Scarlet Knights this summer.

2. Defensive line concerns: Rutgers knows it has a standout performer on the defensive front with senior Scott Vallone, who played at nose tackle this spring and dominated most of the time he was in there. Justin Francis and Manny Abreu are trying to become first-time starters at defensive end, a position that failed to get a great pass rush most of last season. Young players like Mike Larrow, Jamil Merril, Isaac Holmes and Djwany Mera will have to contribute. Schiano's best teams have had disruptive defensive lines. It remains to be seen whether this one can measure up.

3. Backup quarterback: This is Dodd's team, both because of the way he took charge last season and the fact that there weren't really any other options at quarterback this spring. Just a true sophomore, Dodd must show that he can lead a team the entire season. Maybe more importantly, Rutgers must get someone else ready in case Dodd gets hurt. A pair of true freshmen in Gary Nova and Mike Bimonte will likely battle for the No. 2 job when they arrive this summer. The Scarlet Knights would like to avoid having to turn to a true freshman at quarterback for a third consecutive season.