Schiano keeps quarterback decision a secret

August, 31, 2009
8/31/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett


Rutgers released its new depth chart today, but there are no answers on the quarterback question.

Dom Natale, Jabu Lovelace and Tom Savage are all listed atop the chart at the position, separated by "ORs." Head coach Greg Schiano says he won't reveal who the starter is for Monday's game against Cincinnati, though he knows who it will be.

"I have a starter; I'm just not making it public yet," he said. " We know. I think we have a pretty good idea of what the plan is going to be. How it unfolds in the game is different. I think some of that will be determined on how it goes.

Lovelace is more of a runner than a passer who can be used in special packages. So the real question is whether Natale, the fifth-year senior, or Savage, the true freshman, will take the first snaps. If one starts and struggles to move the team down the field, the other might come in.

Schiano sounded like he's leaning toward the veteran Natale.

"Jabu is very athletic, very good with the ball in his hands, running the ball, has shown that over time," Schiano said. "When you talk about Tom, Tom is young. There's no doubt. I only wish we would have had him here for spring practice because you can see him coming right now. He's getting better every day. But not sure that he's got enough snaps under his belt to go against a team like Cincinnati.

"Then you look at Dom Natale, who is a seasoned guy, a 22yearold guy, but has not played a lot of college football. He's been injured, has transferred. But he definitely has the command of our offense.

"I think there's a confidence level there with our players. I think there's going to be a mix of the three. I don't know what the percentages are, but we'll see."

How does Cincinnati prepare for an unknown quarterback?

"Two of the quarterbacks are going to mirror a lot of the game plan relative to the traditional pro-style attack we've seen from Rutgers," Bearcats coach Brian Kelly said. "Then the running end of the quarterback cycle is part of what we have to plan for.

"We've taken the name of the quarterback out of our preparation and are just dealing with what we can see from all those quarterbacks. It's not that difficult, because we get a little bit of that from different teams we see during the year. So we're just kind of adding a little bit more to our game plan."

Quarterback is apparently not the only job still up for grabs for the Scarlet Knights.

On the offensive line, Howard Barbieri and Caleb Ruch are listed as co-starters at left guard. Ruch started the last half of the season there, while Barbieri was a super sub who could play a lot of different spots. Offensive line is supposedly Rutgers' greatest strength with all five starters back. But Schiano tempered expectations a little for that unit today.

"I've read all the reports about how this offensive line is going to be this and going to be that," Schiano said. "But it's still a very young group.

"You've got a guy at right guard who's only started seven games in Art Forst, who's a true sophomore. The guy at other guard, depending on who plays, will have started a half dozen games or hasn't started any. So I'm a little concerned, to be honest with you. I have some issues that are still up in air as far as all the things we have to get ready for, as far as this defensive front and this defensive scheme (by Cincinnati)."

On defense, Blair Bines and Scott Villone are listed as co-starters at defensive tackle, while Manny Abreu and Antonio Lowery are still battling for the will linebacker spot.

"I don't know how that's going to play out," Schiano said. " I think this week of practice is still important, who practices better. Cincinnati is different than we are offensively. So we had 15 or 16 practices against Rutgers, and you're evaluating them. Now we've had four practices against Cincinnati, and we'll have another three or four. I think we're still in the evaluation of who plays this style of offense better. That will probably dictate."

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