Midseason report: Rutgers


Record: 4-1 (2-0, Big East)

After going 4-8 in 2010, Rutgers came into this season picked to finish last in the preseason media poll. Certainly there were questions. Chief among them: a shaky offensive line and a completely reconfigured defense that was one of the worst in the league last season. But that defense has been the story of the season so far as Rutgers is off to 2-0 start in Big East play for the first time since 2006. Those changes have paid off, and so has one more major switch -- coach Greg Schiano is calling the plays again. Rutgers now ranks No. 2 in the Big East in total defense (299 ypg), No. 1 in scoring defense (15.2 ppg) and the Scarlet Knights are tied for the national lead with 22 takeaways. Already they have returned three turnovers for touchdowns, and have also played well on special teams. The offense still is a work in progress. Mohamed Sanu had some breakout games, including one in which he set a league record with 16 catches against Ohio. But they have now made a quarterback switch, and are starting true freshman Gary Nova after he came off the bench to lead a comeback win over Syracuse. Nova won his first start against Pitt, and has shown promise with a strong arm. But issues along the offensive line have continued. Rutgers has used three different starting lineups along the line in five games, and Schiano says he is not yet done tinkering. That has contributed, in part, to more struggles on the ground. Rutgers is last in the Big East and No. 115 in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 79.8 yards a game and a paltry 2.1 yards a rush. Highly-touted true freshman Savon Huggins has played, but has yet to start a game. The entire offense also ranks last in the Big East. But an aggressive defense that forces turnovers has made enough plays for both sides of the ball. Will that continue as Rutgers tries to get back to a bowl game?

Offensive MVP:WR Mohamed Sanu. Injuries and position switching contributed to struggles in 2010, but this year Sanu has been one of the best offensive performers in the league. He leads the Big East in receptions per game (9.0) and is third in the league in receiving yards per game (91) and has been the most consistent player on offense.

Defensive MVP:LB Khaseem Greene. Rutgers has a collection of talented players who have each contributed in their own big ways. But Greene has been an absolute stud, leading the team with 45 tackles and the league with an average of 9 tackles a game. He also has two sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and has forced a fumble this season at his new position, after moving over from safety.