Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Big East title chances: Rutgers
By Matt Fortuna
Another Big East team, another first-year coach. Our series resumes with the Scarlet Knights, who enter head coach Kyle Flood's first season as the conference's preseason No. 3 team.
For more from this series, click here.
Three reasons why Rutgers will win the Big East
1. Flood brings familiarity: Flood has been at Rutgers for eight years now, and was able to keep the school's most impressive recruiting class intact upon his promotion. By all accounts, the team has responded well to Flood running the show, as he has taken some of the micro-managing lessons from predecessor Greg Schiano and blended them with his own personality. With schemes on both sides of the ball remaining the same, the transition period should not be too difficult.
2. Big East's best 'D': Why stop there? Rutgers' defense might be one of the best in the country. Three all-conference picks are among the eight returning starters from a unit that ranked 13th nationally in yards allowed and 12th in scoring. The secondary is probably the strength of the defense, with safety Duron Harmon leading a group that returns three starters.
3. Experience: Last season's team was the preseason last-place team in the conference but, in what might have been Schiano's best career work, almost won a share of the Big East title. Fifteen starters are back from that squad, whose biggest loss was probably receiver Mohamed Sanu. Even without him, however, the receiving unit should do just fine, with Mark Harrison and Brandon Coleman standing to benefit from a passing game that isn't so reliant on one player.
Three reasons why Rutgers won't win the Big East
1. Offensive line questions: Rutgers' backfield production returns, but we're talking about a team that has finished last in the conference in rushing the past two seasons. Flood's experience coaching the offensive line should inspire faith as the unit looks to rebuild in the middle. Depth is there, but consistency will be the key.
2. Can special teams keep it up? Finding other ways to score becomes all the more important when there is uncertainty on offense. The Scarlet Knights have had two kickers over the past eight years, and they became the top-two kickers in school history. True freshman Kyle Federico has big shoes to fill there. And whether Rutgers can be as effective as a unit in helping out its offense -- it blocked nine kicks last season -- remains to be seen.
3. QB situation: Flood named Gary Nova the starter Monday, bringing some clarity to the position. Schiano often played multiple quarterbacks, but Flood has said that the situation will be different now. With the two signal callers seemingly neck-and-neck in the position battle before Monday's announcement, how the position unfolds throughout the season should be interesting to watch.