NCF Nation: Tim Wright

Q&A: Rutgers coach Kyle Flood

March, 28, 2013
Rutgers was the last Big East team to open spring practice, kicking things off on Tuesday.

Kyle Flood is back in Piscataway, N.J., for his second season at the helm of the program, and his ninth overall with the school. We caught up with the head coach Wednesday, with one practice in the books and the Scarlet Knights looking to leave a lasting impression as they ready for their final season in the Big East.

What are you looking for Gary Nova to improve upon this spring? What do you want to see from the guys behind him?

Kyle Flood: I think Gary's got a unique advantage coming into this spring that we haven't had a quarterback have in a long time around here, in that he got a chance to play in 13 football games last year as a starting quarterback and essentially played in the entirety of every one of them. So I think there's an experience advantage that he has that hopefully we can capitalize on. I think the fastest ways we can capitalize on it is if we can keep the highs and make them consistent, and then take some of the low points and take some of the games where maybe he wasn't as pleased with his performance and move him up a little bit, so you don't see the big swings between the really positive games and the games he wasn't happy with. So I think that in and of itself, if we can get to that point -- and I don't know if that happens in just 15 practices in the spring; I think that's the combination of everything he's done since the bowl game, spring practice and then what's going to come afterwards -- but going into next season that's hopefully what we can do.

You guys obviously have a challenge without Brandon Coleman this spring. What are you looking for from the receiving corps during these practices, and is there anyone you're looking to see rise to the occasion?

KF: I think they're all fighting to find out what their role is going to be. Guys like Miles Shuler, who has got a tremendous skill set and really has come a long way in terms of being a receiver the last year. I'm excited to see what kind of spring Miles is going to have. A guy like Quron Pratt, who has been an excellent player here — statistically maybe that hasn't shown up, but he really has done a lot of things for us over the last two years. He can now have a much bigger role. When guys like Timmy Wright and Mark Harrison graduate, it provides opportunity, and with Brandon Coleman not there this spring it'll be even more opportunity for him to showcase himself. And then you've got some younger guys also, guys like Ruhann Peele and Carlton Agudosi, who are fighting right now to show the coaching staff how big of a role they should have next year.

There's no Coleman, and we know about Savon [Huggins]. Who are some of the other playmakers you are hoping to emerge from spring?

[+] EnlargeKyle Flood
Frank Victores/USA TODAY SportsCoach Kyle Flood said spring drills at Rutgers have been a bit choppy so far -- though that's normal as younger players see more time on the field.
KF: I have seen so much of Savon through his career right now in terms of practice and then in games -- I'm very confident Savon's going to do an excellent job for us at running back. I think everybody else right now at that position is doing exactly what those young receivers are doing; they're fighting to show us as players how big of a role they should have, and I think that competition is going to be exciting for everybody, including Savon. I didn't get a chance to get to it, but I would feel the same way really about the quarterbacks. I think all these quarterbacks right now, they're lined up behind Gary. And Chas [Dodd] is a little bit of a unique commodity in that he's won football games for us at Rutgers. Those guys create a very competitive environment. Every player in our program right now this spring could see opportunity, and that kind of competitiveness in the rooms, and the opportunity that spring provides, it really gives everybody a chance as we go through the spring.

You guys are breaking in two new coordinators this spring. Offensively with Ron Prince, do you expect this spring to be a little bit of a feeling-out period, or do you think things will go over relatively smoothly with him in charge of the offense?

KF: It'll go over smoothly from coach Prince's perspective and from mine. I think that the bumps in the road are going to be some of the young players who now are going to have a lot more on their plate than they've ever had, and that'll create -- even yesterday in our first practice, some of the young receivers and running backs not having been in the fire, so to speak, are out there and they're struggling to get lined up. They're not as quick as maybe you would like them to be or maybe the group of receivers would have been last year because they were used to doing it. Those are all going to be things that are part of the learning curve as we go forward. I think there are going to be some rougher patches this spring at every position, but generally when those things happen it's much more about the younger players being allowed and given more opportunities than anything else. When you get to the season you're really only repping your starters and your ones and one-and-a-halves, as we call them. So right now everybody's getting reps, and at times that can make it a little bit slower or a little bit more choppy than you'd like it to be, but it's a necessity because you've got to find out what they know.

Defensively, you lose an all-timer in Khaseem Greene and another really good linebacker in Steve Beauharnais. Are those players really replaceable, or do you look for a collective effort from the group?

KF: I don't think you replace players really at any position. Football is the ultimate team game, and to think that you're going to replace a Khaseem Greene or a Steve Beauharnais, that's really not the way we think about it. We've played defense at a high level here for a long time and we've done it with a lot of different pieces. And I think now what the staff is looking to see is who are the pieces going to be. And at linebacker we've got two guys in Jamal Merrell and Kevin Snyder, who, in my opinion, have already established themselves as players in our defense. We're trying to figure out who the third piece of that puzzle's going to be. Is that going to be a new Mike? Is that going to be a new Will? I'm not sure I can answer that question just yet. But I'm confident with what we have coming back that we'll be able to continue our tradition here of playing defense at a high level.

Three new starters in the secondary. Jeremy Deering is back there full-time. What do you see from him and that position group as a whole? What makes you feel more comfortable with him back there?

KF: As coaches I think we'd better always be trying to get our best athletes on the field. And if there is a guy on your team you think can be a starter on defense but he's on offense, and he has a significant role on offense but maybe it won't be showcased the way he could be on defense, I think it's our responsibility to see if that player would have an interest in it. And I approached Jeremy with that decision and he was really excited about it. And it was certainly something that we tinkered with a little bit last year trying to build some depth in our sub packages, and we weren't really able to really put it in as far as we wanted to, but now with having an offseason and needing a guy with the departures of Duron Harmon, Wayne Warren and some of the other defensive backs, it's really a position on our team that will have more new faces than any other. And we really thought that Jeremy Deering, even though he is going into his senior year, he's got the right skill set to do that. He's got the right frame of mind to do it and he has the desire to do it, and I think Jeremy's going to do very well back there for us.

Big-picture, the Big East has been going through a lot of changes. The conference welcomes in four new teams this fall. I was just curious from your standpoint if there's anything different that you have to prepare for when you're seeing fresh staffs and fresh players on your schedule this season?

KF: I think with the way the Big East was constituted in the past, we've seen a good variety of pro-style offenses, spread offenses. We have played the academies, so we've seen the option. We had West Virginia in the conference for a long time, so we played against the 3-3 defense. I don't know that there will be anything in this new collection of teams that will be significantly unique. Now I do know that each one will bring very specific challenges and they'll have strengths and weaknesses to their teams just like we do. But those will be things we'll address after spring practice. Right now we're trying to figure out what we are. We're trying to figure out who are going to be the playmakers on our team that are going to be out there. Who are going to be the people in the sub packages, and really what is our football team going to look like? And that's what I'm most concerned about, and I think that's what spring practice is for. We have the schedule, so we know who the first four games are going to be now. We'll get a little bit involved into doing some early game-planning for them, but we won't do that until after spring practice is over.

Instant analysis: Rutgers 23, USF 13

September, 13, 2012

Rutgers broke a 13-13 tie late in the fourth quarter to defeat South Florida 23-13 and go to 1-0 in the Big East. Here's a quick look at how it went down in Tampa, Fla.

It was over when: Jawan Jamison rushed for a 41-yard touchdown with 1:19 left, putting Rutgers ahead 23-13. Jamison had a pretty spin move after breaking through the line, and he went untouched the rest of the way. South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels had misfired on a fourth-and-3 throw with 2:13 left, giving Rutgers (3-0) the ball back with a three-point lead.

Game ball goes to: Jamison rushed it a school-record 41 times for 151 yards and had the game-sealing touchdown, giving him 100-plus yards in all three games this season and four in a row dating back to 2011. Jamison now has 373 rushing yards on the season.

Stat of the game: USF (2-1, 0-1 Big East) turned the ball over four times, with three coming from Daniels interceptions. His pick in the end zone -- intercepted by Rutgers' Wayne Warren -- proved very costly, as USF was at the 5-yard line and threatening to tie the game at 13 late in the third quarter.

What Rutgers learned: Coach Kyle Flood got a big road win in his first conference test. The Scarlet Knights had success passing the ball, with Gary Nova throwing for 277 yards and Tim Wright catching nine balls for 125 yards. There's no reason to think Rutgers can't contend for the conference crown.

What USF learned: So much for building off last week's comeback at Nevada. The Bulls fell to 0-9 in Thursday-night games, losing a key home contest to another preseason Big East contender. Daniels, who looked so promising last week against the Wolf Pack, completed only 15 of 33 throws for 242 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

Quarterback superlatives

August, 9, 2011
So who exactly are the quarterbacks in the Big East? Here is a little "best of the best:"

Best Heisman candidate: Geno Smith, West Virginia. His situation may be a little uncertain because he has a new coach/coordinator in Dana Holgorsen, but Smith does have the best chance of emerging as a Heisman candidate from the Big East. He came on strong in 2010 and could join Graham Harrell, Case Keenum and Justin Blackmon as Heisman hopefuls Holgorsen has coached in his high-flying system.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
Jamie Rhodes/US PresswireHighly touted freshman Teddy Bridgewater could make an impact this season.
Best potential: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville. Rated as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the nation, Bridgewater comes to the Cardinals with higher expectations than nearly every other freshman who enters the league in 2011. After initially giving a commitment to Miami, Bridgewater changed his mind and went with Charlie Strong and Louisville. He was in for spring and is expected to play this season.

Best quarterback competition: UConn. It is hard to beat any quarterback competition that features not two, not three, but four players in Michael Box, Michael Nebrich, Scott McCummings and Johnny McEntee.

Best battle for No. 1 QB rights: Smith vs. Zach Collaros, Cincinnati. The debate has raged this summer over who the best quarterback in the Big East is headed into 2011. Is it Smith? Or is it Collaros, the returning first-team All-Big East quarterback for the Bearcats? Certainly Collaros has what it takes to return to the first team, especially after coming oh-so-close to throwing for 3,000 yards last season. His offensive line should be better, which means Collaros won't be lying on his back as much or making mistakes when throwing the ball.

Best student-athlete: Ryan Nassib, Syracuse. Nassib was a 2010 ESPN Academic All-District Team selection, and has been a regular member of the athletic director’s honor roll since 2008. He also made the 2009 and 2010 Big East All-Academic Team, and has interned at an investment banking firm for three straight summers.

Best chance for a breakout season: Tino Sunseri, Pitt. Folks in the Big East may know about Sunseri, but he is not a household name across the country. If he grabs ahold of the new system under Todd Graham and Calvin McGee, many more people will know who he is when the season is over.

Best sense of urgency: B.J. Daniels, USF. No question the pressure is on for Daniels to put everything together and emerge as a bona fide star quarterback in the league. Will he pick up where he left off in the bowl game against Clemson, or will we see more of the player who threw more interceptions than touchdowns last season?

Best supporting cast: Chas Dodd, Rutgers. Dodd has a receiving group that is incredibly gifted. Mark Harrison and Mohamed Sanu will be playing on Sundays; Brandon Coleman had a breakout spring, Tim Wright is coming back from injury and incoming freshmen Miles Shuler and Tejay Johnson are speedsters who could be in the mix. Only Shuler is shorter than 6-foot-2, giving Dodd a big advantage in the passing game.
We continue our team position rankings today with receiver. This is an area of great potential for plenty of teams around the league, especially with some of the high-octane offenses that we are going to see. Only three teams return their leading receiver from last season. The overriding theme seems to be this: there is a lot of talent, but much of it is unproven. So how are these receivers going to step up?

To make these rankings, I considered returning starters, accolades for returning starters, depth and potential.

[+] EnlargeMark Harrison
AP Photo/Mike CarlsonMark Harrison caught 44 passes for 829 yards and 9 touchdowns last season.
1. Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have proven talent and depth at this position, putting them at the top spot in these rankings. When healthy, Mark Harrison and Mohamed Sanu form one of the top 1-2 punches in the entire league. Add in Brandon Coleman, who had an outstanding spring, along with Tim Wright returning from injury and the top four looks as solid as it gets. Let's not forget incoming speedsters Miles Shuler and Tejay Johnson, who have the potential to play as well.

2. West Virginia. The Mountaineers have Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and a whole bunch of questions at the position. But with the new offense Dana Holgorsen is bringing in, other receivers have a chance to be more effective. Austin is about as close as you can come to a surefire first-team All-Big East player. Ryan Nehlen had a nice spring and could be the surprise of the season. So could Tyler Urban, a converted tight end. How will Brad Starks do after shoulder surgery? Will Ivan McCartney live up to his potential? There is talent here and great potential if everybody lives up to expectations.

3. Cincinnati. The Bearcats are stocked with talent, but many of these skill players have got to gain experience and fast with Armon Binns, Marcus Barnett, Vidal Hazelton and Ben Guidugli gone. D.J. Woods is expected to be a first-team All-Big East selection. But beyond he and Anthony McClung, you have got young guys -- junior college transfers Kenbrell Thompkins and Damon Julian, redshirt freshman Dyjuan Lewis, freshmen Shaq Washington, Chris Moore, Alex Chisum and Max Morrison. Thompkins showed great promise in the spring.

4. Pittsburgh. The Panthers lose their leading receiver in Jon Baldwin, but the duo of Mike Shanahan and Devin Street could each be 1,000-yard receivers. Behind them, though, there are some questions and inexperience. Junior Cameron Saddler is going to have to step up. Redshirt freshmen Salath Williams, Drew Carswell, junior college transfer Josh Brinson and true freshman Justin Jackson are all young but have a chance to be big contributors. Pitt also is waiting to hear whether UNC transfer Brendon Felder will have his petition for immediate eligibility granted.

5. Syracuse. The Orange have plenty of solid returning receivers in Van Chew, Marcus Sales and Alec Lemon but what this team is really lacking is big-play potential. In five games last season, Syracuse failed to complete a pass that went longer than 30 yards. In fact, Ryan Nassib averaged 6.5 yards per pass attempt. A healthy Jarrod West could help those numbers improve. Dorian Graham has to work on his hands, too.

6. USF. The Bulls lose leading receiver Dontavia Bogan, but they return injured players Sterling Griffin and A.J. Love to the mix, which is going to be huge. Lindsey Lamar and Evan Landi also return, along with Terrence Mitchell, Joel Miller and Faron Hornes. Deonte Welch had a nice spring game and is listed as a backup behind Landi. True freshman Andre Davis has the potential to contribute as well. The Bulls have plenty of depth here but there are still some questions about this group, especially with Griffin and Love coming off injuries.

7. Louisville. The Cardinals lose their top two receivers, and have got to figure out a way to make big plays and stretch the field with a young group. Josh Bellamy appears to be the go-to man headed into 2011, and much is going to be expected of Andrell Smith and Michaelee Harris. Both are coming off injuries and were unable to practice in the spring. True freshmen are most likely going to be relied upon, giving Eli Rogers and DeVante Parker and opportunity to play.

8. Connecticut. A playmaker has got to emerge from this group to help out whoever is going to be playing quarterback. The Huskies lost leading receiver Mike Smith because of academics. Kashif Moore, Ryan Griffin and Isiah Moore return but UConn is going to need some of its redshirt freshmen like Geremy Davis and Tebucky Jones Jr. to step up. The Huskies are not preparing to run the spread, so the potential for a 1,000-yard receiver in this group is low.

Previous rankings:
Chas Dodd seemed an unlikely option to start most of Rutgers' games last year at quarterback. But after Tom Savage got hurt, Dodd came in as a true freshman and never let go of the job. He started the final eight games and Savage transferred.

Now Dodd is the only real option to start for the Scarlet Knights at quarterback. Yet he's not looking at it that way as he goes through his first spring practice as a collegian.

"It is a different mindset when you're the assumed starter," Dodd said. "But the way I'm taking it is, I'm still coming in and practicing if that spot can be anybody else's. I'm continually trying to prove to the coaches that I want the position."

[+] EnlargeChas Dodd
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireChas Dodd threw for 1,637 yards and 11 touchdowns for Rutgers last season.
Dodd, who threw for 1,637 yards, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions last year, can't just coast through spring practice, anyway. There's a new offense to learn, led by former Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti. It's a pro-style attack that is different than what Dodd is used to, as he ran a spread system in high school and whatever it was that Rutgers called an offense in 2010.

He will be under center a little more and says that he will be throwing from different angles. He's embracing the new approach.

"I talked to Coach Cignetti when he first got here, and he told me I'd be able to watch an NFL game and know the things they're doing," he said. "I'm definitely excited by seeing the success he's had with other quarterbacks."

One of the reasons Dodd took over the job last year was because he managed to keep his eyes downfield and find ways to avoid the rush as opposing defenses poured through the Rutgers offensive line. He took the brunt of the Scarlet Knights' FBS-worst 61 sacks allowed. That kind of beating could rattle the confidence of many young quarterbacks and surely had an effect on Savage. But Dodd maintained his poise through the onslaught.

"One thing about being leader and being a quarterback is that you have to keep your confidence," Dodd said. "I had to show the offense that I would not get down and keep everybody upbeat."

That might be the main difference between Dodd and Savage, the latter of whom head coach Greg Schiano praised for his leadership skills this time a year ago. Dodd is more emotional and fiery, or as Schiano told me last month, "He's a pistol."

Can he come out guns blazing in 2011? Much will depend, of course, on the offensive line's improvement. But Dodd has excellent targets at receiver in players like Mark Harrison, Mohamed Sanu, Tim Wright and Brandon Coleman.

"I think the new schemes will really help us with protection," Dodd said. "Once we get this system down, I feel like we'll be a pretty good offense."
Rutgers begins spring practice on Tuesday, looking to rebound from a tough 4-8 season. I recently caught up with Scarlet Knights head coach Greg Schiano to preview the team's spring. Here is Part I of our conversation:

[+] EnlargeGreg Schiano
Frank Victores/US PresswireRutgers coach Greg Schiano decided to have his team return to a pro-style offense this season.
You made a lot of changes this offseason, from your coaching moves to personnel switches. Was it just the difficult season that made you think you needed change?

Greg Schiano: Obviously, when you have a tough season like last year, it makes you really examine. The other thing is, it allows you more time to examine. When you're at a bowl game every year and recruiting, there really isn't time until after recruiting to spend just evaluating your program. When we ended in December, and then there wast that break over the holidays, I had a lot of time to evaluate recruiting, to evaluate our football program, to evaluate the things we've been able to accomplish in 10 years and things we haven't been able to accomplish. It was a good exercise in looking at both short-term goals and long-term goals. What are the things that are going to allow us to do what we ultimately aspire to do, and what are the things that can help us immediately? And they are not always the same things.

So we worked real hard to do what I felt gave us the best chance to be good in 2011 and ultimately become the best at some point. Hopefully we did that. I'm excited about where we're headed. We made some position changes to best utilize the talent of our players, and we were able to do that because I think we really redshirted some fine players last year. In retrospect, maybe we shouldn't have redshirted so many of them. But we have a lot of guys who can contribute after being in our program for a year, and it gave us some flexibility in other spots.

You talked about getting more speed on the field when you announced position changes. How much was getting faster one of your main goals this offseason?

GS: Without a doubt. We built this program on speed. When evaluating and choosing who to recruit and who to push to get, if it was really close, we always went with speed as our determining factor. And in watching the video, I didn't think we looked like a fast football team, especially in the second half of the year. That can be attributed to a lot of things, but we did some testing, which you generally can't do when you're involved in bowl practices and recruiting. But when we ended [our season], we went right into a mini-winter program and did some testing to get a baseline. It was the true speed of guys, because they weren't training for it. Guys that were playing certain positions were not at the speed level they had been in the past.

There's not one big thing, there's an accumulation of a lot of little things and a lot of introspection that led me to do the changes we did. Getting the speed in the right positions is the most important thing. We had them on the bus, but we didn't have them in the right seats.

You hired Frank Cignetti to run the offense. How important was it to you to get back to a pro-style attack that you had a few years ago?

GS: We made a decision two years ago -- and I ultimately made the decision -- to go in another direction. And after doing it, I wasn't comfortable with it. Rather than continuing down that path, we're going to go with what we're comfortable with. So we're going back to what I really feel strongly about, and we have the personnel to do it -- I hope we do. We'll continue to recruit for that. The thing you get away from is recruiting a fullback when you're not using the kind of offense we're going to use now. So that may take another year or two to catch up, but I think we have some guys who will fill out and be good fullbacks in what we're trying to do.

How do you think the transition will go to the new offense this spring?

GS: I think it will go smoothly. Frank and the staff involved have done a very good job this offseason with the time we're alowed to meeting them in introducing it. Now we'll get out there on the field and install it all. There's a good mix of three guys on that offensive staff who were here last year and two new guys, and with Frank's leadership, I'm really comfortable there. Now, we'll see how it goes in the spring, but I think when you look at our skill players, we have a lot of guys who have gotten some experience now. Some of them have made a lot of plays while getting their experience, and they're on the other side of the hill now, in that they've played a lot of football. This is a new offense to learn, and I'm anxious to see.

The offensive line, I think, has gotten better this offseason. Now, we'll see how that translates to the game of football. But I do think the things we're going to ask them to do are going to be more in their skill set, and I think the football will be coming out quicker as well. I hope all of those things combined will lead to a much better job on the offensive line, because we were really not good up front on offense last year, and that has to change.

You say the line has gotten better. How do you tell that in the offseason?

GS: With big men, there are two things you need to be able to do. Number 1 is, be strong, and I don't mean the weight room as much as functional strength. And Number 2 is, you need to be able to bend. Our strength was average; I wouldn't say we were overly strong, but it wasn't horrible either. But we really played with our pad level too high. So we really emphasized bending, and I see us bending a lot better. So hopefully those two things, being a little bit stronger and bending better, and in an offense where there's more cumulative repetitions over time, I think we're going to get better.

And we added a guy, in [center] Dallas Hendrickson, I haven't seen him play for us, but I've seen him play in junior college. He's going to be really good in that position, and everyone else is going to be a year older, stronger and drilled just a bit more thoroughly. So hopefully that will lead to better results.

You moved some guys around on that line last year. Do you anticipate doing that again, or do you have set positions in mind this spring?

GS: We moved Andre Civil over from defense, and we moved Antwan Lowery over from defense. I think those two guys, it's their time now. They need to perform. Civil is an extraordinary athlete. He should be able to do this. Lowery is an incredibly strong guy, he should be able to do this. Desmond Wynn and Art Forst have played a lot of football. It's just a matter of getting the best five on the field. We've got a young guy named David Osei that I think has a chance now after being in our program for two years. I think what will happen, finally, is we'll have some competition on the offensive line. No matter how dedicated a guy is, competition is still key, because everybody needs to be pushed.

Moving Jeremy Deering to running back, was that just because you liked the way he ran the Wildcat last year?

GS: That was part of it, plus I think we have some good depth at the wide receiver position. And there will be opportunities -- just because he's called a running back doesn't mean he won't play wideout. It will give you some really good matchup possibilities. I really think De'Antwan Williams has had an exceptional offseason. I'm excited to see him. He was as highly touted a running back as there was coming out of high school. It's been a rocky couple of years, but I think he's in great shape, and he's totally committed to what he's doing.

We moved Aaron Hayward to the position, let's see what he can do. Let's see what Jawan Jamison can do -- he was a very good running back in high school. And certainly with the two kids we signed, Savon Huggins and Ben Martin, I think finally we have a little bit of depth at the position and there will be great competition. I don't particularly care who it is that does it, I just want whoever rises to the top.

Looking at your skill players, like Mohamed Sanu and Deering and Mark Harrison, it seems like you have more talent there than maybe ever during your tenure. Would you agree with that?

GS: I'm excited about our skill. The thing that's lost a little bit about our season last year is that, from Game 3 on, Joe Martinek couldn't perform. Sanu, from Game 5 on, couldn't perform. So you were looking at guys who were hurt all year. Timmy Wright, going into last preseason, he was the guy I was most excited about and was performing the best of all our wideouts, and in the second practice of the year he goes down with a knee. A kid that was really highly recruited out of high school, Brandon Coleman, he redshirted and he's 6-7, 6-6, an incredibly lanky receiver who, when we did our testing, ran very, very well -- for anybody, forget that he's 6-foot-7. Then we were able to recruit well to the position as well, with Miles Shuler coming in.

So I am excited about the skill, and Frank is very good -- having coached against him several times -- he's definitely got an NFL mentality as far as matchups and personnel and all that. I think he'll utilize them very, very well. We've still got to block, though, as you and I both know. And part of blocking is getting rid of the ball. We've got to get rid of the football, and move the launch points and all those things. So we'll see.

Rutgers spring game review

April, 26, 2010
There wasn't a lot of scoring in Rutgers' spring game on Saturday, but head coach Greg Schiano had to be pleased with the running game.

Joe Martinek, who will try to hold onto his starting job once some talented freshmen arrive this summer, rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries as the Scarlet team beat the White 16-7. Martinek did his damage behind a makeshift and still evolving offensive line, which will remain the No. 1 question mark of the offseason for Rutgers.

Tom Savage completed 17 of 30 passes for 181 yards, while freshman receiver Quron Pratt led the way with eight catches for 55 yards. San San Te added three field goals. Star receiver Mohamed Sanu did not play because of a head injury he suffered in practice earlier in the week.

Antonio Lowery and Steve Beauharnais paced the defense with 13 tackles each.

The Scarlet Knights honored defensive tackle Charlie Noonan as the toughest player of spring practice, while Tim Wright was named the most improved offensive player and Khaseem Greene was recognized as most improved on the defense.

Rutgers drew a school-record 20,114 fans to the spring game, the most in the Big East this year.

More big plays in Piscataway?

April, 12, 2010
PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers won nine games in 2009, but you can credit a lot of that to the defense and a manageable schedule.

For the Scarlet Knights to take a step forward this year, the offense is going to have to find more playmakers.

"We need to be more explosive," head coach Greg Schiano said. "I don't think we were very good on offense last year."

[+] EnlargeTom Savage
AP Photo/Rich SchultzRutgers quarterback Tom Savage should have plenty of targets to choose from this fall.
Rutgers averaged 28.8 points per game, but many of its big scoring days came against the likes of Howard, Texas Southern and Central Florida. The Scarlet Knights ranked last in the Big East in total offense at 326.3 yards per game, and they were seventh in the league in passing and sixth in rushing. They averaged a pedestrian 22.7 points per game in league play.

The good news is, this offense looks like it can get a lot better. And that's mostly because of the receiving group.

Last spring, the receivers as a whole performed well under expectations. Other than Tim Brown, Schiano had no one he felt he could rely on. That's why Mohamed Sanu was switched from safety to wideout late in the spring, a move that paid great dividends.

It's a different story this spring. Sanu is now the veteran, but there are plenty of candidates to join him in catching passes from quarterback Tom Savage.

Mark Harrison, who showed flashes of his potential last season as a freshman, is healthy and having a big spring. At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, he definitely passes the eyeball test.

"I saw a shot of him walking off the field the other day, and he looked like T.O. [Terrell Owens]," Schiano said. "He's jacked up. I'm not ready to say he's that kind of player, but he looks that way.

"The thing I'm most impressed with Mark is, he's working at a whole different level now than he was last fall. The technical things he struggled with last year, but he just worked at it until he started to get better."

Tim Wright has opened eyes during spring camp, and at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, he's another tall target. Redshirt freshman Quron Pratt gives the Scarlet Knights a burner in the slot position.

And don't forget D.C. Jefferson, a gifted 6-foot-6, 245-pound sophomore tight end. He learned the position on the fly last summer, and Schiano says Jefferson can be as good as any tight end in the country when he gets his technique down.

"Those guys are all big, physical, strong and they catch everything," Savage said of his receivers. "That's what every quarterback wants out there."

The offense still has a long way to go, as evidenced in Saturday's scrimmage when it failed to score a touchdown. The key will be whether the offensive line comes together and protects Savage, and the running game needs more big plays with Joe Martinek and perhaps an incoming freshman like Jeremy Deering.

But unlike this time a year ago, at least this Scarlet Knights' offense has lots of options and a lot more potential to be explosive in the fall.
Spring practice is just around the corner, and that means it's time to start looking at two-deeps and position battles. While some players know what their roles will be in the fall, others will begin heated competitions for playing time during spring drills in hopes of impressing their coaches. Here are a few position battles worth watching this spring in the Big East:

  • Pittsburgh quarterback: Pitt may well be the preseason Big East favorite, but the Panthers have to figure out their quarterback situation first. Sophomore Tino Sunseri came close to winning the job in a heated three-way battle last year and settled in as Bill Stull's backup. Pat Bostick, however, has improved his mechanics and has won big games in the past. This should be a good competition that might not be settled until the fall.
  • Louisville quarterback: Three players -- Justin Burke, Adam Froman and Will Stein -- all started games under center for the Cardinals, and none of the trio distinguished himself as heads and shoulders above the rest. Whoever wins the job in the spring might not necessarily be the guy in the fall, as new coach Charlie Strong is bringing in some promising freshmen quarterbacks as well.
  • South Florida running back: Skip Holtz has suggested he'd like to have a real No. 1 tailback, something the Bulls haven't had in a long time. Mike Ford had a huge game against Northern Illinois in the International Bowl and may finally be ready to assume that go-to-guy role as a senior. Sophomore Lindsey Lamar will push for the job, as well as possibly Jamar Taylor and several newcomers.
  • Rutgers receiver and cornerback: Like last year, the Scarlet Knights go into the spring with one proven wideout (this time, Mohamed Sanu) and a bunch of question marks. It's time that someone from the group including Julian Hayes, Tim Wright, Keith Stroud and Marcus Cooper separate himself. At corner, Rutgers needs a replacement for Devin McCourty. Will a guy like Brandon Bing step forward, or will one of two redshirt freshmen -- Darrell Givens and Logan Ryan -- make a move in the spring?
  • Cincinnati's defensive front seven: With a new coaching staff and probably a change back to a 4-3 scheme, the Cincinnati players have basically been told they're back to square one this spring. Add to that fact that both defensive ends and two starting linebackers were seniors this past season, and there are a lot of jobs up for grabs. The constants appear to be defensive tackle Derek Wolfe, linebacker JK Schaffer and Walter Stewart, who could either play linebacker or on the line. After that, it's one big competition.