Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Just about anything that could go wrong with Rutgers football did and the result was the program’s first losing season in six years. The team had had issues at quarterback and lost Eric LeGrand to a spinal injury The offensive line was undependable as well so the end result was not surprising. Not surprising but unacceptable for the Rutgers faithful who will be looking for and expecting changes from head coach Greg Shiano to get the program back to playing well and possibly in to a Bowl. He has made some adjustments and whether that’s enough will only be determined during the season.
First off, there will be no competition or looking over the shoulder for quarterback Chas Dodd as number one contender Tom Savage transferred and won’t be in the picture any longer. One change the offense will see is a new offensive coordinator. Former Pittsburgh OC Frank Cignetti takes over and will implement his run first play action passing game. The good news is the sometimes maligned offensive line returns four players and should benefit from a year of playing together while gaining experience. Highly touted running back Savon Huggins is expected to make an immediate impact and a stronger rushing attack should open up the airways for Dodd. That cold be music to the ears of Mohamed Sanu as he runs out of the Wildcat formation and was Dodd’s top target in 2010. He started the year with a bang with 21 receptions in the first four games but he played hurt the remainder of the year and posted only 23 catches in the final eight games to partner with 665 rushing yards overall. A healthy Sanu combined with more help around him should easily exceed his 2010 numbers.
The outlook for the defense is not as optimistic given just five starters return this season for a unit that struggled at times. The defensive line is a concern because they are on the small side which could put more pressure on the line backing crew to make plays. Rutgers moved Manny Abreu from this group to defensive end but the Scarlet Knights have two playmakers left here with Khaseem Greene and Steve Beauharnais leading the team in tackles a year ago. That workload might increase if teams push around the guys in front of them. The Scarlet Knights also have worries in the secondary with no returning starters. The only senior will be safety Dave Rowe so this won’t be an experienced group where most saw playing time in 2010 so Rutgers won’t be totally at the mercy of youth. Both Brandon Jones and Marcus Cooper take over at the corners but both saw the field a year ago but have never started. The problem here goes back to whether the line can get to the quarterback and not force these guys in to extended coverage time.
San San Te connected on 14 of 20 field goals and can hit the occasional long one but Rutgers is hoping he kicks more PAT’s. Strong leg freshman Anthony DiPaula takes over the punting ob and averaged over 43 yards per boot as a senior and can kick field goals going 10 of 12 with a long of 46. Mason Robinson will return punts and had a 60 yarder for a score against South Florida in 2010. The kick return job looks like an open competition right now and might not be decided until after a few games.
I think Rutgers will be more improved on offense with some balance between the passing and running attacks especially with an offensive line that has a year of playing together under their belt. However, the defense concerns me as I can see teams overpowering the Scarlet Knights in the trenches and than passing on them. Having said that I think this team is middle of the pack in the conference and has a shot at a Bowl appearance providing the defense holds their own.