Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pre-Season Preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

2009 Record: 9-4 (3-4 in Big East)
2009 Bowl: St. Petersburg Bowl (beat UCF 45 to 24)
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked (received 37 votes- placed them 31st)
Head Coach: Greg Schiano (55-55 at Rutgers)
Non-Conference Schedule: Norfolk State (9/2), at FIU (9/11), North Carolina (9/25), Tulane (10/2), Army (10/16)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 28.8 points per game (4th in Big East)
Rushing Yards/Game: 134 (6th in Big East)
Passing Yards/Game: 191 (7th in Big East)
Total Yards/Game: 326 (last in Big East, 97th in Nation) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 17.9 points per game (1st in Big East, 16th in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 103 (2nd in Big East, 15th in Nation)
Passing Yards/Game: 204 (2nd in Big East)
Total Yards/Game: 307 (1st in Big East, 18th in Nation)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: +1.54 per game (1st in Big East, 2nd in Nation)
Penalties: 45 yards per game (4th in Big East)

Returning Starters
Offense: 6
Defense: 6
Kicker/Punter: 2

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Tom Savage, Soph (149 of 285 for 2211 yds, 14 TD, 7 INT, 170 ypg)
Rushing: RB Joe Martinek, Jr (206 carries for 967 yds, 9 TD, 4.6 ypc, 74 ypg)
Receiving: WR Mohamed Sanu, Soph (51 rec, 639 yds, 3 TD, 3.9 rec/game)
Tackles: LB Antonio Lowery, Sr (55)
Sacks: DE Jonathan Freeny, Sr (9.5)
Interceptions: DB Khaseem Greene, Soph (2); DB David Rowe, Jr (2)

Big East Unit Rankings
QB- Phil Steele #2; Athlon Sports #2
RB- Phil Steele #7; Athlon Sports #7
WR/TE- Phil Steele #4; Athlon Sports #3
OL- Phil Steele #8; Athlon Sports #6
DL- Phil Steele #2; Athlon Sports #2
LB- Phil Steele #5; Athlon Sports #4
DB- Phil Steele #4; Athlon Sports #2
ST- Phil Steele #2

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #36
Sporting News: #44

2010 Pre-Season Big East Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #4
Phil Steele: #6

Bowl Prediction:
Athlon Sports: Pinstripe Bowl (vs. Kansas)
Phil Steele: Pinstripe Bowl (vs. Kansas)

Greg Schiano put Rutgers football on the map in 2006 when he led the team to 9 straight victories to open the season and finished 11-2.  Since then they've gone 8-5, 8-5 and 9-4. So they've been respectable but haven't seen the same level of success. The Big East is going to be tough this year with Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Cincinnati all looking to have big years. Rutgers broke in a Freshman QB last year but won games by being among the best statistical defenses in the nation and they were second to only Air Force in turnover margin. If Rutgers can sustain their level of defensive play from last year, maintain their turnover margin and improve on offense then they could be trouble. We turned to the Rutgers experts at On The Banks to find out more about this years team.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

The defense should once again be a strength, especially the front seven. The defensive line and linebackers will be deep and experienced, should excel at rushing opposing passers.

The biggest weakness coming into the season is the uncertainty along the offensive line. That group was unexpectedly bad last year, and is losing three seniors. Several projected starters were held out of spring practice with an injury, so it's hard to get a good handle on whether or not the OL will be able to rebound in 2010.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test?

Absolutely North Carolina. They have question marks on offense, but may return the most talented defense in the country. If Rutgers can win that game, it'll help build momentum for a good season.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

North Carolina, although Pittsburgh is up there too. Both teams will have multiple first-round picks in next year's NFL Draft in their starting lineups this year.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

The starting weakside linebacker Antonio Lowery. He was very good last season, although he missed several games with an injury. He is good enough to play at an All-Conference level.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

That would be sophomore receiver Mohamed Sanu. He's agile, and very difficult to tackle. Sanu is also very effective as a quarterback out of the Wildcat formation. The one area he needs to improve on is a tendency to drop too many easy catches.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

That's hard to say, because Rutgers has a lot of talent on defense. The surest bet is probably defensive tackle Scott Vallone. He's a real pass rushing force inside.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

They'll still be very young on offense, so it could be anyone on that side of the ball outside of Sanu. Quarterback Tom Savage needs to make the jump from a game manager to a franchise player. There are several young tight ends and receivers who need to produce more. The backup tailback, De'Antwan Williams, could push to start if he improves his pass blocking and receiving. The offensive line is young and untested, and needs to bounce back from a disappointing 2009.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

I'm not sure anyone who fits that criteria will make a huge impact. RS-FR TE Paul Carrezola could have played last year if he wasn't hurt during training camp. He'll add a lot in terms of run blocking and being a sure-handed safety valve. WR Quron Pratt impressed durng the spring too. No freshmen should be playing that much, although they brought in a good group of receivers.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

Rutgers redshirted a lot of freshmen on defense last year, so there are several good candidates. A good contender is corner Logan Ryan, who will at least play a lot in nickel and dime sets.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

The team's OOC schedule is very weak outside of UNC. There are no sure losses there. Splitting the tossups should put them in at an inflated 9-3. That'd be fair. I'm less concerned with overall record then in looking better on offense and gearing up to win the Big East in 2011. A good bowl bid would be nice though.

Thanks again to On The Banks. You can also follow them on Twitter @ruscoop.

Next Up: USF Bulls

2010 Previews
ACC- Maryland Terrapins
Big 12- Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Michigan WolverinesMinnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers
Conference USA- Houston CougarsTulane Green Wave, UTEP Miners
MAC- Ball State Cardinals, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Temple Owls, Toledo Rockets
Mountain West- Utah Utes
Pac-10- Oregon Ducks, USC Trojans, Washington Huskies
SEC- Auburn Tigers, Kentucky Wildcats, Mississippi Rebels, South Carolina Gamecocks, Vanderbilt Commodores
Sun Belt- Troy Trojans
WAC- New Mexico State Aggies


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