2009 Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football Preview
2008 Record: (8-5, 5-2)
2008 Bowl: Papa John’s.com Bowl vs. North Carolina State (W 29-23)
Coach: Greg Schiano (46-51 at Rutgers, 46-51 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Kirk Ciarrocca and Kyle Flood
Defensive Coordinator: Bob Fraser and Ed Pinkham
Other Key Returnees: C Ryan Blaszczyk, OT Anthony Davis, G Art Frost, TE Shamar Graves, OT Kevin Haslam, S Joe Lefeged, G Caleb Ruch, DT Alex Silvestro
Key Losses: WR Kenny Britt, S Courtney Greene, LB Kevin Malast, CB Jason McCourty, QB Mike Teel, DT Pete Tverdov, WR Tiquan Underwood, DE Jamaal Westerman
Any time Rutgers goes to a bowl game, it cannot be considered a disappointing season. The Scarlet Knights finished the conference season with a 5-2 record and were in the mix for a BCS berth. That is certainly successful by Rutgers standards, even if those standards are miles away from the standards they had just years ago before Coach Greg Schiano took over the program. There will be ups and downs, but Rutgers will be competitive in the Big East as long as the coach stays put.
The defense only returns six starters, but they do have some solid blocks to build around. Linebacker Ryan D’Imperio is ready to take over the leadership role on defense. He tallied 93 tackles, 12.5 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks as a junior and he should be in for a big senior season. George Johnson is a quality defensive end and Devin McCourty should anchor a decent secondary. There are holes that need to be filled, but Coach Schiano has enough talent sitting on the roster to fill those holes effectively. The defense will be fine, but the best unit on this team is the offensive line. Just about everybody who played last year is back and that should be good news for the offense. The improved, and experienced, offensive line should pave the way for a decent running game. The Scarlet Knights never got the ground game moving last year, but Kordell Young, Jourdan Brooks and Joe Martinek are all back and the team should be better on the ground with another year of experience.
While the line will be good, the Scarlet Knights lose a trio of quality skill players. Quarterback Mike Teel was painful to watch at times with his decision making, but he was still a solid passer who completed 61.4 percent of his attempts during his senior campaign and passed for 25 touchdowns. His main two targets were Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood and now those two are gone as well. Britt alone caught 87 passes for 1,371 yards and seven touchdowns. Just who is going to replace all of that production? Jabu Lovelace and Dom Natale are the likely candidates to take over the quarterback role. Lovelace missed the spring due to injuries, but Natale failed to seize the job. The battle will go into the fall. Receiver Tim Brown made strides last year and will be the the quarterbacks main target, but somebody has to step up and become another viable receiving threat.
The Bottom Line for the Scarlet Knights:
The defense should be fine, but the offense has some huge holes to fill. The ground game has potential, but Ray Rice is not going to walk through the door any time soon. If the running game struggles, the offense could be in big, big trouble. The defense can overcome some of those offensive shortcomings, but will it be enough to reach another bowl game?
By Joel Welser
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