SI.com 2003 College Football Preview




SI.com's College Football Team Previews - from Athlon Sports

  Rutgers Scarlet Knights

 
The Lowdown
Coach: Greg Schiano (3rd year, 3-20)
2002 record: 1-11 (none)
Big East finish: 8th
2002 offensive stats:
Rush: 51.7 ypg
(8th in Big East, 116th in nation)
Pass: 162.3 ypg (6th, 97th)
2002 defensive stats:
Rush: 207.0 ypg (8th, 106th)
Pass: 198.0 ypg (4th, 37th)
Projected Starters
Offense (3 returning starters in bold)
SE   89   Shawn Tucker   So.  
FL  Tres Moses  Jr. 
LT  62  Mike Williamson  Sr. 
LG  77  Rich McManis  Sr. 
63  Will Vogt  So. 
RG  66  Clint Dato  Jr. 
RT  76  John Glass  Jr. 
TE   47   Ray Pilch   Jr.  
QB  11  Ryan Hart  So. 
RB   2   Clarence Pittman   Jr.  
FB  37  Brad Cunningham  Jr. 
Defense (7)
DE   1   Raheem Orr   Sr.  
DT   95   Gary Gibson   Sr.  
DT  98  Luis Rivas  So. 
DE  92  Alfred Peterson  Jr. 
SLB   42   Brian Bender   Sr.  
MLB   49   Brian Hohmann   Sr.  
WLB  38  Will Gilkison  So. 
CB   32   Nate Jones   Sr.  
CB   24   Brandon Haw   Sr.  
FS  Terry Bynes  So. 
SS   20   Jarvis Johnson   Jr.  
Special Teams
43  Ryan Sands  Sr. 
30  Joe Radigan  So. 
KR  32  Nate Jones  Sr. 
PR  Tres Moses  Jr. 
2003 Schedule
Aug. 30  Buffalo 
Sept. 6  at Michigan State 
Sept. 13  at Army 
Sept. 27  Navy 
Oct. 4  Virginia Tech 
Oct. 11  at West Virginia 
Oct. 18  Pittsburgh 
Oct. 25  at Temple 
Nov. 8  at Connecticut 
Nov. 15  Boston College 
Nov. 22  at Miami 
Nov. 29  Syracuse 
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano has won just three games in his two seasons on the job. His team has failed to win a Big East game in 14 attempts. Last year, the Knights stumbled through a 1-11 season that included home losses to Buffalo and Division I-AA Villanova.

"We need to start winning some games," says Schiano, a New Jersey native charged with the difficult -- some say impossible -- task of turning Rutgers into a consistent winner in the Big East.

Defensively, the Knights appear poised for some success, with a unit that returns seven starters and adds some promising young talent.

A major overhaul was needed on offense after Rutgers finished last or next to last nationally in almost every major category. Schiano hired former Utah coordinator Craig Ver Steeg to install an offense that relies heavily on a two-back set and a timing passing game.

OFFENSIVE KEYS:

Schiano's surprising late-season decision not to redshirt quarterback Ryan Hart could pay major dividends this fall. Hart started the final four games as a true freshman and played well enough to be considered the quarterback of the future. Hart will oversee a redesigned offense being installed by Ver Steeg, who inherits a unit that finished as the nation's worst during a 1-11 season.

There's a solid cast at wide receiver, with big-play threat Tres Moses healthy after missing nine games with a knee injury. Promising true freshman Marcus Daniels could contribute immediately.

The top four rushers return, but that's not necessarily a good thing, since Rutgers averaged just 51.7 yards rushing per game. Markis Facyson led the Knights with a mere 398 yards on the ground.

New offensive line coach Mario Cristobal faces a daunting challenge with a unit that was at the root of most of the offensive problems last year. Transfers John Glass, Clint Dato and Ron Green are being counted on to make a difference.

DEFENSIVE KEYS:

For long stretches last year, Rutgers' defense was more than respectable. But with little relief from the Knights' offense, breakdowns inevitably occurred. The unit returns seven starters, although the potential loss of defensive end Ryan Neill, recovering from knee surgery, will hurt. Senior Raheem Orr is a mainstay up front.

Blue-chip defensive line recruit Nate Robinson, who left Miami after failing to qualify academically there, will join the Knights for the start of fall practice and could have an instant impact.

Brian Hohmann slides over from weak-side linebacker to the middle to fill the void created by Gary Brackett's graduation. Brian Bender is back at the strong side -- for now. He will be pushed by talented sophomore William Beckford, who was academically ineligible last season.

The secondary returns three starters. Schiano tried linebacker Terry Bynes at the vacated free safety spot in the spring but didn't seem pleased with the results. Rutgers has a rising star in junior strong safety Jarvis Johnson and a pair of solid corners in Brandon Haw and speedy Nate Jones.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

After returning two kickoffs 100 yards for touchdowns and finishing sixth nationally in kickoff returns, Nate Jones was named the Big East's co-Special Teams Player of the Year. The senior averaged 28.3 yards per return last year. With Tres Moses healthy again and able to resume his duties as the punt returner, Rutgers has big-play capability any time an opponent kicks the ball.

FINAL ANALYSIS:

Rutgers' hopes for topping the three-win plateau for the first time since 1998 will come down to one thing: the offensive line. Cristobal's challenge is to piece together a unit that will allow the offense a chance to function -- something it often couldn't do last season. Rutgers not only finished last nationally in total offense and scoring (and next to last in rushing), but the Knights also averaged just 1.5 yards per rush and punted a school-record 93 times. The problem wasn't close to being solved in the spring, meaning the uncertainty will linger until the Aug. 30 opener against Buffalo. With a favorable schedule, promise at the skill positions, a quarterback to build around in Hart and a defense that should be solid, the 2003 season hinges on the offensive line play and whether five newcomers can make a difference.

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