>> Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Rutgers football has come a long way since the hiring of Greg Chiano. When Schiano took over the program 9 years ago Rutgers was considered one of the worst BCS football programs in the country, but that has all changed over the last three seasons(3 bowl wins in 3 seasons). Most experts believed the days of Rutgers competing for the Big East championship were evaporated after the loss of Ray Rice, but Mike Teel and company, after a slow start, finished the season with a 5-2 conference record and an eventual Papajohns.com bowl victory.
However, Teel and his two favorite targets, Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood, are long gone and the offense will have to replace those talents to have another successful season. Teel compiled over 9,000 career passing yards and was the most successful quarterback in school history, but redshirt freshman D.C. Jefferson has the opportunity to become the successor to Teel. Jefferson was a top five quarterback coming out of high school and has talent for days. The 6'6, 240 pound quarterback has the arm to compete as a freshman in a wide-open Big East, but the question remains, does he have enough talent at the skill positions to translate into success? Jefferson has several talented running backs to hand the ball off too, including Kordell Young (550 yards) and Jourdan Brooks (516 yards). The backfield will see some nice holes with the entire offensive line returning in tact that will be lead by an All-Big East talent in left tackle Anthony Davis. With plenty of time to throw, Jefferson should have time to mesh with a young receiving core. Tim Brown (27 receptions) is the only returning wide receiver, and Julian Hayes will join him on the outside, but they lack serious depth at the position.
First year defensive coordinators Bob Fraser and Ed Pinkham return six regulars, but lose the majority of the playmakers. The defensive line will be lead by senior end George Johnson. Johnson has the talent to be a disruptive force on the outer edge and he will be joined by Alex Silvestro and Charlie Noonan on the line. The linebacking corps returns Ryan D'Imperio, an All- Big East performer, but he is the only proven playmaker on the unit. Antonio Lowery and Damaso Munoz will attempt to pick up the slack on the strong and weak sides, but they're both unproven talents. The defensive backfield is lead by a duo at the safety positions, Zaire Kitchen and Joe Lefeged, who are both proven at their positions and some of the best the Big East has to offer.
Increasing the talent level has been of the highest priority for Schiano and his staff since they've arrived in Piscataway and they continue to do a decent job. Rutgers hauled in the 38th ranked recruiting class according to Rivals.com and its headlined by one of the most touted recruits in school history. 6'4", 217 pound quarterback Tim Savage has the prototypical build that all coaches ask for at the quarterback position and he will be an impact player. Defensive tackle Antwan Lowery joins Savage in Piscataway and at 6'4", 335 pounds he is an imposing specimen as a young freshman.
September 19th-Florida International-Win
October 3rd-Texas Southern-Win
November 12th-South Florida-Loss
December 5th-West Virginia-Loss
Season Projection: 9-3 (5-2 Big East)