2013 Rutgers football's 10 things to know: Is the future ready for the present?

Wesley Hitt

Rutgers takes the field in 2013 with quite a few former star recruits and perhaps more pure talent than it has had in recent history. But most of the star recruits are freshmen or sophomores, and most of the players you remember from last year are gone. What can we make of the most volatile, high-variance team in the AAC? For more Rutgers, visit On the Banks.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. The future is now

In terms of on-field merit, Rutgers' hire of Kyle Flood following former head coach Greg Schiano's move to the NFL seemed a bit off-putting. Rutgers had one of the least successful lines in the 2011, and Flood was the line coach. He had been offensive co-coordinator in 2009-10 but didn't hold that title anymore, and his line was regressing quite a bit.

Generally speaking, though, the hire was well-received. Why? Recruiting. Flood had a reputation for being really good at it. And sure enough, his first recruiting class as head coach was a doozy: five-star defensive end Darius Hamilton, four four-star recruits, and six players with the highest three-star designation from Rivals.com. Despite only 19 commitments overall, Flood's signing class ranked in Rivals' top 25. The 2013 class wasn't as well-regarded but still included a four-star and six more high-threes. For Rutgers, residing in an area of the country not exactly littered with star recruits, with recruiting competition in the area from basically every Big Ten and ACC school -- there were nine four-star recruits in the state of New Jersey in 2013, and they signed with Miami, North Carolina, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, and even LSU -- this has been an impressive haul.

Combined with the work done when Schiano was head coach, Rutgers has a nice base of high-three and four-star talent in basically every unit. And in 2013, that talent has to prove itself. There is no choice. If young players don't begin to live up to recruiting hype, Rutgers is going to sink like a stone.

Gone is two-time conference defensive player of the year Khaseem Greene. Gone are defensive tackle Scott Vallone and two other starters on what was the best run-stuffing line in the country. Gone is explosive corner Logan Ryan. Gone is all-conference offensive tackle R.J. Dill. Gone are receivers Mark Harrison and Tim Wright. Gone is do-everything back Jawan Jamison. The future is now for Rutgers, and while the base of talent is quite intriguing, there is no more waiting. Whatever Rutgers is going to become under Flood, the transformation begins in a week.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 9-4 | Adj. Record: 6-7 | Final F/+ Rk: 39
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep at Tulane 24-12 W 20.5 - 21.2 L
8-Sep Howard 26-0 W 14.7 - 14.7 W
13-Sep at South Florida 23-13 W 20.4 - 26.7 L
22-Sep at Arkansas 35-26 W 35.2 - 37.1 L
6-Oct Connecticut 19-3 W 30.3 - 21.1 W
13-Oct Syracuse 23-15 W 16.2 - 23.8 L
20-Oct at Temple 35-10 W 27.9 - 13.4 W
27-Oct Kent State 23-35 L 31.9 - 26.2 W
10-Nov Army 28-7 W 15.7 - 18.4 L
17-Nov at Cincinnati 10-3 W 35.7 - 23.0 W
24-Nov at Pittsburgh 6-27 L 13.3 - 25.3 L
29-Nov Louisville 17-20 L 29.3 - 18.4 W
28-Dec vs. Virginia Tech 10-13 L 3.5 - 8.2 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 21.5 98 14.2 4
Adj. Points Per Game 22.7 110 21.4 17

2. No alibi

Rutgers games were just so, so damn ugly in 2012. The defense, 11th in the country in Def. F/+ under new defensive coordinator Robb Smith (who has since left to join Schiano's staff in Tampa Bay), simply ground opposing offenses to a pulp, forcing them to pass, preventing big plays, and eventually forcing mistakes. The Scarlet Knights had a rugged, Saban-esque bear hug defense, but their offense turned opposing defenses into the same thing. Rutgers really wanted to run but couldn't, moving the ball only when Brandon Coleman caught a bomb. And while bombs are exciting, they were not particularly frequent, and most Rutgers games became festivals of punts and frustration.

The offense found life in the middle of the season, but it only brought them to an average level. And then the Scarlet Knights sank back to far, far below average.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 3 games): Opponent 20.9, Rutgers 18.5 (minus-2.4)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 7 games): Rutgers 27.6, Opponent 23.3 (plus-4.3)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 3 games): Opponent 17.3, Rutgers 15.4 (minus-1.9)

About offensive coordinator Dave Brock, I said this in last year's preview:

One other person might still have a bit of growing to do: Brock. To put it kindly, his résumé -- Temple offensive coordinator from 2002-04, Kansas State offensive coordinator in 2008, Boston College tight ends coach from 2009-11 -- lacks sparkle.

The product matched the résumé. It's not like he spoiled a great offense or anything -- Rutgers had ranked 82nd, 103rd, and 77th in Off. F/+ from 2009-11 and ranked 84th in 2012 -- but he quite obviously wasn't the answer. He was dumped in favor of former Kansas State head coach Ron Prince, while Smith's departure opened the door for linebackers coach Dave Cohen's promotion to defensive coordinator.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 107 116 119 106
RUSHING 106 118 121 109
PASSING 88 89 100 87
Standard Downs 109 119 96
Passing Downs 108 111 104
Redzone 111 118 92
Q1 Rk 115 1st Down Rk 104
Q2 Rk 104 2nd Down Rk 111
Q3 Rk 94 3rd Down Rk 107
Q4 Rk 120

3. Ron P

The Internet's favorite college football coach is back coaching college football. Let us rejoice.

Before he became Bill Snyder's failed successor and the world's greatest contract negotiator, Ron Prince was actually a reasonably successful offensive coordinator at Virginia. In three years in the role, Prince's Hoos averaged between 5.4 and 6.1 yards per play. Their style changed depending on the talent at hand; with Matt Schaub at quarterback and completing 70 percent of his passes in 2003, Virginia threw the ball 53 percent of the time. With Schaub gone and the mobile Marques Hagans taking over the next year, the Cavaliers ran 64 percent of the time with Hagans and backs Alvin Pearman and Wali Lundy. And with Hagans more experienced and Pearman gone in 2005, it was basically a 50-50 split.

One saw the same thing in his time at Kansas State. With quarterback Josh Freeman starting as a true freshman, KSU leaned heavily on the run. As Freeman grew more experienced, the pass became more of a featured (if not elite) option. After he left Kansas State, Prince bounced from Virginia special teams coach to assistant offensive line coach for the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars. This is his first time calling plays in a while, but if he indeed builds a system around the talent at hand, to what will he cater at Rutgers in 2013?

No really, I'm asking you. I'm not sure.

Here's what we know so far:

"Coach Prince wants to be aggressive in the run game."

"(I’ve) been able to establish the tight end as a very important part of our offense."

"We're in and out of the huddle a lot faster, things like that."

"Prince coached Josh Freeman with the Wildcats and hopes to be a little more wide-open."

"His favorite phrase* was 'bold and daring,' so that should give you an idea. He once called two halfback pass plays in a row. In fact, the halfback pass was probably his favorite play. Also, very possibly his most effective. A lot of memories from this time are suppressed, but I think he ran an onside kick once where the kicker fell down as a diversion. You won't be bored."

I mean ... excitement's not necessarily a bad thing, I guess. And this was certainly a bold and daring hire.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Gary Nova 6'2, 220 Jr. *** (5.7) 221 388 2,695 57.0% 22 16 11 2.8% 6.6
Chas Dodd 6'0, 200 Sr. ** (5.4) 1 1 0 100.0% 0 0 0 0.0% 0.0

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Jawan Jamison RB 255 1,075 4.2 4.7 4 -20.2
Savon Huggins RB 6'0, 200 Jr. **** (5.9) 119 410 3.4 3.2 2 -20.7
Gary Nova QB 6'2, 220 Jr. *** (5.7) 11 22 2.0 7.6 0 -3.8
Ben Martin RB 10 48 4.8 2.7 0 -2.9
Jeremy Deering WR 6'2, 200 Sr. *** (5.6) 6 57 9.5 6.1 0 +2.9
Paul James RB 6'0, 210 So. NR 5 22 4.4 1.8 0 -0.2
Desmon Peoples RB 5'8, 175 RSFr. *** (5.5)





Justin Goodwin RB 6'0, 180 Fr. *** (5.5)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Brandon Coleman WR 6'6, 220 Jr. **** (5.8) 93 43 718 46.2% 7.7 25.3% 55.9% 7.9 88.1
Mark Harrison WR 71 44 583 62.0% 8.2 19.3% 63.4% 8.1 71.5
Timothy Wright WR 64 39 449 60.9% 7.0 17.4% 37.5% 7.5 55.1
Jawan Jamison RB 37 28 323 75.7% 8.7 10.1% 43.2% 8.6 39.6
Quron Pratt WR 6'0, 190 Sr. *** (5.5) 32 22 230 68.8% 7.2 8.7% 46.9% 7.7 28.2
D.C. Jefferson TE 31 20 168 64.5% 5.4 8.4% 61.3% 5.4 20.6
Savon Huggins RB 6'0, 200 Jr. **** (5.9) 13 7 19 53.8% 1.5 3.5% 53.8% 1.4 2.3
Paul Carrezola TE 6'2, 240 Sr. *** (5.6) 9 8 45 88.9% 5.0 2.5% 77.8% 6.2 5.5
Miles Shuler WR 5'10, 175 Jr. **** (5.8) 8 5 71 62.5% 8.9 2.2% 50.0% 9.6 8.7
Tyler Kroft TE 6'6, 240 So. *** (5.5) 4 3 59 75.0% 14.8 1.1% 50.0% 16.6 7.2
Michael Burton FB 6'0, 235 Jr. NR 3 3 34 100.0% 11.3 0.8% 100.0% 6.9 4.2
Leonte Carroo WR 6'1, 200 So. **** (5.8)








Ruhann Peele WR 6'1, 185 RSFr. *** (5.7)








Carlton Agudosi WR 6'6, 205 RSFr. *** (5.7)








Andre Patton WR 6'4, 195 Fr. *** (5.7)








Janarion Grant WR 5'11, 170 Fr. *** (5.7)








4. Someone step up ... anyone

I'm not sure what "aggressive in the run game" means, but Rutgers must improve drastically on the ground no matter how aggressive it wants to be. Only six offenses were worse at running the ball than Rutgers in 2012; Jawan Jamison had some explosiveness in him but was frequently caught behind the line, and former four-star signee Savon Huggins was better at getting back to the line but rarely actually did any open-field damage. Oh yeah, and the line was still awful at run blocking. It was odd to see Rutgers get three players on the all-conference first or second team considering the Scarlet Knights ranked 112th in Opportunity Rate and 121st in Stuff rate -- even if Jamison and Huggins did the line no favors, that still has to be pinned quite a bit on the line itself.

With better blocking, Huggins and new backup Paul James are still likely to be mostly between-the-tackles, four-yards-at-a-time guys. There's value in that, but an explosive option on the outside (like perhaps freshman Justin Goodwin) would help considerably.

Meanwhile, in the passing game, Brandon Coleman is considered a potentially high draft pick because of his explosiveness; the junior averaged 16.7 yards per catch as virtually the only big-play threat on the team. He caught six passes for 104 yards versus Syracuse, two for 49 versus Cincinnati, and two for 100 versus Louisville. He is a lovely weapon in the arsenal, but he is an all-or-nothing guy, and he needs some possession help. Senior Quron Pratt is okay in that regard, but here's an instance where former star recruits need to start looking like it. Junior Miles Shuler has been a bit player his first two years, and while big things are expected of sophomore Leonte Carroo, he didn't produce much of anything in his freshman season. And if Prince is wanting to get the tight ends involved, then obviously Paul Carrezola and Tyler Kroft are going to have to make the most of increased opportunities. They averaged a decent 8.0 yards per target last year, but in only a single target per game.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 87.1 2.54 2.43 33.5% 60.0% 26.4% 206.7 3.8% 2.1%
Rank 107 113 115 112 99 121 12 45 8
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Kaleb Johnson LG 6'4, 305 Jr. *** (5.5) 23 career starts; 2012 1st All-Big East
R.J. Dill RT 43 career starts; 2012 2nd All-Big East
Antwan Lowery RG 6'4, 310 Sr. *** (5.7) 20 career starts; 2012 2nd All-Big East
Andre Civil RT 6'3, 285 Sr. *** (5.7) 21 career starts
Betim Bujari C 6'4, 295 Jr. *** (5.5) 16 career starts
David Osei LG 5 career starts
Taj Alexander RT 6'4, 290 Jr. ** (5.2) 4 career starts
Matt McBride C
Devon Watkis RT
Bryan Leoni LT 6'6, 280 Jr. NR
Marquise Wright LG 6'3, 285 So. **** (5.8)
Keith Lumpkin LT 6'8, 315 So. *** (5.7)
Chris Muller RG 6'6, 300 RSFr. **** (5.9)
J.J. Denman RT 6'6, 300 RSFr. **** (5.8)
Ryan Brodie OL 6'5, 300 RSFr. *** (5.7)

5. Time to produce

Regardless of whether the all-conference honors were deserved, Rutgers does return two highly regarded guards, each entering basically his third respective year as a starter. In all, five players with starting experience return (84 career starts), which is fine, but he sooner players like sophomore Keith Lumpkin and a three former four-star recruits (guards Marquise Wright and Chris Muller and tackle J.J. Denman) can bull their way into the rotation, the better.

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 10 20 25 17
RUSHING 6 6 18 4
PASSING 39 41 50 41
Standard Downs 17 19 15
Passing Downs 36 51 34
Redzone 19 25 14
Q1 Rk 20 1st Down Rk 19
Q2 Rk 21 2nd Down Rk 34
Q3 Rk 20 3rd Down Rk 31
Q4 Rk 51

6. It's been a while since Rutgers had a bad defense

Rutgers' defense hasn't always been what it was the last two years. The presence of stars like Scott Vallone, Khaseem Greene, and Logan Ryan obviously helped tremendously in turning a defense that ranked 64th in Def. F/+ in 2010 into one that ranked 15th in 2011 and 11th in 2012. Still, even before 2011, the defense was always at least decent. The Scarlet Knights allowed 26.5 points per game in 2010 -- still below the national average -- and that was the only time they pushed over the 25-point mark since 2005.

The 2013 Rutgers defense will regress. There's just no way around it. Greene, Vallone, Ryan, middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais, ends Ka'Lial Glaud and Marvin Booker, safety Duron Harmon, two other corners, the defensive coordinator … the Scarlet Knights simply lost too much unique individual talent to avoid falling backwards a bit this fall. The question is, where's the new baseline?

Quite a few incredibly exciting youngsters will become main-stage players this year, from linemen Darius Hamilton, Djwany Mera, Quanzell Lambert, and Jamil Pollard, to linebacker Steve Longa, to DBs Nadir Barnwell, Tejay Johnson, and Ian Thomas. Even if the defense is strong, it's going to also be young and stupid and volatile, but where will the Scarlet Knights' new averages fall? Because while the offense almost has no choice but to improve, it probably won't be enough to offset the defense falling into the 40s or 50s in Def. F/+.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 137.9 2.06 1.95 30.1% 57.8% 27.6% 93.4 5.0% 5.8%
Rank 1 1 5 4 8 3 75 49 75
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Scott Vallone DT 13 37.0 5.3% 12.5 3 1 3 0 1
Ka'Lial Glaud DE 13 31.0 4.4% 4 3 5 1 1 1
Jamil Merrell DE 6'4, 255 Sr. *** (5.7) 13 30.0 4.3% 10.5 5.5 0 0 1 1
Marvin Booker DE 10 18.5 2.6% 6 1 2 0 0 0
Marcus Thompson DE 6'2, 260 Sr. *** (5.6) 13 16.5 2.4% 2.5 0.5 0 0 0 1
Darius Hamilton DT 6'4, 260 So. ***** (6.1) 12 10.5 1.5% 1.5 0 0 0 0 0
Isaac Holmes NT 6'3, 280 Sr. **** (5.8) 4 6.0 0.9% 1.5 0 0 0 0 0
Myles Jackson DE 6'4, 245 So. ** (5.4) 4 4.0 0.6% 1.5 0 0 0 0 0
Max Issaka DE 6'3, 250 So. *** (5.7) 7 2.5 0.4% 2 1 0 0 0 0
Kenneth Kirksey NT 6'1, 275 Jr. *** (5.7) 8 2.5 0.4% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
David Milewski DE 6'4, 250 Jr. ** (5.4)

Al Page NT 6'2, 280 So. *** (5.6)

Daryl Stephenson DT 6'3, 280 So. *** (5.5)

Djwany Mera DE 6'4, 260 So. **** (5.8)

Jamil Pollard DT 6'3, 280 RSFr. **** (5.8)
Quanzell Lambert DE 6'1, 230 RSFr. **** (5.8)

Julian Pinnix-Odrick DE 6'5, 250 RSFr. *** (5.7)
Nick Internicola DE 6'3, 230 Fr. *** (5.7)



Sebastian Joseph DT 6'4, 270 Fr. *** (5.5)



7. Look at these rankings

No. 1 in Adj. Line Yards. No. 1 in standard downs line yards per carry. No. 3 in Stuff Rate (run stops behind the line). No. 4 in Opportunity Rate (second-level opportunities for the runners). No. 8 in Power Success Rate. This defense was simply awesome against the run. Despite the presence of Greene and end-turned-tackle-turned-end Jamil Merrell, the Rutgers pass rush wasn't that great. But this was a ridiculously good run front.

And while both Merrell brothers (Jamil and his linebacker brother Jamal) return, and while the aforementioned exciting youngster are indeed exciting, there's just so much to replace from an exceptional front seven.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Khaseem Greene WLB 13 103.0 14.7% 12 6 2 5 6 3
Jamal Merrell SLB 6'4, 220 Sr. *** (5.7) 13 60.0 8.6% 8.5 1 1 0 1 1
Steve Beauharnais MLB 13 57.5 8.2% 6 1 1 1 0 1
Kevin Snyder WLB 6'3, 235 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 21.0 3.0% 7 2 0 2 0 0
Nick DePaola WLB 6'0, 210 Sr. NR 13 9.5 1.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Quentin Gause SLB 6'1, 220 So. *** (5.7) 12 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Steve Longa WLB 6'1, 220 RSFr. *** (5.7)


Myles Nash LB 6'5, 205 Fr. *** (5.7)


L.J. Liston MLB 6'2, 230 Fr. *** (5.6)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Logan Ryan CB 13 76.5 10.9% 5 0 4 17 0 2
Lorenzo Waters SS 6'0, 205 Jr. *** (5.6) 13 54.5 7.8% 6.5 2 1 2 2 1
Duron Harmon FS 13 43.0 6.1% 1.5 0 1 7 0 1
Lewis Toler (WMU) CB 5'11, 190 Sr. ** (5.1) 12 32.0 4.5% 2 0 3 7 0 1
Marcus Cooper CB 13 26.5 3.8% 3 0 0 3 0 0
Brandon Jones CB 13 24.0 3.4% 1 0 0 9 0 1
Wayne Warren FS 13 17.0 2.4% 2 0 0 3 0 0
Mason Robinson SS 13 10.0 1.4% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Tejay Johnson CB 6'2, 205 So. *** (5.7) 13 8.5 1.2% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Gareef Glashen CB 5'10, 180 Jr. *** (5.5) 10 5.5 0.8% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jeremy Deering SS 6'2, 200 Sr. *** (5.6) 12 4.0 0.6% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Sheldon Royster S 5'11, 185 Jr. **** (5.8)
Ian Thomas CB 6'1, 200 RSFr. *** (5.7)
Nadir Barnwell CB 5'11, 190 Fr. **** (5.8)

T.J. Taylor DB 6'3, 190 Fr. *** (5.7)
Anthony Cioffi DB 6'0, 180 Fr. *** (5.7)






8. Total renovation

And yet, the front seven is infinitely less green than the secondary, which must replace its top three cornerbacks and three of its top four safeties. Western Michigan transfer Lewis Toler will help stem the tide, as will converted running back/converted receiver (converted everything, basically) Jeremy Deering. But Rutgers will be forced to lean on freshmen to a certain degree in the secondary; they're potentially pretty damn good freshmen, but they're freshmen.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Justin Doerner 81 37.2 7 19 18 45.7%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Anthony Dipaula 39 57.7 4 10.3%
Kyle Federico 6'0, 190 So. 15 59.9 6 40.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Nick Borgese 5'11, 180 So. 17-18 3-4 75.0% 2-4 50.0%
Kyle Federico 6'0, 190 So. 13-13 4-6 66.7% 2-5 40.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Jeremy Deering KR 6'2, 200 Sr. 18 24.3 0
Mason Robinson KR 4 23.2 0
Miles Shuler KR 5'10, 175 Jr. 1 17.0 0
Mason Robinson PR 29 3.8 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 67
Net Punting 120
Net Kickoffs 97
Touchback Pct 109
Field Goal Pct 107
Kick Returns Avg 34
Punt Returns Avg 108

9. Help your defense

Thanks to decent kick returns and a great defense, Rutgers ranked a not-awful 51st in Field Position Advantage last year. Granted, Jeremy Deering is back to return kicks again, but the goal for the Rutgers offense and special teams simply has to be taking heat off of the defense and winning the field position battle. The defense simply isn't going to be able to bail the Scarlet Knights out as much.

That means the punting (helmed by Utah transfer Nick Marsh) has to improve dramatically, kickoffs have to reach the end zone, and somebody has to improve on Mason Robinson's wretched punt return averages. There's no choice here. If Rutgers is going to come anywhere close to nine wins again this year, it will have to leverage field position better than it did a year ago.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
29-Aug at Fresno State 50
7-Sep Norfolk State NR
14-Sep Eastern Michigan 117
21-Sep Arkansas 43
5-Oct at SMU 91
10-Oct at Louisville 31
26-Oct Houston 58
2-Nov Temple 64
16-Nov Cincinnati 26
21-Nov at Central Florida 55
30-Nov at Connecticut 53
7-Dec South Florida 67
Five-Year F/+ Rk 45
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 31
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* +10 / +6.8
TO Luck/Game +1.2
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 10 (7, 3)
Yds/Pt Margin** -6.6

10. High variance

Rutgers is the wild card of the AAC this year. You can talk me into believing just about anything. Ron Prince instills general offensive competence, the defense holds on for a top-30 or top-35 ranking, and the Scarlet Knights go undefeated at home, take down beatable road teams like SMU, UCF, and UConn and go about 10-2? Sure. I could see that. The offense only improves a bit, the unstable, young defense falls back to the 50s (or worse), special teams still stinks, RU loses its road games and drops home games to teams like Cincinnati and USF to finish in the 4-8 range? Absolutely feasible.

Not surprisingly, I'll split the difference. I do think the offense improves, if only because it almost has no choice. And I do think the defense will remain competent, if entirely unpredictable and unstable from week to week. Kyle Flood really has recruited well, and I think we'll begin to see that this year; but the Scarlet Knights will probably be too inexperienced to mount any sort of serious threat in the AAC. Like SMU, they're probably a year away from competing at a particularly high level, but I'll set the bar higher for them than SMU.

If four and 10 wins are both possible, we'll say 7-5 seems the most likely. But with seven games versus teams projected between 50th and 67th, the season could go in one direction or another in a hurry.

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