The big 2014 Rutgers football preview: Potential vs. production for Big Ten rookie

Rutgers was young, explosive, and all sorts of erratic in 2013. The Scarlet Knights move to the Big Ten with more experience, serious athletic potential ... and plenty of reason to doubt that potential turns into consistent production.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. What now?

Rutgers has pulled off something remarkable in recent years: the Scarlet Knights have managed to regress in six of the last seven seasons.

In a roundabout way, such an achievement is a tribute to both where they started seven years ago (it had to be pretty far up to give the team room to fall this much) and how far they bounced back in the one non-regression season (the Scarlet Knights were very good in 2011).

Still, they have regressed in six of seven years.

The 2013 season was perhaps the most frustrating year in this ongoing series of frustrations. For one thing, the Scarlet Knights didn't just regress, they regressed a lot. The offense figured out a way to add quite a few interesting, exciting pieces to the mix but still fall from 84th to 91st in Off. F/+; meanwhile, the defense cratered. After two seasons in the Def. F/+ top 20 (15th in 2011, 11th in 2012), Rutgers suffered a solid amount of attrition and fell all the way to 96th. Special teams was great, but special teams is only 10-15 percent of a given game. Rutgers was far worse than it should have been in 2013 and now joins the Big Ten looking more like a dud than a sleeping giant.

Still ... there's potential here. Recruiting isn't going quite as well for third-year coach Kyle Flood as it appeared it might a year or two ago, but despite the loss of big-play receiver Brandon Coleman, there is major upside in the skill positions, there is experience at quarterback and up the middle of the defense, and the defensive backfield actually experiences some continuity this time around. There's no excuse for Rutgers to rank below 90th in the F/+ rankings again in 2014.

Then again, there wasn't much excuse last year either. Flood faces some serious burden of proof this fall.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 6-7 | Adj. Record: 5-8 | Final F/+ Rk: 91
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
29-Aug at Fresno State 49 51-52 L 42.7 - 26.0 W
7-Sep Norfolk State N/A 38-0 W 19.4 - 6.1 W
14-Sep Eastern Michigan 124 28-10 W 20.3 - 21.5 L
21-Sep Arkansas 87 28-24 W 17.0 - 19.4 L
5-Oct at SMU 84 55-52 W 29.5 - 28.9 W 5.4
10-Oct at Louisville 12 10-24 L 24.1 - 27.9 L 1.3
26-Oct Houston 46 14-49 L 34.7 - 46.9 L -3.8
2-Nov Temple 98 23-20 W 27.9 - 26.9 W -3.3
16-Nov Cincinnati 64 17-52 L 28.1 - 38.3 L -4.9
21-Nov at Central Florida 21 17-41 L 17.2 - 26.6 L -6.9
30-Nov at Connecticut 93 17-28 L 22.6 - 39.1 L -9.4
7-Dec South Florida 99 31-6 W 34.9 - 15.1 W -3.0
28-Dec vs. Notre Dame 26 16-29 L 19.0 - 27.2 L -4.9
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ -7.1% 91 -8.5% 96 +3.3% 8
Points Per Game 26.5 77 29.8 81
Adj. Points Per Game 26.0 86 26.9 59

2. One unit, then the other

For the first month or so of the season, the Rutgers script was pretty similar. The Scarlet Knights allowed a combined 34 points to Norfolk State, EMU, and Arkansas and scored only 94 (not great considering the level of competition), riding a slow pace and solid defensive play to three wins. Sure, the season had begun with a shootout at Fresno State, but that was due as much to Fresno's pace and Rutgers' big plays as anything else. The defense broke down late in the SMU game, however, and it didn't really recover until December. And eventually the offense followed suit.

  • Adj. Points Per Game (first 5 games): Rutgers 25.8, Opponent 20.4 (plus-5.4)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (next 4 games): Opponent 35.0, Rutgers 29.1 (minus-5.9)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (last 4 games): Opponent 27.0, Rutgers 23.4 (minus-3.6)

The offense appeared to be getting somewhere in October. Despite awful efficiency and redzone numbers, the Scarlet Knights averaged at least 5.4 yards per play in six of the first eight games and at least 6.6 in three.

But uncertainty at the quarterback position, combined with injuries to running back Paul James and speedy wideout Leonte Carroo, reduced it to a pile of mismatched parts. Rutgers averaged only 4.5 yards per play over the final five games of the year and scored more than 17 points just once in that time (and just twice in the final eight games). That meant that a late-season rebound by the defense had little effect on overall results.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.23 23 IsoPPP+ 108.8 25
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 40.1% 82 Succ. Rt. + 88.4 101
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.4 40 Def. FP+ 96.4 94
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.9 98 Redzone S&P+ 87.1 105
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 23.6 ACTUAL 30 +6.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 96 91 102 86
RUSHING 101 90 100 92
PASSING 64 84 95 56
Standard Downs 109 108 71
Passing Downs 48 65 4
Q1 Rk 81 1st Down Rk 111
Q2 Rk 106 2nd Down Rk 95
Q3 Rk 82 3rd Down Rk 74
Q4 Rk 82

3. Big plays weren't a problem

IsoPPP looks at the magnitude of a team's successful plays, and as we see above, Rutgers' big plays were as big as anybody's. Paul James averaged 5.6 yards per carry, tight end Tyler Kroft averaged 13.3 yards per catch, and the top three wideouts -- Coleman, Quron Pratt, and Carroo -- all averaged at least 15.8 per catch. Rutgers had a perfectly acceptable 58 gains of at least 20 yards (65th in the country) and 25 of at least 30 (66th).

The problem was what happened when Rutgers wasn't breaking off double-digit gains. The Scarlet Knights' success rates were somewhere between underwhelming and abysmal; they constantly fell behind schedule, and while they often bailed themselves out with big plays on second- or third-and-long, they faced far too many and-longs to succeed. And when they got into the red zone, they flaked out, averaging just 3.9 points per trip inside the opponent's 40.

Coleman and Pratt are gone, but Rutgers still boasts some of the more exciting athletes in the Big Ten at skill positions. Can new offensive coordinator (and former Maryland head coach) Ralph Friedgen do a better job of turning potential into consistent production? And does he have a quarterback who can distribute the ball without crippling mistakes?

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Gary Nova 6'2, 220 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 165 303 2159 18 14 54.5% 25 7.6% 6.1
Chas Dodd 73 133 868 3 6 54.9% 10 7.0% 5.6
Mike Bimonte 6'4, 225 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)
Chris Laviano 6'3, 210 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)

4. Got a quarterback?

After a decade as head coach at his alma mater, Maryland, Friedgen resumes what was a long career as an accomplished offensive coordinator. He pulled the strings for The Citadel (three years), William & Mary (one), Murray State (one), Maryland (five), Georgia Tech (five), the San Diego Chargers (three), and Georgia Tech again (four). His first project back up in the booth: make something out of Gary Nova. Or Mike Bimonte or Chris Laviano. Whoever ends up behind center, figure out how to coax more consistency than a Rutgers quarterback has shown in years.

To be fair to Nova and Chas Dodd, Rutgers' two 2013 quarterbacks, last year's offensive system under Ron Prince was in no way quarterback-friendly. Nova and Dodd were asked to throw downfield quite a bit, frequently on passing downs. A lower-than-normal completion rate with relatively high interception and sack rates was probably inevitable. Still, a 55 percent completion rate is too low, and a 4.6 percent interception rate and 7.6 percent sack rate are too high.

Nova, Bimonte, and Laviano combined to complete just 11 of 33 passes for 133 yards in the spring game, but we'll ignore that for now in favor of offseason optimism.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Paul James RB 6'0, 210 Jr. NR 156 881 9 5.6 6.1 40.4%
Justin Goodwin RB 6'0, 180 So. 3 stars (5.5) 111 521 5 4.7 4.3 38.7%
Savon Huggins RB 6'0, 200 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 86 286 2 3.3 3.0 25.6%
Gary Nova QB 6'2, 220 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 25 71 1 2.8 2.5 28.0%
Chas Dodd QB 21 99 0 4.7 3.0 52.4%
Michael Burton FB 6'0, 235 Sr. NR 9 61 0 6.8 12.9 33.3%
Desmon Peoples RB 5'8, 175 So. 3 stars (5.5) 6 16 0 2.7 2.1 16.7%
Devan Carter RB 6'2, 230 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Jacob Kraut RB 5'11, 240 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)
Robert Martin RB 6'0, 191 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)
Joshua Hicks RB 5'10, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Brandon Coleman WR 70 35 549 50.0% 17.2% 60.7% 7.8 64 8.7 65.4
Tyler Kroft TE 6'6, 240 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 69 43 573 62.3% 17.0% 55.0% 8.3 44 8.9 68.2
Quron Pratt WR 61 32 516 52.5% 15.0% 48.1% 8.5 84 9.1 61.4
Leonte Carroo WR 6'1, 200 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 51 27 467 52.9% 12.6% 45.2% 9.2 104 10.4 55.6
Ruhann Peele WR 6'1, 185 So. 3 stars (5.7) 43 28 281 65.1% 10.6% 35.0% 6.5 -56 6.2 33.5
Michael Burton FB 6'0, 235 Sr. NR 26 19 149 73.1% 6.4% 66.7% 5.7 -67 5.9 17.7
Savon Huggins RB 6'0, 200 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 15 12 66 80.0% 3.7% 40.0% 4.4 -65 4.9 7.9
Justin Goodwin RB 6'0, 180 So. 3 stars (5.5) 14 10 86 71.4% 3.4% 57.1% 6.1 -29 6.3 10.2
Paul James RB 6'0, 210 Jr. NR 14 11 107 78.6% 3.4% 71.4% 7.6 -14 9.2 12.7
Carlton Agudosi WR 6'6, 205 So. 3 stars (5.7) 10 5 79 50.0% 2.5% 50.0% 7.9 10 9.5 9.4
John Tsimis WR 6'0, 175 So. 2 stars (5.4) 10 4 56 40.0% 2.5% 42.9% 5.6 -7 4.4 6.7
Andre Patton WR 6'4, 195 So. 3 stars (5.7) 6 3 49 50.0% 1.5% 75.0% 8.2 7 6.7 5.8
Nick Arcidiacono TE 6'5, 230 So. 3 stars (5.5) 6 5 44 83.3% 1.5% N/A 7.3 -10 0.0 5.2
Paul Carrezola TE 5 2 17 40.0% 1.2% 0.0% 3.4 -15 2.5 2.0
Janarion Grant WR 5'11, 170 So. 3 stars (5.7) 4 2 18 50.0% 1.0% N/A 4.5 -10 0.0 2.1
John Tsimis WR 6'0, 175 So. 2 stars (5.4)
Tejay Johnson WR 6'2, 205 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)
Logan Lister TE 6'5, 240 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)

5. No shortage of athletes

If the quarterback situation is in some way stable, the rest of the offense could fall in line pretty well.

Paul James has suffered a series of injuries over the last year, but when healthy he's one of the best running backs in the conference. In Tuesday's Illinois preview, I bragged about running back Josh Ferguson's combination of efficiency (39 percent opportunity rate) and explosiveness (5.9 highlight yards per opportunity). In 15 more carries, James had him beaten in both categories: 40 percent opportunity rate, 6.1 highlight yards. He's potentially outstanding, and if or when he's hurt, it appears sophomore Justin Goodwin could be a solid backup option.

There's even more upside in the receiving corps. Tyler Kroft also managed to combine decent efficiency (by this offense's standards, anyway) and big-play ability, and while Coleman and Pratt are gone, Leonte Carroo could be the real deal. He got hurt at the end of the year, and he was sometimes invisible even when he was fine, but his big games were huge: five catches for 135 yards and three scores against Fresno State, five for 80 and two scores against Arkansas, three for 54 and two against SMU, and seven for 147 and two against Temple. He has a lot to prove in terms of consistency, but he's got clear upside. And he's not the only exciting wideout: Ruhann Peele held his own as a freshman, Carlton Agudosi was a spring standout, and while sophomore Janarion Grant only caught two passes in 2013, his return skills suggest serious athleticism. There's a lot to like here, but there's a lot to improve upon in the efficiency department.

Really, it's the same story up front. Rutgers returns five players with starting experience (98 career starts), including all-conference center Betim Bujari. Plus, the sophomore class -- four-star guards Chris Muller and J.J. Denmon, tackle Ryan Brodie, center Derrick Nelson -- has massive upside. But there was upside last year as well, and Rutgers could neither open up holes for runners nor protect quarterbacks. That is, to put it lightly, a bit of an issue.

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 92 2.55 3.16 36.1% 63.4% 21.2% 76.2 8.3% 7.8%
Rank 97 115 76 96 93 92 101 116 78
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Betim Bujari C 6'4, 295 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 23 2nd All-AAC
Kaleb Johnson LG 6'4, 305 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 36
Andre Civil RT 25
Taj Alexander RT 6'4, 290 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 14
Keith Lumpkin LT 6'8, 315 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 13
Chris Muller RG 6'6, 300 So. 4 stars (5.9) 12
Dallas Hendrikson C 6
Brian Leoni LT 6'6, 280 Sr. NR 0
J.J. Denman LG 6'6, 300 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0
Ryan Brodie RT 6'5, 300 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0
Derrick Nelson C 6'3, 285 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0
Dorian Miller RG 6'3, 295 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Marcus Applefield OL 6'6, 270 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)
Jacquis Webb OL 6'5, 310 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.21 95 IsoPPP+ 96.5 84
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 41.8% 53 Succ. Rt. + 100.1 51
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 33.8 2 Off. FP+ 103.5 23
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.8 111 Redzone S&P+ 85.0 103
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 24.5 ACTUAL 18.0 -6.5
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 74 76 51 78
RUSHING 4 22 18 34
PASSING 122 99 94 101
Standard Downs 52 49 64
Passing Downs 90 84 86
Q1 Rk 71 1st Down Rk 34
Q2 Rk 75 2nd Down Rk 66
Q3 Rk 51 3rd Down Rk 95
Q4 Rk 54

6. Big plays were a problem

Despite injuries, turnover, and youth, the front seven still performed relatively well in 2013. Rutgers still ranked 22nd in Rushing S&P+ and 31st in Adj. Line Yards, and while the pass rush wasn't amazing, it was decent. The overall defensive dropoff came via the secondary more than anything else, but that was to be expected. Only one of the top seven defensive backs from 2012's awesome unit returned in 2013.

The youth was evident and devastating. Rutgers gave up 170 passes of at least 10 yards in 2013, most in the country by a huge margin. They allowed 58 20-yard passes, third-worst in the country. Opponents completed 64 percent of their passes with 31 touchdowns to eight interceptions. And even if they didn't throw touchdown passes, once they got into the red zone, they were scoring one way or another. Rutgers not only had one of the worst offenses in the country in terms of finishing drives, it had one of the worst defenses as well.

To the extent that youth was the problem last year ... well, it will be less of a problem in 2014. But this defense was so young in 2013 that it's still pretty young now.

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 109.5 2.50 3.11 31.4% 80.0% 21.2% 99.4 3.8% 6.4%
Rank 31 12 43 5 115 37 61 81 71
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Marcus Thompson DE 13 41.0 5.6% 7.5 5.5 0 0 1 0
Darius Hamilton DT 6'4, 260 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 12 34.0 4.6% 11.5 4.5 0 3 1 0
David Milewski DE 6'4, 250 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 13 24.0 3.3% 1.5 1.0 0 1 0 0
Djwany Mera DE 6'4, 260 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 22.0 3.0% 5.5 2.5 0 0 1 0
Jamil Merrell DE 11 16.5 2.2% 3.0 2.0 0 2 0 0
Isaac Holmes DT 13 15.5 2.1% 1.5 0.0 0 4 0 0
Daryl Stephenson DT 6'3, 280 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 9.0 1.2% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Kenneth Kirksey NT 6'1, 275 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 3 3.5 0.5% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Max Issaka DE 3 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Al Page DT 1 2.0 0.3% 1.5 1.5 0 0 0 0
Jamil Pollard DT 6'3, 280 So. 4 stars (5.8)
Julian Pinnix-Odrick DE 6'5, 250 So. 3 stars (5.7)
Sebastian Joseph NT 6'4, 270 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)
Kevin Wilkins DT 6'3, 295 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)
Eric Wiafe DT 6'5, 260 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)
Donald Bedell DE 6'4, 229 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Steve Longa WLB 6'1, 220 So. 3 stars (5.7) 13 87.0 11.9% 7.5 3.0 0 4 2 0
Kevin Snyder MLB 6'3, 235 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 13 71.0 9.7% 7.5 2.0 0 3 0 0
Quentin Gause SLB 6'1, 220 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 13 40.0 5.4% 8.5 1.0 0 1 0 0
Jamal Merrell LB 10 28.5 3.9% 0.0 0.0 2 3 0 0
Quanzell Lambert LB 6'1, 230 So. 4 stars (5.8) 11 15.5 2.1% 4.5 1.5 0 0 1 0
L.J. Liston MLB 6'2, 230 So. 3 stars (5.6) 12 11.5 1.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Nick DePaola LB 13 3.0 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Myles Nash SLB 6'5, 205 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
T.J. Taylor WLB 6'3, 190 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Justin Nelson LB 6'1, 235 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)
Sidney Gopre LB 6'0, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)
Brandon Russell LB 6'1, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)

7. A high sophomore ceiling

Kyle Flood's tenure could be made or broken by how much production he can find in his sophomore class's massive potential. Sophomores on offense -- the aforementioned linemen, Justin Goodwin, Ruhann Peele -- are vital to the Scarlet Knights' success, and that narrative continues on defense.

In his first year in a Rutgers uniform, Steve Longa emerged as one of the Knights' steadiest, most athletic defenders. Rush end Quanzell Lambert could provide a boost to a pass rush that is now without last year's best sacks guy, Marcus Thompson. Corners Nadir Barnwell, Anthony Cioffi, and Ian Thomas now have some experience to go with their upside. Deion Stephenson will be given a chance at both corner and free safety. And after injuries almost completely derailed the career of tackle Jamil Pollard, he'll potentially be back in the mix this fall.

All of these players have three years of eligibility remaining. They will be the heart and soul of Rutgers' 2015 and 2016 teams, but they have major roles to play in 2014 as well. There are also some exciting juniors: potential all-conference tackle Darius Hamilton, end Djwany Mera, and linebacker Quentin Gause, to name three. Rutgers' experience level in 2015 could be off the charts.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Lorenzo Waters SS 6'0, 205 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 12 49.5 6.7% 2.5 0 1 4 2 0
Jeremy Deering FS 13 30.5 4.2% 1 0 1 1 0 0
Gareef Glashen CB 5'10, 180 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 11 29.0 4.0% 4.5 2 1 3 0 0
Nadir Barnwell CB 5'11, 190 So. 4 stars (5.8) 12 28.5 3.9% 3 0 0 3 0 0
Anthony Cioffi CB 6'0, 180 So. 3 stars (5.7) 12 28.0 3.8% 4 1 0 4 2 0
Tejay Johnson FS 12 25.0 3.4% 0.5 0 0 3 0 0
Davon Jacobs SS 6'0, 190 So. 3 stars (5.6) 12 22.0 3.0% 1.5 1.5 0 2 0 0
Lew Toler CB 6 20.0 2.7% 0.5 0 0 4 1 0
Johnathan Aiken FS 5'11, 190 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 12 18.5 2.5% 1 1 0 0 0 0
Delon Stephenson FS 5'11, 190 So. 3 stars (5.5) 8 7.5 1.0% 0 0 1 1 0 0
Ian Thomas CB 6'1, 200 So. 3 stars (5.7) 6 7.0 1.0% 0 0 1 1 0 0
Kamren Lott DB 5'10, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)
Saquan Hampton DB 6'0, 181 Fr. 3 stars (5.6)
Andre Boggs DB 6'0, 170 Fr. 3 stars (5.5)

8. The secondary was as shaky as expected

Again, it was probably too much to expect Rutgers' new-look secondary to succeed to any major degree in 2013, not with three freshmen and a converted running back (Jeremy Deering) playing major roles. WMU transfer Lew Toler made little impact, so Rutgers' defense was left to sink or swim with young DBs. It sank pretty frequently.

Last year's growing pains could pay off at some point, though. Corners Barnwell, Cioffi, and Gareef Glashen combined for 11.5 tackles for loss and 11 passes defensed, showing signs of potentially successful aggressiveness down the line. Lorenzo Waters is an old hand at strong safety, Stephenson and Johnathan Aiken probably aren't going to be any less successful than Deering at free safety, and another batch of athletic freshmen could join the rotation this fall.

It's hard to say how much this secondary will improve, but it won't get worse.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Nick Marsh 65 40.6 10 19 22 63.1%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Nick Marsh 65 61.3 13 1 20.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Kyle Federico 6'0, 190 Jr. 34-35 10-13 76.9% 2-5 40.0%
Joe Behnke 0-0 1-1 100.0% 0-0 N/A
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Janarion Grant KR 5'11, 170 So. 21 24.6 1
Quron Pratt KR 16 23.8 1
Janarion Grant PR 5'11, 170 So. 17 9.2 1
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 8
Field Goal Efficiency 95
Punt Return Efficiency 2
Kick Return Efficiency 13
Punt Efficiency 59
Kickoff Efficiency 38
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 26

9. Kick away from Grant

Rutgers wasted one hell of a special teams effort in 2013. Then again, the Knights still have a fantastic return man in Janarion Grant (and will for the next three years) and could still have a pretty good kick/punt coverage unit. Place-kicking could use a little shoring up, and punter/kickoffs guy Nick Marsh is gone, but Grant is a one-man field position advantage.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
28-Aug at Washington State 68
6-Sep Howard NR
13-Sep Penn State 37
20-Sep at Navy 65
27-Sep Tulane 91
4-Oct Michigan 32
18-Oct at Ohio State 4
25-Oct at Nebraska 40
1-Nov Wisconsin 15
15-Nov Indiana 47
22-Nov at Michigan State 13
29-Nov at Maryland 51
Five-Year F/+ Rk -0.2% (56)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 50
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -12 / 0.9
TO Luck/Game -5.0
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 17 (8, 9)

10. No idea

Rutgers needed a 4-1 record in one-possession games (despite horrific turnovers luck) just to reach 6-6 in 2013. The Scarlet Knights needed an impressive comeback to beat No. 87 Arkansas at home, and they had to withstand a huge comeback to beat No. 84 SMU in overtime. They barely beat No. 98 Temple and lost by 11 to No. 93 UConn. They rarely actually looked like a bowl team last fall.

Still, they were young as hell. They were impacted by inefficiency on offense and freshman glitches on defense. They have a history, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and they've inked quite a few pretty high-profile athletes in recent years. Despite falling victim to the same affinity for self-inflicted wounds suffered by the university as a whole recently, this program isn't on terrible footing. The projections are low because Rutgers wasn't very good last year, but there's promise.

All the upside in the world doesn't matter if it doesn't turn into production, however. With four top-50 home opponents and six top-70 road opponents, the Scarlet Knights will need to bounce back by a pretty considerable amount -- perhaps to around No. 50-60 overall -- to go to their ninth bowl in 10 years. It's doable, but last year's generally sketchy play provides plenty of reason for skepticism.

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