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|
|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.
|Q1 Rk||115||1st Down Rk||104|
|Q2 Rk||104||2nd Down Rk||111|
|Q3 Rk||94||3rd Down Rk||107|
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:
"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.
Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|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|
|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|
|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)|
|Brandon Coleman||WR||6'6, 220||Jr.||**** (5.8)||93||43||718||46.2%||7.7||25.3%||55.9%||7.9||88.1|
|Quron Pratt||WR||6'0, 190||Sr.||*** (5.5)||32||22||230||68.8%||7.2||8.7%||46.9%||7.7||28.2|
|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.
|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|
|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.
|Q1 Rk||20||1st Down Rk||19|
|Q2 Rk||21||2nd Down Rk||34|
|Q3 Rk||20||3rd Down Rk||31|
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/+.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jamil Merrell||DE||6'4, 255||Sr.||*** (5.7)||13||30.0||4.3%||10.5||5.5||0||0||1||1|
|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.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jamal Merrell||SLB||6'4, 220||Sr.||*** (5.7)||13||60.0||8.6%||8.5||1||1||0||1||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)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Lorenzo Waters||SS||6'0, 205||Jr.||*** (5.6)||13||54.5||7.8%||6.5||2||1||2||2||1|
|Lewis Toler (WMU)||CB||5'11, 190||Sr.||** (5.1)||12||32.0||4.5%||2||0||3||7||0||1|
|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.
|Kyle Federico||6'0, 190||So.||15||59.9||6||40.0%|
|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%|
|Jeremy Deering||KR||6'2, 200||Sr.||18||24.3||0|
|Miles Shuler||KR||5'10, 175||Jr.||1||17.0||0|
|Special Teams F/+||67|
|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
|29-Aug||at Fresno State||50|
|21-Nov||at Central Florida||55|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||45|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||31|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||+10 / +6.8|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||10 (7, 3)|
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.