The college football version of conclave begins for Rutgers this week when the Scarlet Knights go to work in training camp. Rutgers locks itself away from distractions, and works daily to get ready for the season. Thirty-three days from kickoff, ScarletReport.com looks at 10 goals for Rutgers to accomplish in camp.
10. Get Angry -- Rutgers and coach Kyle Flood are huge underdogs in the national spectrum. Use it for motivation to prove everyone wrong. It’s about getting the people inside the Hale Center to believe, not the casual fan or pundit.
9. Freshman Orientation -- True freshmen were huge for Flood in his first recruiting class. Guys like Janarion Grant and Nadir Barnwell made instant impacts. For that to happen again with guys like Josh Hicks and Dre Boggs, they need to acclimated to the grind as soon as possible.
8. Don’t Look Ahead -- It is fine, and fun, for fans to look ahead to kickoff at Washington State or the Penn State game. For the players and coaches, looking ahead takes away the focus on improving every day in camp.
7. Advance Scouting -- Rutgers has zero repeat opponents from last season. The coaching staff moved up its film study and game prep into the summer to prepare for a new conference. The Scarlet Knights have many first-time opponents, and Howard, Tulane, Navy and Maryland are the only teams on the schedule that Flood faced during his Rutgers tenure.
6. Build Trench Depth -- Specifically at nose tackle, offensive tackle and guard, Rutgers needs more Big Ten bodies with playing experience. That went better than expected in spring with guys like Bryan Leoni and J.J. Denman stepping up. Rutgers needs three or four more guys to take that next step in camp to be truly ready to battle inside.
5. Ultra-conditioning -- Rutgers works its tail off in the summer, and needs a roster in superb physical shape. If the triple overtimes and marathon games of 2013 were not taxing enough, Rutgers faces its toughest schedule in school history.
4. Find the Right Secondary -- Senior Lorenzo Waters, who will be in Chicago as a part of this week’s Big Ten media day, is the only lock to start. What will new defensive coordinator Joe Rossi and Flood do with the other three spots? Unlike 2013, Rutgers has experience at free safety and both corner spots. Playing time goes to whomever plays best over the next three weeks.
3. Quarterback Consistency -- Offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen has now seen six months of quarterback Gary Nova, and it is time to bring him to the next level. When Nova is good, he is NFL good. When he is off, things quickly spiral out of control. The bottom line is that Rutgers has its most experienced starter since Mike Teel, and he needs to be ready to go. Career start No. 29 likely comes against Washington State for Nova, who approaches his last ride as a Scarlet Knight.
2. Stay Healthy -- Injuries are unavoidable and a part of college football. Rutgers, however, has been unlucky over the last 12 months when it comes to impact players like James, Carroo and Nova. It takes luck, and the savvy to hold back at the right times, but Rutgers cannot afford to head into Washington State without as many healthy bodies as possible.
1. Develop Natural Leadership -- Locker room leadership was not what it needed to be last season, and it resulted in a disappointing 6-7 exit from the American. Younger players saw last year’s leadership issues first-hand, and should be eager to step into more vocal roles within the program. Nova is the lone returning captain, but will have to re-earn that honor in camp. Captains come out of a team vote, and are traditionally announced midway through training camp.