Thursday Notes: Readying For The 'Cuse

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers will play in front of their home fans for the first time in four weeks, and the first time since defensive tackle Eric LeGrand was paralyzed, and coach Greg Schiano knows about the emotion of the game. Schiano discusses that, talks about a few red-shirt freshmen ready to contribute, the possibility of Betim Bujari getting a red-shirt this year and much more.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- For the first time since junior defensive tackle Eric LeGrand was paralyzed making a tackle on the field, Rutgers will play a home game when Syracuse visits Saturday.

There will be a banner, signed by thousands on the campus, hung in one end zone and the band will form the No. 52 during its performance.

The emotion is expected to be strong, which is why Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano spoke to his team about handling it. Although the game will make the four-week anniversary of the injury, and although the players have lived every day of it since then, the fans have not gathered en masse yet.

"I've talked to them about it," Schiano said. "For our fans, this is the first time they've had a chance to be together since that happened.

"I told them to just remember what we've learned through these four weeks, and not go back through that. It's different for people who aren't around it every day."

Replacing LeGrand

Not only is LeGrand's presence missed in the locker room, in practice and on campus, but also in the middle of Rutgers' defensive line.

LeGrand was part of a three-man rotation at defensive tackle with Scott Vallone and Charlie Noonan, and was playing more than Noonan.

Schiano said this week red-shirt freshman Michael Larrow, who played sparing at South Forida, will see significant time, and added red-shirt freshman Isaac Holmes is close to gaining playing time as well.

"(Larrow) is going to play more," Schiano said. "It'll be part of rotation to make sure we get Scott rest and get Charlie a little rest. It's a three-man rotation. The guy who's come on is Ike.

"Ike had a little better week than he's had since he started out. He's not ready for the prime time yet, but he's showing signs that maybe in a week or two …look, if he can come in and give us 15 plays, that's huge."

Tackling the misses

Rutgers' defense struggled tackling the last two games, and Schiano said work has been done to remedy it.

"You always have missed tackles," he said. "An acceptable number is six tackles. We've been over six the last two (games). There was one game where we had one missed tackle against good competition. I just think we have to clean up a few things.

"If you're not in your gap, then you're going to be further away from the tackle. It's not always the tackle itself, it's what you do beforehand to be in position to make a good tackle."

Bujari's red-shirt

True freshman Betim Bujari played at guard in the opener against Norfolk State, but has not seen the field since. Apparently, there is good reason.

Bujari has been injured, and it is possible he will get a medical red-shirt and still have four years of eligibility remaining.

"I don't want to get too much into his injury situation, but there's a possibility," Schiano said.

Picking up the blitz

Last season Syracuse's complex and well-disguised blitz package wreaked havoc on the Scarlet Knights' offensive line as it yielded nine sacks in a 31-13 loss, and Rutgers is preparing for plenty of pressure Saturday.

"It's very hard to mimic their blitzes because of the guys doing their blitzes," Schiano said. "They're a senior-laden defense with guys that are very good at doing it. It's the guy who blitzes that make the blitzes. If we had that guy (on scout team), he'd be starting on our regular defense.

"We tried to show them what it's going to be like, but the speed of it and the strength of it are different. We're going to try and do our best, and try to get rid of the football before they get home and try to run the ball against the blitz."

Rating the freshmen

The 2010 recruiting class was one of the most talented under Schiano, and he likes the way they are playing and practicing.

"I'm not going to single them out, but there's some really good freshmen that are red-shirting," he said. "It's a very talented group. Some of the played, and had we been able to predict some of the injury deals, we may have played a few more."

Healing the injured

Receiver Tim Wright, linebackers Edmond Laryea, Jim Dumont and David Milewski and long snapper Robert Horrell each suffered season-ending knee surgeries either in training camp or early in the season, and Schiano was asked about their rehab.

"Everybody is doing ok," he said. "They're rehabbing. Our training staff has a huge burden on them to rehab all these guys with their ACLs, their MCLs. They're big rehab jobs. They're not ice and stim. I can see their tired. They're working hard."


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