Kickoff Primer: What to Watch

Before heading to Rutgers Stadium to tailgate or kickin' up the recliner to watch Saturday's Big East matchup against Syracuse (3:30 p.m., ESPNU), make sure you know what to be looking for. has the impact players, who has the most to prove, which players are in "building" mode and much more.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – It seems like the last four weeks are filled with nothing but questions surrounding the Rutgers football program, and now Syracuse comes to Rutgers Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff and as a slight favorite.

Rutgers will be looking for its first win since Oct. 16 against Army, will be playing at home for the first time since Oct. 8, and are trying to show they are still a better program than rebuilding Syracuse, which is one win away from bowl eligibility. will be in attendance to report on the action and bring reaction from it, but also has you covered leading up to the game.

Who will make the biggest impact, who has the most to prove and who is the player to watch? Well, we've done our best to identify those things, and offer a few other fun tidbits.

Impact players
1. WR Jeremy Deering – Because of the foot injury to Mohamed Sanu, the freshman is taking a big role in the offense and doing well. Rutgers' best chance to run the ball and control the clock lies with Deering in the Wildcat.
2. SLB Manny Abreu – He is expected to play after missing two games with a knee injury, and he is needed. His physical play and ability to pursue are needed.
Antonio Lowery
3. WLB Antonio Lowery – He wasn't as active against USF as he was in previous games, and he will need to be active in shutting down Syracuse running back DDelone Carter.
4. WR Mark Harrison – Touchdown catches in four straight games to go with his size and speed and budding confidence make him a game-changer in the passing game.
5. QB Chas Dodd – If he can recognize the blitz early and deliver accurate, quick passes, receivers will have a chance to make plays against Syracuse's secondary.

Who has the most to prove?
1. RT Devon Watkis – He got his first start at South Florida and had some good moments, and some learning moments. A two-year starter (Art Forst) was replaced for Watkis to develop and shine.
2. TE D.C. Jefferson – He was coming along in the passing game, but the false starts have to go. He needs better discipline so he can help the offense, and his blocking must return to early-eason form.
Joe Martinek
3. RB Joe Martinek – The sprained ankle is hampering him quite a bit, it was evident at USF. He needs to be quicker, and sharper with his cuts.
4. WR Keith Stroud – He looked like he was turning into a productive option in the passing game, but he hasn't been seen from much the last two weeks.
5. LG Desmond Wynn – One of the reasons Forst is no longer starting is because the guards weren't playing well, and Wynn needs to prove he can stay with his assignments and execute them.

Looking to build
1. C Howard Barbieri – True, there was the bad snap at USF, but there was also the rest of the game where he did well. It was his best game of the season. 2. MLB Steve Beauharnais – He was more active in the last game, and although he missed a few tackles, he was around the ball more than other games.
Mason Robinson
3. PR Mason Robinson – He broke the big 60-yard return for a score against USF. Breaking a couple of nice returns against Syracuse would greatly assist the offense.
4. DL Justin Francis – Aside from the interception against USF, Francis was also active in the middle of the defensive line. He has earned more playing time, and should get it against Syracuse.
5. RG Caleb Ruch – He was active and quick in getting out and pulling in the last game, and also delivered a few very physical blocks. He is physically strong enough to be a force.

Poised for a breakout
Logan Ryan
CB Logan Ryan – He lost his spot in passing down packages to Marcus Cooper, but the hamstring injury to Cooper means Ryan gets to play again. He made a nice tackle against USF on a very good read, and could be asked to make plays in Rutgers' nickel and dime packages since Syracuse may be looking for him.

Freshman worth watching
Michael Larrow
DT Michael Larrow – His transition to defensive tackle is gaining steam, and he is now part of the rotation in the middle with Scott Vallone and Charlie Noonan. At 6-foot-4, he also brings a little more size than Rutgers normally has in the middle of the unit. HE should be in for a few dozen plays, so keep an eye on No. 90.

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