Analysis: Making Sense of the Moves

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano announced Tuesday 16 players would be working at different positions in spring practice than where they played in 2010. It was a lot to digest, but there are plenty of reasons why it was done. ScarletReport.com looks deep into the situation, and what the moves represent on a broader scale as well as an individual level.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano announced 16 position changes during Tuesday's press conference previewing the start of spring practice, and it created quite a buzz.

But what do the moves mean?

Simple.

It is Rutgers' way of getting back to the type of football that made it successful from 2005-09, when the Scarlet Knights posted a 43-21 record, went to five straight bowl games and won four them.

The moves on offense are designed to make the Scarlet Knights a power running team that will use the success of running the ball to set up play-action for quarterback Chas Dodd to throw the ball down the field.

The defensive moves were geared toward making Rutgers a faster defense to pursue the football better while also contending with the growing number of spread offenses in the Big East.

(The moves also suggest Schiano got away from his core philosophy the last two seasons.)

Beginning with the offense, the biggest switch was moving the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Jeremy Deering from receiver to running back. It was made for a number of reasons, including Deering's effectiveness as a ball carrier out of the "Wildcat" last season in which he showed good vision, leg drive and the ability to sneak through small creases despite his size.

Durability wasn't an issue as he carried 77 times for 352 yards, and his size will make him a tough, short-yardage runner who has the size to pick up blitzes. His background as a receiver should also help in the passing game, particularly with dump-offs and screens.

But Deering's move also speaks about Schiano's belief in the receiving corps. Mohamed Sanu, Mark Harrison, Tim Wright, Brandon Coleman, Keith Stroud, JT Tartacoff, Quron Pratt and incoming freshmen Miles Shuler and Tejay Johnson (should he become eligible).

The shifting of running backs Joe Martinek to fullback and Jordan Thomas to cornerback throws open the door for incoming freshman Savon Huggins to be the every-down back from the beginning of the season.

Huggins is most comfortable running behind a fullback, and Martinek gives Rutgers a physical and versatile lead blocker who can also factor into the running and passing games.

Marcus Thompson will have to grow into the fullback position, but he can be a battering ram in front of the running back, provided he can learn the position and he embraces it.

But the biggest changes were made on the defensive side, where Rutgers has the chance to get bigger in the secondary and faster in every unit.

The most significant moves came to the linebacker corps, where the need for speed was accentuated the second half of the 2010 season.

Manny Abreu, who is 6-3, 245 pounds, moves from strongside linebacker to defensive end. He needs to add 15 pounds or so from his playing weight of last season, but he is strong and has a quick first step. Given Rutgers' pass rush from the edges was non-existent last season, finding a player who can get around the edge and get to the quarterback is paramount.

The Abreu move coincides with Steve Beauharnais moving from middle to strongside linebacker, and is the best example of the return to the philosophy of desiring speed as opposed to physical play and size. Beauharnais never looked comfortable in the middle as a sophomore, but as a freshman he excelled in using his speed to blitz, to pursue and also in covering the tight end, an area where Abreu often looked a step slow.

Khaseem Greene's move from being a borderline oversized safety to a smaller, quicker weakside linebacker accentuates his greatest attribute, which is his athleticism. But he also has the speed to cover and make open-field tackles against spread teams. It was a position employed by Antonio Lowery last season, and keep in mind Lowery ran 4.96 and 5.0 in the 40-yard dash at Rutgers' pro day last week.

David Rowe's speed was always questioned as a cornerback. He said he had 4.6 speed and added technique was a big factor in his success. But when he strayed, he didn't possess make-up speed to get back in the play. At safety, he won't be called upon as often to cover at the line of scrimmage, and his high football I.Q. and his leadership is something he could excel with at safety.

Speed in the secondary was a concern last season, and was the impetus behind Thomas moving from running back to cornerback, and Jawaun Wynn transitioning from receiver to safety. Both possess size and 4.4 speed. Wynn is 6-3 while Thomas is 6-1.

The plan is to give Thomas a shot at cornerback, and if he struggles there, switch him to safety. Either way, Wynn and Thomas upgrade the speed in the secondary, which already has a nice compliment of talent in corners Gareef Glashen, Marcus Cooper and Logan Ryan, and safeties Lorenzo Waters, Duron Harmon, Wayne Warren, Rashad Knight and Darrell Givens.

The other announced moves were done for depth, or out of necessity in hopes of finding a role for a player.

Schiano said Aaron Hayward contemplated a transfer, but decided to try running back after two seasons at receiver. If it works, he could be the "scat back" the Scarlet Knights need.

Junior Solice moved from defensive line to tight end to give Rutgers depth. The thought is he can be a blocking tight end, which is needed after the graduations of Fabian Ruiz and Evan Lampert.

Mason Robinson's main role will be as a punt returner, but he changed positions after not being able to crack the receiver rotation last year. But he also brings a calming influence and maturity to the cornerback role because of his approach.

Finally, Michigan transfer Anthony LaLota made a move, but it wasn't the anticipated jump from defensive end to offensive line. Instead, the 6-4, 270-pound LaLota moves to defensive tackle to provide depth.

After a 4-8 season and missing a bowl game for the first time since 2004, Schiano promised he was going to look at everything in the program.

When he was done, Rutgers brought in a new offensive coordinator in Frank Cignetti, returned to its comfort level with a power running game and a speed-based defense, which Schiano will have a large hand in running, and altered the make-up of nearly every unit on the team.

In the process, nearly 25 percent of the returning scholarship players changed positions.


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