Kickoff Primer: What to Watch

NEW ORLEANS — has the impact players, who has the most to prove, which players are in "building" mode and much more before kickoff against Tulane.

New Orleans — It will be the first trip to the Superdome, home of the New Orleans Saints, for most of the Rutgers football team. In a battle of first-time head coaches, how will Rutgers coach Kyle Flood's players perform in the first game of 2012?

With lofty expectations going into the season and the Big East championship more attainable than ever, takes a deeper look into Rutgers at Tulane.

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. OLB Khaseem Greene — Greene led Rutgers in tackles by a longshot during his junior season and was arguably the top impact defender in the region. Greene's 141 tackles and 14 TFLs during his first season as a linebacker earned him co-Defensive Player of the Year honors. Greene is 100 percent after an ugly leg injury at the end of last season and could be All-American material by the end of the year.

2. RB Jawan Jamison — The 1,000-yard mark remains untouched since Ray Rice left Rutgers in 2007, but Jamison has his sights on the mark this season. Tulane coach Curtis Johnson's biggest concern tonight is the running game behind a hulking offensive line. Despite a 91-yard run from Mohamed Sanu out of the Wildcat in 2010, Rutgers still did not eclipse 100 rushing yards against the Green Wave in the 17-14 loss.

Khaseem Greene
3. MLB Steve Beauharnais — Greene may be the biggest playmaker on the defense, bur Beauharnais is the MVP of the linebackers. Beauharnais has played in all 38 games since his enrollment with starts in all three seasons. Now a team captain and general, he is irreplaceable at middle linebacker.

4. WR Brandon Coleman — A 6-foot-6 receiver with 4.4 speed does not come along often. It took two seasons for Coleman the athlete to become Coleman the wide receiver, but he appears ready to make the leap to impact player. Coleman had more than half of his 552 yards and three touchdowns in the final two games of 2011.

5. WR Quron Pratt — Quarterback Gary Nova needs a new top target with Mohamed Sanu busy making plays for the Cincinnati Bengals. Pratt is the most sure-handed and trustworthy receiver on the roster and has a knack for moving the chains. Expected to lead Rutgers in receptions this season, Pratt is huge in moving the chains and controlling the tempo.

Who has the most to prove?
1. QB Gary Nova — Is Nova worthy of being the Rutgers starter? He showed what he had to with a solid training camp, but will need to show he can take care of the ball in a real game with opposing defensive linemen chasing him down. Nova made multiple unforgivable turnovers as a true freshman and is the fifth different quarterback in as many years to start the first game of the year for Rutgers.

2. TE D.C. Jefferson — The "new to the position" excuse does not cut it anymore for Jefferson. He excelled as a blocker during his redshirt junior year, but averages just nine catches and 130 yards per season over the last three years. Offensive coordinator Dave Brock likes to use tight ends and needs his fifth-year senior to make plays.

Gary Nova
3. DT Isaac Holmes — Holmes showed enough at nose tackle to move Scott Vallone back to the 3-tech spot on the line. Missing portions of camp with injuries, Holmes must show he can contribute to the run-stuffing defense with nothing but unproven youngsters like Al Page, Darius Hamilton and Marquise Wright behind him.

4. S Lorenzo Waters — Waters is the newcomer to what many consider to be a top-10 defensive secondary in the country. Dinged up on the sidelines for much of training camp, Waters has been full go in practice, Flood said. Without playing a lot of football this camp, will Waters be ready when the lights come on?

5. RT R.J. Dill — There is a big difference between a two-win Maryland offensive line and one aiming for a Big East title. Dill has been hot and cold in camp and gets his first chance to show he deserves the starting job when Tulane kicks off.

Looking to build
1. RG Andre Civil — 2. DE Ka'lial Glaud — Glaud impressively and consistently put pressure on Rutgers quarterbacks out of the "R" position in training camp. Rutgers has not had a dominant pass rusher at defensive end since Jamaal Westerman graduated. With a comparable skillset and football body, Glaud seeks to put up similar sack numbers as a senior. Remember, a big sack total for any defensive lineman could mean a tattoo for position coach Jim Panagos.

Andre Civil
3. DE Marcus Thompson — Thompson held onto his first-team spot all of camp and was never truly pushed. The boss has 36 career tackles but is in search of sack No. 1.

4. CB Logan Ryan — Ryan exploded onto the scene as a lockdown corner last season and emerges as the face of an impressive defensive backfield. Ryan got the best of receivers in most encounters this camp. After battles with Brandon Coleman and Mark Harrison, Ryan should be ready for whatever the Green Wave throw his way … if they try to at all.

5. LT Kaleb Johnson — Johnson will be looking to build off a season as a freshman All-American. Following the path of Anthony Davis, Johnson moved to left tackle after winning a job on the line midway through his true freshman season, Johnson is now the anchor of an offensive line that has a lot to prove.

Poised for a breakout
Jeremy Deering
WR Jeremy Deering — Look for Deering to be on the field early and often for Rutgers. A top kick returner in the conference, Deering is back at his more natural position of receiver on offense and will also play safety in multiple defensive sub-packages. Offense, defense or special teams remains to be seen, but expect Deering to leave his mark inside the Superdome.

Freshman worth watching
Tyler Kroft
TE Tyler Kroft — Start Paul Carrezola will be a game-time decision and second-team tight end D.C. Jefferson remains a questionable receiving threat. Kroft is still not big enough to be an every-down tight end, but he is going to get his first shot at the field against Tulane. The future of the tight end position at Rutgers, Kroft can make a statement when he gets his first true opportunity tonight.

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