With bowl practices ready to kick off this weekend, ScarletReport.com takes a look at five aspects that should be a focus through December.
5. Adding Wrinkles — Whether it is a fake field goal touchdown for Rob Cervini or moving Desmond Wynn to left tackle, Rutgers always has a wildcard moment ready for bowl season. Bowl season is the perfect time to get creative with a trick play or personnel change to turn the tables.
4. On-Field Communication Assignment confusion in the defensive secondary, a mis-read in the two-minute drill and an illegal lineman down field were killers to Rutgers in the regular-season finale.
3. Kick Start the Run Game — Rutgers is a run first offense that is at its best when it wears down opponents and wins the field position battle. Punting is unlikely to improve or change significantly in bowl practices, which puts more pressure on the offense to work on sustaining drives.
Sophomores Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins both found success this season, but proved inconsistent. Both are expected to be healthy for the Russell Athletic Bowl and offensive coordinator Dave Brock will need to find a way to run the ball more successfully. In nine wins, Rutgers averaged 145.7 rushing yards. In three losses, the number drops to 66.7.
2. Player Development — Rutgers redshirted all but three true freshmen this year. With the exceptions of Darius Hamilton, Leonte Carroo and Kyle Federico, freshmen have been focused on helping out on scout team since the end of August and have had little time to focus on personal development.
The majority of bowl practices will be used to teach younger players their roles within the system and give them a chance to work with the first- and second-team players on the depth chart. With 14 practices scheduled before kickoff, expect at least half to be devoted to developing depth and preparing for the spring.
1. Fundamentals and Discipline — It may sound like an oversimplification or unimportant, but a more fundamentally sound performance against Louisville sends Rutgers to the Sugar Bowl. Whether it is catching the easy passes, avoiding bonehead penalties or proper execution in the two-minute offense, Rutgers needs to use the next three weeks to get it right.
Often times, fundamentals are taken for granted midseason with so much preparation going into the opponent's style. Rutgers devotes a portion of practice to fundamentals, but can now devote two full weeks to development and mastering technique. Get it right and Rutgers beats Virginia Tech.