New Kids on the Block

FRESNO, Calif. – Signs from young players was one of the greatest causes for excitement Thursday night for head coach Kyle Flood. In the 52-51 loss to Fresno State, first-time impact performances from nine players stood out.

FRESNO, Calif. – Rutgers came up short in overtime, but head coach Kyle Flood's first two recruiting classes showed impact performances from many new faces.

At Bulldog Stadium for the 4:26 marathon game, looks at 2012 and 2013 recruits that made first-time impact performances.

Leonte Carroo – Technically not a new face after a strong special teams role last year, Carroo looked like a superstar in his wide receiver debut. Three of his first four career tackles went for touchdowns, including the 30-yarder to take the lead late in the fourth. Carroo saved a touchdown on the following kickoff and finished with 124 of Gary Nova's 348 yards. Carroo showed what can happen when Brandon Coleman steals the defense's attention and made Fresno State pay.

Paul James – James is not the first walk-on from Glassboro guy to do big things for Rutgers – think Gary Brackett and George Johnson – but he made himself a known name to the national television audience. James found holes that Savon Huggins could not hit earlier in the game. James carried Rutgers back into contention with a powerful second half, but showed flaws in his game twice when getting tackled from behind on should-be scores. The sophomore finished with 8.3 yards per carry and seven times as many yards as he recorded last season – 182 total. James was a Greg Schiano recruit, but spent all of his two-deep development under Flood.

Ian Thomas – The converted wide receiver made his mark early with a redzone interception of Derek Carr. Thomas was inconsistent in coverage in a secondary with multiple holes. Thomas logged one tackle and his first career interception in his debut, showing more consistency than other cornerback options.

Ruhann Peele – The pride of Linden had to watch every game on the sidelines as a member of the travel squad, but has not seen the field at his natural wide receiver position since his junior year of high school. Peele was evasive in the slot, displayed toughness and caught four passes for 31 yards. Huge days from Carroo and Coleman overshadowed Peele, but his ability to move record key first downs did not go unnoticed.

Steve Longa – Longa manned the middle, and recorded a game-high nine tackles and eight solo. Rutgers made adjustments against the halfback draw that put the redshirt freshman in position to make plays in front of him. Longa could have been more active in pressuring Derek Carr up the middle, but passed his first test as starting MIKE.

Chris Muller – Ready to go when Andre Civil left for the game injured, Muller showed instant signs of what made him a high school All-American. Muller's mobility opened multiple holes for James in the run game. Fresno State recorded just one sack on the Rutgers offensive line, but Muller committed a costly holding penalty and, as coach Kyle Flood said, looked like a freshman. Muller will play a lot of football for Rutgers this season, and it could start against Norfolk State with Civil's health in doubt.

Davon Jacobs – The position move for Jacobs stuck through training camp and he will be a key part of the linebacker rotation this season and beyond. Jacobs brings cover skills to linebacker and made two tackles in his Rutgers debut.

Janarion Grant – For a first career play, it doesn't get any better than Grant's 100-yard kick return for a touchdown. Grant flashed his electricity early but started to look like a freshman as the game went on. Fresno State made adjustments in kickoff to avoid Grant the rest of the way. Grant muffed two punts, including one that helped Fresno State take the lead at halftime. Flood stuck with Grant through the game and it will be interested to see how quickly he can get involved in the offense.

Nadir Barnwell – Barnwell saw time as the fourth cornerback. He made one of the best tackles of the game in open field for the Rutgers defense, but got beat on the next play for a first down. Barnwell is less than a year off of shoulder surgery will continue to see more playing time this season in the defensive backfield. Barnwell finished with three tackles, that were credited to tight end Tyler Bellia by the stadium stat crew.

Note: --- Rutgers dressed 11 true freshmen for the game – Janarion Grant, Chris Laviano, Nadir Barnwell, Delon Stephenson, L.J. Liston, Anthony Cioffi, Justin Goodwin, Nick Arcidiacono, Sebastian Joseph, Kemoko Turay and Andre Patton.

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