Knight Notebook: Busy Monday

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – The transition to Eastern Michigan game week is underway for Rutgers with coach Kyle Flood set to retire Eric LeGrand's number at halftime. Looking to get healthy and build momentum before Arkansas, the Scarlet Knights have their eyes on more defensive improvement after a Norfolk State shutout.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Steve Longa spent hours upon hours studying the film from his first career Rutgers game and walked away with specific areas for improvement. Spending in-depth time with his second-career start, he saw improvement across the board starting with his comfort level.

"I feel like as a program we took a significant step in the right direction," Longa said. "I went back last night and watched a ton of film. We just executed a lot better. We tackled better. I was very excited with the improvements we were making."

Longa left the game after a hard hit on special teams, but is not listed on the injury report and told he feels fine.

True freshman L.J. Liston made his debut after the injury and finished what Longa started with five tackles.

"He's definitely going to help us out this year," Longa said. "L.J. is a unique player. He's definitely going to help us out a lot on defense and special teams."

Rutgers safety Lorenzo Waters said the plan against Norfolk State was to get back to fundamentals, and that was accomplished.

"We had a simple game plan," he said. "It was not very flashy, but was right to the point. It was a confidence builder and just getting our feet under us in running some of the foundational plays of the defense."

Waters, who is known as a hitter, said he spoke with the secondary about being more physical before the game and he thought they did that. However, Norfolk State didn't challenge Rutgers down the field, but that could change this week.

"We expect (Eastern Michigan) to come at us a little bit," Waters said. "We'll be ready. We're going to have it all down."

Step Back in the Passing Game

Likewise on offense, Scarlet Knights quarterback Gary Nova admitted the game plan was purposefully vanilla against Norfolk State, but he still didn't like the execution that led to him going 12 of 21 against Norfolk State, and it came in a variety of ways.

"I don't think we did that well of a job of that Saturday, but we have to have a great week of practice and come out (against Eastern Michigan) and execute," Nova said. "In the passing game, some of the routes weren't precise. Some of the balls I threw were not well thrown. Going 12 for 21, I thought we could have been a lot better."

Improving Assignments

Rutgers right guard Kaleb Johnson said the missed assignments were much fewer against Norfolk State than Fresno State, but his focus is on finishing blocks.

"I set high expectations for myself, and if I'm not pancaking a guy every play, I don't think I've done well," he said. "The first game I had five or six, but this past game I had only two or three."

Johnson said Norfolk State's nose guard was very good, and active.

As for technique, Johnson said he is still adjusting to left guard after playing tackle the last two years.

"I'm still working on my first step, my second step, my hand placement every day," he said. "It's little things like that. Once I get those things down, there is no one that can compete with me at this level."

Mr. Versatility

Tejay Johnson played free and strong safety against Norfolk, and he actually likes being at the strong spot better.

"It's the same mentality, but at strong safety you're just closer to the ball," he said. "Actually, at free safety, it's a little harder when you have to make a tackle because there's more free space with all the green around you.

"At strong safety, you're filling the hole. The (offensive) tackle blocks down, you're outside, you're the force player. The tackle blocks out, I'm filling that hole and plugging it. I did that in high school."

Kirksey Reinstated

Defensive tackle Kenneth Kirksey was reinstated after a week-long suspension for a violation of team rules. Kirksey will pick up where he left off as a backup defensive lineman.

"As of last night, Kenny is back, fully reinstated back into the program," Flood said. "He'll be our second team nose guard this week and we expect him to play a lot."

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