Kickoff Primer: Rutgers Spring Game

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Before Rutgers springs forward into the Big Ten, Saturday's Scarlet-White game gives the fans a preview of what will be a historic season on the Banks. The spring scrimmage is in no way a traditional game, so ScarletReport.com offers its thoughts on how to watch the game and what can be taken out of a day for the fans.

The 2014 Rutgers spring game is a chance for fans and recruits to interact with the Scarlet Knights and get a taste of Big Ten football.

It is not a traditional game, and is unlikely to be a scrimmage where ones exclusively face the ones. Instead of looking at the stats from the game, ScarletReport.com suggests a different way to learn from watching practice.

What to Watch

Watch the stretching lines. Rutgers lines up its offensive and defensive players based on the depth chart. Which players are in different spots than the start of spring? Which players are not out there at all based on injuries?

Watch the defensive line rotation. Rutgers has four established starters, but needs as many as eight bodies ready to go for the season. How early does red-shirt freshman Kemoko Turay see the field? How much time does Julian Pinnix-Odrick get in his first spring game?

Watch Kyle Flood. Flood said he would take on a different role this spring with Big Ten officials coming for the game. Keep an eye on his interactions, as well as coordinators Ralph Friedgen and Joe Rossi.

Watch the quarterbacks. Who is to blame when turnovers are committed? How much work to Mike Bimonte and Chris Laviano get with the ones? If you can't tell, center Betim Bujari will be doing most of the snapping for the first-team. What does Friedgen ask for when the pocket breaks down?

Watch Kemoko Turay. Turay is far from polished, but he sure is entertaining to watch when he gets the opportunity. When No. 58 lines up in a passing situation, something interesting is bound to happen.

Stock Up

Jobs are not won in spring, but every player has the chance to put himself in position to win time in camp.

RT Bryan Leoni – This fifth-year senior walk-on has a chance to "Wally Pipp" Taj Alexander with the way he played this spring. Leoni played almost the whole camp as a first-time tackle with Alexander battling injuries. At this point, he is an established depth guy with a chance to start.

RG J.J. Denman – Denman has been hungry for a shot with the first-time for some time, and jumped on the chance two weeks ago. He went from unknown commodity to the seventh or eighth lineman in the rotation.

RB Desmon Peoples – 2013's most improved offensive player could very well do it again this spring. The first three backs have been out for most of spring, and Peoples showed he is a more complete package at the position. He continues to make shifty runs, but the most notable improvements are in his pass protection and ball security.

DE Julian Pinnix-Odrick – Everything is a go after returning from knee surgery. Pinnix-Odrick was a force in the first two scrimmages, and will push for a starting job this summer.

DB Delon Stephenson – Stephenson showed in the spring that he deserves to be a starter. The question is, at what position? Rutgers has needs at both free safety and cornerback. Stephenson is a better fit at safety right now, but might be needed to bolster depth on the island.

The Brian Leonard Treatment

The phrase stems from how star fullback Brian Leonard was used in his final spring at Rutgers. Many upperclassmen receive limited action in practice even if fully healthy. That means Flood and staff have confidence in the player based on past production.

So if a guy like Kevin Snyder or David Milewski does not see a ton of time, that is not a reason for worry.

Notable Absences

Injuries and limitations are completely normal for spring football. Flood said he expects a fully healthy roster by mid-summer despite an extensive injury report.

Some recognizable names not set to play in the spring game are Savon Huggins, Paul James, Justin Goodwin, Tyler Kroft, Chris Muller, Taj Alexander, Leonte Carroo, Ruhann Peele and Quentin Gause.

Foreshadowing

Today's game is not only a glimpse of 2014, but the 2015 season as well. Flood said he will give Phillip Nelson a chance to play even though he is inedible for the season. Even with a limited spring workload, Nelson emerged as a favorite to push Laviano and Bimonte hard for the starting job in 2015.

"Watching some of the opportunities [Nelson] had in the individual [drills], I love his attitude," Flood said. "It's not an easy situation for him, somebody who has been playing in games for two years and now he is not eligible. We have to obviously use the reps to settle our quarterback situation. When he gets an opportunity, he jumps right in there and throws the ball well. I am excited for his future after this year."


Scarlet Report Top Stories