Training camp is about getting better and getting ready. Rutgers needs to do both to accomplish its 2014 goals in the Big Ten. Now just two weeks away from the day players report for camp, ScarletReport.com sets five goals for the Scarlet Knights in August.
5. How much depth is developed on the offensive line? -- The first five or six guys on the offensive line are clear cut coming out of spring camp, but what comes after that? Rutgers coach Kyle Flood speaks often about the need to build more depth on the offensive line. He spoke of improvements out of spring, but also said there was a long way to go. Bryan Leoni established himself as a solid contributor and potential starter. Behind Leoni, sophomore guard J.J. Denman, center Derrick Nelson and red-shirt freshman guard Dorian Miller are all close to earning playing roles in 2014. This training camp is critical for tackle Ryan Brodie, who has his first true chance to earn a spot on the two-deep after two developmental years.
4. From where does leadership emerge? -- Leadership, specifically senior leadership, was an issue in 2013. By all accounts this spring, leadership is improved. The best leaders, and team captains, emerge during training camp. Rutgers needs for leadership to naturally emerge to improve upon last year’s rough finish to the season. Leaders do not have to be seniors, and Rutgers has many underclassmen capable of stepping up including Darius Hamilton and Leonte Carroo.
3. How does the quarterback situation play out? -- Gary Nova is the starter, but there is a lot more to it than that. The question of Nova’s consistency will not be answered in training camp. However good or bad things go in August, the trajectory of Nova’s senior season will play itself out under the guise of offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen. Rutgers has its biggest question mark at backup quarterback in a long time. Nova is the only quarterback on the roster with in-game experience. Junior Mike Bimonte and red-shirt freshman Chris Laviano are the leading contenders for the backup position, and it would behoove Flood to get both some sort of in-game action against Howard in the home opener. Laviano has not had a live snap in 18 months, and Bimonte has not seen game action since 2010 at Manalapan High.
2. Can the Scarlet Knights get healthy? Can they stay that way? -- Injuries piled up by the end of spring camp to the point of concern going into training camp. Paul James, Justin Goodwin, Savon Huggins, Quentin Gause, Ruhann Peele, Chris Muller, Tyler Kroft – all missed significant portions of spring. Rutgers needs its playmakers and as much depth as possible going into the Big Ten. Give the aforementioned guys time to recover, and hope to get through training camp lucky when it comes to injuries.
1. Is one offseason enough time to fix the defensive secondary? -- Rutgers will be improved in the defensive secondary – but that is not exactly a bold statement after giving up 312 passing yards and 29.8 points per game last season.
Flood and defensive coordinator Joe Rossi scoured the state of Rutgers for the best bodies available. Look for plenty of freshman additions to get chances for immediate playing time. Kam Lott did himself a favor by playing well in early enrollment. Dre Boggs did as well by showing up early for summer workouts. Rutgers will have to find the best spot for sophomore Delon Stephenson to contributed – safety or cornerback. Rutgers also has to develop a pecking order at cornerback. Senior Gareef Glashen wins in terms of experience, but Nadir Barnwell and Anthony Cioffi also bring starting experience to the position. Losing Ian Thomas, a first-team corner in spring, makes both starting jobs completely up for grabs in camp.