Scrimmage Primer: Final Dress Rehearsal

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Playing time is up for grabs and questions will be answered under the Saturday night lights in the second scrimmage for Rutgers. looks at some of the smaller storylines heading into the end of training camp.

The move of Justin Goodwin to cornerback has just as big of an impact in the running game as it does for the defensive secondary.

Goodwin is now out of the running back rotation, which locks up a spot on the two-deep for Desmon Peoples. Peoples missed the first scrimmage, and is eager to prove himself again tonight.

“I’m going to take advantage of everything,” Peoples said. “Playing and doing my best is just really important to me – period. I’m going to work as hard as I’ve been working once I get back out there.”

Peoples was a star of spring camp with Goodwin, Paul James and Savon Huggins all out with injuries.

“I feel like my game is at the best level since I’ve been here,” Peoples said. “My body feels the best it ever has. I’ve gained a lot of weight (now 180 pounds) and I’m ready. … I’ve always had a hard time gaining weight, but it came and I feel just as quick. I feel 10 times stronger. I can’t wait to use that in a scrimmage.

At cornerback, Goodwin quickly jumped onto the first team alongside sophomore Anthony Cioffi. Nadir Barnwell is out but expected back for the opener, coach Kyle Flood said, and freshman Dre Boggs remains out.

Cioffi is back after missing multiple practices in the first week. He finds himself in solid position to start the opener if he continues momentum in tonight’s scrimmage.

“As far as the secondary, we are expecting [to be questioned],” Cioffi said. “We’re not going to be that group this year. We’re going to come together. We’re going to really strap up. We’re done with all of that talking now.”

Sharing is Caring

If kickoff were to come today, both Joe Roth and Tim Gleeson would play, said coach Kyle Flood. Where Roth offers more experience in the system and a strong log, Gleeson brings variety. There is space for both.

“I would definitely say it’s getting very fun with this competition,” Roth said. “I go out there and I try to focus on myself every day. I’m trying to be as consistent as I can. If we’re out there and Tim’s hitting it well, that feels just as good. … It makes us both step up. If Tim is going out there hitting good balls, it makes me want to do the same. I’m sure it’s the same feeling for him.”

Roth worked exclusively as the first-team punter in spring, but has shared time with Gleeson since his mid-camp arrival from Australia.

“He does the Aussie kicks really good, and he can really pin you close to the end zone,” Roth said. “That could be very good for our team. Whatever what the coaches want works best.”

Returning special teams coach Bob Fraser has been a big help for both punters, Roth said.

“I definitely like having him here,” Roth said. “He’s from the NFL and he definitely knows kickers and punters and how they should be kicking the ball. He helps me out.”

Kickoff against Washington State is 12 days away, and a chance to punt at the site of the Super Bowl champs would be big for Roth, a walk-on.

“It would be awesome,” he said. “I’ve dreamed of kicking in stadiums like that. The home of the Super Bowl champions, that’s a dream of mine to play on the big stage.”

Less is More

True freshman Tariq Cole is down more than 50 pounds from the day he chose Rutgers, and has the chance to earn playing time on the two deep. Cole worked at second-team guard multiple times in camp, but he will need to shine tonight to grab a spot.

“I didn’t really expect it, but I worked hard at it,” Cole said on early playing time. “I’m comfortable playing with everybody now. The plays changed for me. I think the biggest thing for me was learning them as fast as I could. They come fast, and I need to be ready quick. It made me think faster.”

Cole said he now checks in at 335 pounds. He is a part of the backup guard mix that includes redshirt freshman Dorian Miller, sophomore J.J. Denman and sophomore Ryan Brodie.

“I have Kaleb [Johnson] and Chris Muller helping me with the guard position,” Cole said. “They’re teaching me a lot about how to play it right. It’s different [than tackle] with how much space I have. I’m making that adjustment, and I’m watching the older guys to learn it.”

Undecided Battles

The biggest battles of camp are decided for the most part. Gary Nova will start at quarterback with Chris Laviano as his backup. Peoples will be the primary backup to running back Paul James with freshmen Robert Martin and Josh Hicks in the conversation. Senior Taj Alexander holds on to his starting right tackle spot.

The other battles all come at rotation positions – wide receiver, defensive end and cornerback. The starter at free safety remains perhaps the biggest personnel question to be answered as the battle between senior Johnathan Aiken and sophomore Delon Stephenson intensifies.

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