Offense Makes Big Strides in 2003

After a tough two years to start the Greg Schiano era at Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights have bounced back in the coach's third season. Currently, the Knights stand with a record of 4 wins and 4 losses. They have already matched their combined win totals from the past two seasons and with two more wins they will be bowl eligible. They go into this weekend's game with Uconn coming off their first Big Eat win in over two years.

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Offense Makes Big Strides in 03
By Jorge DeJesus

After a tough two years to start the Greg Schiano era at Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights have bounced back in the coach’s third season. Currently, the Knights stand with a record of 4 wins and 4 losses. They have already
matched their combined win totals from the past two seasons and with two more wins they will be bowl eligible. They go into this weekend’s game with Uconn coming off their first Big Eat win in over two years. But the wins and losses aren’t the only place to look when gauging the improvement of the Scarlet Knights. The Scarlet Knight offense is the story of the year.

Rutgers has fielded an incredibly flawed offense the last two years. In 2001, Rutgers’ offense managed just 2.5 yards per carry and 5.4 yards per pass attempt. They regressed in 2002 with averages of 1.5 yards per rush and 4.7 yards per pass attempt. Even though the team took a step back from a yardage standpoint, they managed to improve marginally in points per game. They scored 13.9 points per game in 2002 compared with 10.8 points per game in 2001.

This season has been a completely different story. The Scarlet Knights are averaging 3.2 yards per carry, 7.3 yards per pass attempt and almost 30 points per game. This team has improved in all facets on the offensive side of the ball. Greg Schiano has upgraded the talent level of the program and it has started to pay dividends this season. Some of the younger players are starting to emerge and it has led to an improved offensive attack.

The improvement starts with the play at the most critical position on the field, which is the quarterback. position. The combined trio of Ryan Hart, Ryan Cubit, and Ted Trump combined for a completion percentage of 46% and 1 to 2 touchdown to interception ratio in 2002. That was a mild improvement from 2001 where Ryan Cubit and Ted Trump combined for a 45% completion percentage and a 1 to 2.3 touchdown to interception ratio. Greg Schiano’s decision to start Ryan Hart in the last five games of last year is paying huge dividends. The experience against teams like Miami and Notre Dame has helped Hart step up his game tremendously in his sophomore campaign. So far this year, Ryan Hart has completed 59% of his passes and nearly has a 1 to 1
touchdown to interception ratio.

The running game has taken a huge step forward this season. During the 2002 season, the leading rusher was Markis Facyson with 398 yards. In 2001, Dennis Thomas lead a trio that included Ravon Anderson and Marcus Jones that combined for a total 1043 yards, but none had more than 372 yards. Compare that to the performance of Penn State running back Larry Johnson last season and you see a glaring problem. He had over 2000 yards in one season and Rutgers had a combined 1770 yards from 2001 and 2002. Running the football effectively leads to a much more successful team, which is what you see this
year. In eight games, Rutgers is averaging 130 yards per game. They have almost tripled their rushing yards from last season of 54 yards per game.

True freshman Justise Hairston has been instrumental to the improvement to the offense. He leads the team with 564 yards rushing and is second with 8 touchdowns. He is also averaging over 4 yards per carry. He has been joined in the backfield by Brian Leonard. Leonard has been enjoying a tremendous
season so far. He leads the team in touchdowns with 10, 6 rushing and 4 receiving. He also leads the team with 718 all-purpose yards.

The other skill position players that have made an impact this season are Shawn Tucker and Tres Moses. Shawn Tucker already has more receiving yards (606) than any one else in the last three years. Tres Moses is second on the team in all-purpose yards with 637. The two have combined for 6 touchdowns.
They have given Ryan Hart good targets and have provided the Rutgers offense with big play ability that has been missing the last few years.

Regardless of the outcome over the last 4 games, Rutgers is developing a good core group of skill position players that will be the foundation of the future of the Rutgers offense. Greg Schiano has upgraded the talent and speed on the team. If he continues to get production from this core group, Rutgers will see continued success.

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