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 coachs 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 weekends game with Uconn coming off their first Big Eat win in over two years. But the wins and losses arent 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 Schianos 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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