2004 Scarlet Knights Football Season Preview

<b>Head Coach:</b> Greg Schiano (2-19, 8-27 overall) <br><br> <b>Last Season's Record:</b> 5-7 (7th place in Big East) <br><br> <b>Last Bowl Appearance:</b> 1978 Garden State Bowl (34-18 loss to <A HREF=http://arizonastate.TheInsiders.com>Arizona State</A>) <br><br> <b>Key matchup(s):</b> Sept. 4 <A HREF=http://michiganstate.TheInsiders.com>Michigan State</A>, ABC; Oct. 9 @<A HREF=http://vanderbilt.TheInsiders.com>Vanderbilt</A>; Nov. 20 @<A HREF=http://navy.TheInsiders.com>Navy</A>, CSTV.

Star Power: Ryan Hart, QB, Jr, 6-2, 195; Brian Leonard, FB, So, 6-2, 230; John Glass, RG, Jr, 6-5, 320; Tres Moses, WR, Jr, 5-10, 190; Shawn Tucker, WR, Jr, 6-2, 180, Jarvis Johnson, FS, Sr, 5-11, 195

Notable Additions: Jeremy Ito, PK, Redlands HS, 5-11, 180, Jamaal Westerman, DE, Notre Dame HS, 6-3, 235; Dimitri Linton, RB, Northeast HS, 5-9, 190, Jeremy Zuttah, OL, JP Stevens HS, 6-4, 285.

Notable Subtractions: Raheem Orr, DE, NFL; Nate Jones, CB, NFL; Brandon Haw, CB, NFL; Marty Pyszczymuka, C, graduated; Brian Bender, SLB, graduated

Notable Returnees: DeVraun Thompson, MLB, So, 5-11, 215; William Beckford, WLB, Jr, 6-1, 220; Brian Duffy, LG, 6-5, 315; Gary Gibson, DT, 6-4, 290, David Harley, DT, 6-1, 330; Justice Hairston, TB, 6-1, 210

09/04/04Michigan State
09/11/04New Hampshire
09/18/04Kent State
10/30/04West Virginia
11/06/04@Boston College
Offensive Overview: Rutgers employs an old school west coast offense - power running with lots of short passes to the wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs - designed to control the football. New Offensive Coordinator Craig Ver Steeg turned the nation's worst offense into a credible unit. Big running backs ran hard between the tackles and the short passing game converted first downs. Rutgers was able to assemble long clock-eating drives but often failed to convert red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. Rutgers ran outside or threw deep infrequently, allowing opponents to stack the line of scrimmage inside and crowd the short passing zones. There is plenty of depth at running back, tight end, and wide receiver. With returning three players with 50+ receptions, Rutgers may have the best receiving corps in the Big East. Schiano has two big, bruising running backs with which to wear down opposing defenses, as well as smaller backs to provide a change of pace. Quarterback Ryan Hart, returning for his second full season as the starter, set school passing records last season and absolutely must stay healthy, as there are no experienced backups. The offensive line must replace two starters. While the talent, experience, and depth at center are the biggest concerns on the offensive line, overall depth is also an issue as none of the backups are proven.

Defensive Overview: The first unit to show improvement under Greg Schiano, the Scarlet Knight defense stumbled last season. Although the once-soft rush defense improved to middle of the pack performance, the formerly solid pass defense suddenly was porous. The big play was the nemesis of the defense, which yielded 20 runs and 39 passes of at least 30 yards. The defense yielded points disproportionate to the yardage allowed, indicative of the damage caused by big plays. The young defensive line began to mature last season, led by All Big East defensive end Raheem Orr. Orr is the only loss off a unit that otherwise returns two-deep. The defensive line is again expected to anchor the offense but a playmaker must emerge in Orr's absence - that could be defensive end Piana Lukabu. The linebacking corps was very young and inexperienced last year. Injuries stunted the development of the unit last season and during the spring but six of the top eight return. A relatively unproven unit could be the best in the new Big East by November. The secondary, featuring three veterans with six years combined starting experience, was the most experienced unit but became the weak link. Pass coverage was too loose, allowing easy completions for 10-15 yard gains. Press coverage resulted in too many pass interference penalties. The safeties often were beaten deep for big plays. New Defensive Backs Coach Chris Demarest must improve the performance of the secondary while replacing his two starting cornerbacks.

Special Teams Overview: Special teams were a disaster last year, costing Rutgers three games. Placekicking was a crapshoot beyond 30 yards. The punting was wildly inconsistent. A lingering inability to field punts repeatedly cost the team field position or outright possession. The low point of the season occurred when the punt coverage team watched West Virginia line up in a spread offense with the quarterback under center and then allowed an uncontested 83-yard touchdown pass at the end of the first half. The kicking game remains a big question mark entering the season. A team that relies upon a ball control offense must have a strong kicking game. And Greg Schiano must find a reliable punt returner.

The Scarlet Knights will win seven games this season if... they can commit fewer turnovers and yield fewer big plays defensively. This is a young team that needs to learn how to win - finishing opponents on the ropes and beating good teams on the road. The schedule has a steep learning curve. The team could easily win five games or nine games within a very narrow range of performance.

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