Rutgers Summer Camp Preview -- Part 2

Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano has built quality depth across most of the lineup. With the exception of three players, the entire roster consists of Schiano recruits. The depth chart – once a struggle merely to fill two deep, much less fill with legitimate Big East players – now bristles three or four deep at some positions. As a result, the competition for roster spots is more intense than it ever has been. This article will review the most significant competition on the depth chart.

SUMMER CAMP PREVIEW – DEPTH CHART


Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano opened his fourth summer on the Banks.  With the exception of three players, the entire roster consists of Schiano recruits.  Strength & Conditioning Coach Jay Butler's program has been in place for nearly four years.  The 2004 Scarlet Knights are the biggest, strongest, fastest, most athletic collection ever to call Piscataway home.   Schiano has built quality depth across most of the lineup.  This article is the second of a three-part preview of the Rutgers football team as it enters summer camp.  The first article reviewed new faces on the roster.  The second article will review the most significant competition on the depth chart. 
 
The depth chart – once a struggle merely to fill two deep, much less fill with legitimate Big East players – now bristles three or four deep at some positions.  As a result, the competition for roster spots is more intense than it ever has been.  Talent alone is no longer a guarantee of playing time.  Cruising will get a player dropped on the depth chart and will create opportunities for a hungry backup.  The following positions on the depth chart, in order of descending importance, will likely see the most competition this summer:

  • Starting Center – All eyes will be on the center position, which has been in turmoil since the departure of two-year starter Marty P'zmuka.  RS So William Vogt, the incumbent backup, appeared to be the heir apparent after a two-year understudy behind P'zmuka.  Schiano reinstated former DT Davon Clark last spring and moved him to backup center.  Schiano also moved former backup OT RS Jr Mark Segaloff to backup center before spring camp.  Clark displaced Vogt as the starter halfway through camp before Vogt suffered a shoulder injury during the second scrimmage that knocked him out of camp.  After Vogt's injury, Schiano switched former backup DT RS So Joe Henley to backup center to provide additional depth.  The concern surrounding Vogt's rapid demotion behind a player who had not practiced in over a year-and-a-half was further compounded when Schiano permanently dismissed Clark after spring camp.  Schiano subsequently switched former starting TE RS Sr Ray Pilch to center, presumably to bolster the depth at center. 

Schiano has taken a succession of gambles at center and none have paid off – Vogt was lightly recruited, Clark had character issues, Segaloff is a writeoff, and so is Henley.  Now Pilch, with a few months to gain at least 20 pounds of useful mass (i.e., not simply fat) and learn a new position, is the latest gamble.  On the surface, the moves of Clark and Pilch appeared simply address the depth issue at center (i.e., the backup).  However, the search for a backup may be premature.  The more pressing need may be for a starter.  Vogt appeared in only five games last season.  One was as a temporary substitute for an injured P'zmuka.  Another was as a substitute starter for P'zmuka the next week against Army, when Vogt played the whole game.  Vogt was unimpressive against Army – often being neutralized/pushed back at the LOS or allowing his assignment to disengage from Vogt's block and make a tackle at the LOS.  Who will start at center and how will he perform?  Can Pilch be at least as serviceable at center as was converted JUCO TE Bryan Boehrer three years ago? 

  • Starting/Backup CBs – Departed CBs Brandon Haw and Nate Jones had a combined five years of starting experience.  Sr CB Eddie Grimes saw his first substantial action last season as the nickel CB and a dime S/OLB.  Grimes struggled last season with both his coverage and tackling but finished the season with a strong November.  So CB Derrick Roberson was pressed into service as a CB in the dime package.  Unfortunately, he was a favorite target of opposing QBs all season, getting burned regularly.  Grimes and Roberson will be expected to fill the void left by Haw and Jones.  Grimes is a certain starter.  Roberson must fend off a challenge from So Joe Porter, who played primarily on special teams last season.  The loser will likely be the nickel CB.  RS Fr Tre Timbers will compete with true Fr Chazz Lynn for the other backup CB job. 

 

  • Starting/Backup WS – Schiano deploys his safeties unconventionally in an eight-man front.  In most eight-man front defenses, the SS – on the strong side – is the eighth man in the box while the FS plays centerfield.  Schiano puts his run support safety on the weak side and calls him a FS while the so-called SS actually has the centerfield responsibilities of a FS.  So, in my articles, a player who looks and acts like a FS (e.g., Jarvis Johnson) is called a FS regardless of what the program states.  A rose by any other any name…… 

Three different players started at WS last season.  RS So Bryan Durango opened the season as the starter until he suffered a season-ending knee injury before Game 6.  Jr Jason Nugent, switched from TB at the start of summer camp, was the backup and replaced Durango until demoted after two starts for poor performance.  RS Jr Jason Grant, a Terry Shea recruit written off during spring camp, was the last resort and started five games before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Game 11.  Nugent, the sole survivor, started the season finale.  Nugent earned the starting nod in spring camp while Durango was slowed by a nagging knee injury.  Nugent maintains the lead for the starter's role entering spring camp but his grip on the job is hardly secure.  This could be the most hotly contested starting job in summer camp.  Grant is expected to be the third team WS since the newly acquired experience of Durango and Nugent offsets the experience of the less athletic Grant. 

  • Starting SLB – As with WS, three players started at SLB last year.  Brian Bender, since departed, started nine games; he missed Game 5 with a hamstring injury and the final two games with a knee injury.  Jr Berkeley Hutchinson started Games 5 and 11 but missed Game 12 for personal reasons.  Jr Terry Bynes started the season finale.  Hutchinson has more potential than perhaps any defensive players but struggled to adapt to Division IA football. Though he occasionally showed glimpse of brilliance, he was often ineffective.  One could argue that his performance did not merit his playing time.  A point that was reinforced when Hutchinson skipped the season finale.  Bynes got a late start last year and was buried on the depth chart.  An experiment with Bynes at WS in spring camp was unsuccessful and cost him practice repetitions at SLB.  Nagging injuries overshadowed otherwise praiseworthy performances in summer camp.  Relegated to the third team on a very deep LB unit, Bynes saw limited action until late in the season when injuries to Bender and Hutchinson created opportunities.  Bynes played well in his only start, against Syracuse.  Ankle and shoulder injuries kept Hutchinson out of spring camp and gave Bynes the lion's share of practice reps.  Bynes had a strong spring camp and closed by leading the team in tackles in the Spring Game.  Bynes drew praise whenever he received playing time last year while the talk surrounding Hutchinson focused on potential rather than production.  Will Bynes keep the starting job he worked all year to earn?   And will Bynes get the nod if he outperforms Hutchinson?  Will Hutchinson realize his potential or continue to underachieve? 

 

  • Starting TE – Rutgers was four deep at TE last season.  All four return, plus RS Fr Brad Listorti is also available.  Schiano moved former starter Pilch to center following the dismissal of Clark after spring camp, leaving Sr Chris Loomis, RS So Clark Harris, and So Sam Johnson to sort out the pecking order at TE.  Harris was the leading receiver last season.  Johnson is probably the best blocker of the three and likely will replace Pilch as the blocking TE.  Loomis missed summer camp last year with a broken ankle; he returned in September but was buried fourth on the depth chart.  Harris and Loomis were about even coming out of spring camp.  They will continue to battle – with Johnson, too – for playing time.  Listorti likely will have to wait another year before he sees playing time at TE. 

 

  • Backup TB – Rutgers was also four deep at TB last season.  All four return and a new wave of recruits arrive.  So Justise Hairston quickly seized the starting TB job last season but a knee injury in Game 7 cut short a promising season.  RS So FB Brian Leonard emerged as Hairston's replacement and finished the season as the starting TB.  Sr Clarence Pittman opened the season as the starter but never got untracked; he struggled and eventually dropped to fourth on the depth chart.  Jr Markis Facyson missed summer camp with a nagging injury (hamstring); he returned for the season opener but was primarily limited to the role of the TB/WR hybrid or third down back.  Fr Dimitri Linton is a highly touted recruit out of Florida who could push Pittman and Facyson for playing time if he can prove to be a pass-catching threat.  Hairston likely will reclaim his role as feature back.  Leonard will return to his role as the FB and single RB.  Pittman and Facyson will compete for the backup TB job; their performance will dictate the number of snaps that Leonard gets at TB.  Schiano has enough depth at TB to afford to redshirt Linton. 

 

  • Placekicker – Placekicking was awful last season as FGAs beyond 30 yards were an adventure.  The placekicking stats were inflated by a disproportionate amount of FGAs inside 30 yards.  Schiano tried three separate PKs but none proved adequate.  RS Sr Ryan Sands opened the season, lost his job in Game 3, and regained it in Game 6.  RS Fr PK Justin Musiek replaced Sands in Game 3 but was quickly pulled after one missed XPA; he handled placekicking duties each of the next two games.  So walk-on Michael Cortese finished Game 3 but didn't receive another opportunity.  While Schiano ultimately settled on Sands, Ryan's performance hardly solifified his hold on the job.  Musiek transferred to Lehigh after the fall semester, leaving only Sands and Cortese to compete in spring camp.  Fr Jeremy Ito is expected to beat Sands for the placekicking job in summer camp. 

 

  • Backup QB – At the QB position, much of spring camp focused on the battle between RS So Anthony Cali and RS Fr Terrence Shawell for the backup job.  Cali played well in two of the three scrimmages while Shawell shined in only one.  Cali outperformed Shawell in the Spring Game.  Shawell was wildly inaccurate and made too many mistakes outside the pocket that neutralized his mobility.  Cali also showed excellent mobility outside the pocket, passed more accurately passer, showed better judgment reading defenses, made fewer mistakes, and did not force bad throws into coverage.  Cali has a slight edge heading into spring camp but hasn't fully claimed job. 


Coming Next:  Part 3 of my Summer Camp Preview.  The 5-7 record last year was the best season since 1998.  However, the Scarlet Knights blew opportunities for more wins.  I'll look at the performance issues that must be addressed to move forward this season. 


Please send any comments to dwelch11@comcast.net.  I welcome and appreciate your feedback.  And please put "Rutgers" in the message header because I wouldn't want to miss your email in a sea of spam.  In the meantime, if you would like to discuss the spring camp with other Rutgers fans, please visit our message board.


Scarlet Report Top Stories