This weekend was supposed to the big homecoming game for Brian Leonard. While Rutgers doesn't play its homecoming game for another three and a half weeks, Leonard, a native of Gouverneur, NY, is supposed to be making the trip back to his home state this weekend, to play in his first game under the Dome. Unfortunately, the chances of that are now a question mark.
Leonard, the featured running back for the Scarlet Knights, suffered a thigh injury during the game against Kent St., which has kept him sidelined during this week's practice. Brian said that the decision on playing in Saturday's game would be a game time decision by the trainers. So, this native New Yorker and childhood Syracuse fan may have to wait two more years before he can actually play in front of the hundreds of friends and relatives who will none-the-less invade the Dome on Saturday. He seemed hopeful, however, saying that there was "huge improvement, everyday", and that playing a reduced role, instead of sitting out, was definitely an option.
When asked if the prospect of playing without Brian Leonard scared him, coach emphasized that Leonard still might play on Saturday, but replied that he's, "coached plenty of games without Brian Leonard". He went on to say that while Leonard was a special player, he felt that the team has "plenty of good players to step it up". He specifically mentioned Justise Hairston and Clarence Pittman, but also revealed that freshmen Dimitri Linton and Jean Beljour were also seeing more snaps in practice. Additionally, he thought Hairston was finally looking like his pre-injury self, and was ready to have a breakout game.
Coach Schiano said that the bye week gave the team time to work on fundamentals and to "take an extra five minutes on this, and an extra five minutes on that", instead of focusing on game prep. He felt that the secondary was getting better, but they had a long way to go, the biggest problem being inconsistency stemming from youth and inexperience.
In addition to Brian Leonard, Coach Greg Schiano indicated that wide receiver Shawn Tucker would not be playing this weekend. He also said that linebacker Quintero Frierson was progressing well from the high ankle sprain he suffered during the Michigan State game, but would also be unavailable this weekend. Defensive end Piana Lukabu, who was suspended for the first three games of the season, will be returning for this game, which in Schiano's words "will be a big help".
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