RUTGERS RECRUITING NEEDS
Part 4: Receivers
If there is one position group that doesn't have pressing needs to be filled, it is the receivers. The receiving cast has not changed appreciably for two years and won't next year either, barring a spectacular addition. The Scarlet Knights placed two receivers on the All Big East First Team. Without the threat of the leader in receiving yardage last year (2003), who missed most of this past season with an injury. Head Coach Greg Schiano also possesses depth behind his starters as his receiving corps was three deep and loses only one player. This article, the fourth in a series of eight evaluating the needs of the 2005 recruiting class, looks at the strongest unit on the team – the receivers.
RS Jr WR Tres Moses, lightly recruited out of high school, has blossomed into the best possession receiver in the Big East. Despite the obvious handicap of not being slow and not being white. Moses established new Rutgers single season records for receptions and receiving yardage, breaking the marks previously established by All-American TE Marco Battaglia. Moses is small, quick, and strong. With a knack for turning short catches into the first down yardage. The flanker position is in good hands with Moses.
Jr WR Shawn Tucker played much of last season with a groin injury. Nonetheless, he led Rutgers in receiving yardage and emerged as the Scarlet Knights best deep threat. He underwent off-season surgery but re-injured his groin in summer camp this past year. He further aggravated the injury against New Hampshire and missed the remainder of the season. He is expected to receive a medical redshirt. The chronic nature of Tucker's injury is obviously a concern. Can he be expected to contribute next season or will this injury continue to plague him for the rest of his career?
RS So TE Clark Harris assumed the starting job when incumbent starter Ray Pilch was switched to center in May. Harris earned First Team All-Big East honors, largely on the basis of his receiving, which placed him among the nation's leaders at TE. However, Harris was a poor run blocker and another weak link on an OLine loaded with weak links. If Harris can improve his run blocking, the TE position will be set for two more years.
So WR Marcus Daniels arrived at Rutgers as a more highly touted recruit but has yet to realize that potential. He earned the 3WR role as a freshman and initially replaced the injured Tucker in the starting lineup this past year. However, Daniels was generally ineffective and showed an aversion to contact underneath. He often gave up yardage trying to avoid contact rather than turning upfield and earning the tough yardage. His ability to run was squandered. Instead of catching slant and crossing routes, he was used more on comeback routes – hitches, outs, etc. 2005 will be a key year for Daniels. He must contribute more or step aside in favor of those who can.
So WR Willie Foster was Daniel's high school teammate. Willie was expected to be the deep threat this past season. However, his opportunities were few because QB Ryan Hart has an effective range of only 30 yards. Furthermore, Forster played behind the record-breaking Moses, which further limited his opportunities. Foster has yet to demonstrate that he can adequately replace Moses. As with Daniels, next season will be a defining year for Foster.
So TE Sam Johnson assumed Pilch's role as the blocking TE. Unfortunately, he was not as effective in the role. This limited the viability of the 2TE formation as a power running lineup, especially in a two-back set because the passing attack was compromised with one fewer WR with no appreciable benefit to the rushing attack. Johnson also must improve his run blocking but he is only a second-year player. He should provide adequate depth behind and opposite Harris.
Sr WR Chris Baker was converted to WR after spending his freshman season as the scout team QB while he was academically ineligible. An injury ended his sophomore season early and, after another fling at QB in 2003 spring camp, he did not play at all in 2003. Written off as a non-contributor behind two promising sophomores (Daniels and Foster), Baker earned his way back into the playing rotation this past season. The season-ending injury to Tucker created an opportunity. With fellow backup Daniels struggling, Baker emerged as the starter opposite Moses, starting five games in the middle of the season. Apparently, he is on track to graduate next year and, as such, has regained a year of eligibility. Congratulations.
So WR Orlando Kane was academically ineligible as a freshman and did not practice with the team. He joined the team this past year in summer camp but had to learn the offense while working off the rust from a year out of football. Third on the depth chart at flanker, Kane didn't get a lot of opportunities with Moses having an All-Big East season. He also reportedly doesn't have great hands. He likely won't get an opportunity to play much next year, other than on special teams.
Sr TE Chris Loomis played two years behind LJ Smith. Meaning, he played sparingly. A broken foot last year cost Loomis summer camp and buried him on the depth chart. He never really dug his way out and contributed as expected. He spent this past season as the third team TE.
Sr WR Jerry Andre was a member of Schiano's first recruiting class. He was a career backup. He played sparingly as a freshman and in each of the following two season. Jerry did not play this past year.
Jr WR Corey Barnes was a member of Schiano's second recruiting class. He has primarily played on special teams. After a rash of injuries among DBs, Barnes was switched to CB late last season.
RS Fr TE Brad Listorti was buried fourth at perhaps the deepest position on the team. He did not play this past year. The departure of Loomis will give him an opportunity to crack the playing rotation.
Fr WR Keith Taylor redshirted this past year and is not expected to contribute next season other than on special teams.
Schiano has plenty of depth at both WR and TE. His playing rotation was three deep and all but one player return. So, there aren't any glaring needs to be filled at receiver. Schiano recruited two receivers last year and converted one – Anthony Miller – to CB during the season. Schiano may yet switch Miller back to WR – of his own accord or at Miller's request – although the present need is greater at CB. The poor run blocking of the current crop of TEs reveals the importance of development at this position. Redshirting buys time for the necessary physical and fundamental development. With Listorti unproven and no first year TE in the program, Schiano needs another TE to keep the pipeline full. WRs require less development time than TEs; they can contribute immediately as freshmen. Therefore, Schiano can spare recruiting any WRs this year.
Coming Next: Rutgers Recruiting Needs, Part 5. For the second consecutive year, the DLine was the strength of the Rutgers defense. How is this unit stocked after the loss of four upperclassmen?
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