With summer camps into full swing all across the country much of the buzz surrounding college football these days has more to do with teams' practice performances than recruiting. Indeed, recruiting has, for the time being, become second fiddle. Nevertheless, Matei began this week's coverage with an interview of the highly touted OLB/S prospect A.J. Jones. Jones [6-foot-2 and 192-pounds], who hails from Tampa, FL, was one of several top prospects in attendance for the Rutgers football camp earlier this summer. Despite holding greater than two dozen offers, Jones states that Rutgers is one of three current teams that could creep into his Top 5. Jones is another in a long string of prospects that will be keeping a close eye on Rutgers' performance this upcoming year.
Issuing his second of a seven part preseason tour familiarizing us with other Big East Conference members, Dan Welch previewed the West Virginia Mountaineers. Welch reviewed lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits. WVU seems destined for a rebuilding year after having lost 9 starters on offense, 6 starters on defense, and Special Teams Player of The Year and all-world phenom Pac-Man Jones.
Monday also seemed to serve as the unofficial start to Rutgers' quarterback controversy. Fresh off the previous weekend's scrimmage, open to members of the TouchDown Club, Hart's unpleasant performance and Teel's mistake-free outing seemed to be all the fuel that was needed to get the quarterback debate off to a renewed start. When asked exactly how much time Teel will see this upcoming year Rutgers Head Football Coach Greg Schiano indicated that Teel's performance would serve as the necessary benchmark - "his performance will dictate it." One of the sights that fans and coaches could do without, but admittedly are part and parcel of every team's summer practice, was the departure of Running Back Dimitri Linton, Full Back Brian Leonard and Linebacker Devraun Thompson in the middle of the session. All three were sporting nagging injuries that necessitated their leaving during mid-scrimmage. Linton's injury seems most severe and he is not expected to be ready for the season opener at Illinois.
As the week rolled on Andrew Bone interviewed one of the top WRs in New Jersey, Shamar Graves. At 6-foot-4 and 200-pounds, Graves holds several offers, including one from Rutgers, and stated that a decision on his collegiate future may be coming sooner rather than later. Graves also indicated that he intends to keep a close eye on his state school and wants to see continued signs of improvement. As summer practice rolled on, Mike & The Big Dog's was there continuing to snap pictures at a rapid pace.
Rutgers Sr. WR Tres Moses, an All-Big East performer last year, was named to the watchlist for the 2005 Biletnikoff Award, a trophy presented annually to the nation's top wide receiver. After starting all 11 games for the Scarlet Knights last year and eclipsing 1,000 yards in receiving yardage, Moses became one of 31 players nationally to be nominated to the watchlist. Perhaps the top news coming out of camp was the naming of Rutgers' first string tailback. Raymell Rice, who came in with high marks as a back who could challenge for early playing time as a true freshman, seemed to set begin separation from other tailback candidates: "[Rice] has set himself apart as the guy who's doing the best," stated Coach Schiano. As a true freshman, Rice has pulled ahead of Justice Hairston, who has begun to look more like the back that he was expected to become when he first arrived on campus a few years ago, C. Pittman, and M. Facyson.
As mid-week arrived Donald Forbes published the second of our two-part interview series with Coach Schiano. Several questions, ranging from the battle at the Center spot to addressing Rutgers' camps in Florida were addressed:
Scout: After the Rutgers camps in Florida there were several
articles one I think that was in USA today, stating that this type of thing may
or may not continue. Has anything been laid out for next year in terms of this,
will Rutgers be able to hold camps down there? And what are the implications if,
the NCAA prohibits Rutgers from keeping their relations and pipelines to South Florida?
Greg Schiano: To answer your question I don't know if it will be changed by next year or not. There are two reasons to do it number one, our best interest is to be able to evaluate young men in South Florida, coach them for a day, and get to know them. The other reason is we have such a high percentage of our roster between 25-30 kids from south Florida. It's our way of thanking the communities down there that are doing it. It's not a huge geographic area to supply that many student athletes to one program. So it's our way to get back to those communities and say thank you. Both of those reasons I think are very good reasons. But the NCAA will decide what they decide and we will certainly obey by the rules. So we will kind of play that one by ear. I think the young men down there understand what we got going on here and we'll continue to recruit that area successfully.
A busy Wednesday continued as Jeff Goodman introduced Rutgers basketball fans to one of the country's rising big men - Samardo Samuels. "The 6-foot-9, 235-pound Samuels (No. 2, Scout.com) arrived in the United States from Jamaica a little more than a year ago with the help of the Jamaica Basketball Development, Inc. – and didn't play all that much at Our Savior as a freshman.," stated Goodman in his article. Samardo, already near the top of the 2008 class lists Rutgers among three schools currently battling for his services.
Continuing on his preseason tour of the Big East, Dan Welch introduced us to the new look Pittsburgh Panthers. After a bizarre 2004 season which saw Pitt nearly fall to a 1-AA foe early, though hang on, and eventually rise to become the Conference's top dog, this year's version looks to continue last season's rapid ascent. After losing only 2 starters on offense and 4 starters from a defense that saw marked improvement last year, it is expected that new head man Dave Wannstedt will have the Pitt program on the brink of a second BCS appearance in as many years.
Though recruiting does typically take a back seat to the actual on the field progress, it never stops. And there was no better example of that as Rutgers received a surprise commitment from Mo Lange. Lange is all of 6-foot-6 and 340-pounds, and though he had no other offers was receiving strong interest from Boston College, Penn State, and Virginia. Expected to enroll this winter, Lange projects as a Tackle or Guard at Rutgers.
Our coverage of summer practice continued on Friday, as Rutgers held its last session before the season begins. The business-like atmosphere that has been predominant for the majority of camp continued on this day. Preparation was primarily geared for their season opening foe, Illinois, and the weather, showing glimpses of the upcoming fall continued to be completely cooperative.
Our High School football coverage began to heat up as Matei published his preview of the St. Joe's offense. Boasting some of the top talent in the state, the primary question marks that need to be addressed if the Green Knights are to go for a 7-th straight state title are the quarterback spot and lack of depth. In their first scrimmage of the season, the Green Knights were overtaken by a hungrier squad from Ramapo High School, led by Chris Hogan. Our weekly coverage of HS football around the state concluded as we previewed one of the more underrated squads in New Jersey this year - the Morristown Colonials. Falling a single game short of the State Championship game in 2004, the Colonials return experience and talent at the skill positions.
In the fourth of his preseason tour of the Big East, Dan Welch previewed the Syracuse Orange. Syracuse lost significant talent off of an experienced offensive line that contributed to a typically potent Orange rushing attack. Playing one of the tougher schedules in the country, Syracuse will face Florida State and Notre Dame on the road this year and will host Buffalo and Virginia to cap off their out of conference schedule.
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