Let's Do The Shuffle

Last year Rutgers went into Syracuse with a 2-1 record, and fought their way back from an early deficit to take a 4-point lead by the middle of the fourth quarter. The refs quite fittingly then failed to notify Rutgers about a clock problem, Jeremy Ito missed a reasonable field goal, and the Orange scored two quick touchdowns to win the game by 10 points.

After that game the Knights never seemed to get back on track, going on to lose 5 of their last 7 while being outscored by 96 points. This year's edition of the Syracuse Orange, at least to this point, seems to be worse than in previous years. Their once stellar offense is last in the league, with standout running back Damien Rhodes as the only bright point so far. It has gotten so bad that there is talk of a massive shuffling of starters in Syracuse, starting with Joe Fields getting the start at quarterback over Perry Patterson who has started the previous 5 games.

Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano, however, lauded Patterson. "He has been a streaky player. If you watched, there was a period in that Virginia game when he was on fire."

The staff is also familiar with Fields who is more a running threat, and who started the first few games for the Orange last year.

The Scarlet Knights have there own problems – particularly with injuries on the defense. Starting linebacker Will Gilkison may miss several games with a groin injury. With Terry Bynes out for the season, that means a freshman or two will likely see some playing time for a battered unit which is already the worst on the defensive side of the ball.

When asked about the potential for personnel change at linebacker Coach Schiano replied, "We have two situations. We have injuries – now two of our starting three linebackers are out and we didn't play particularly well as a position group, so there could be a shuffle. We've got to look and see what best fits defending Syracuse."

True Freshman LB Chris Quaye may see some action at linebacker this week if the staff thinks that he is ready to play, but Coach Schiano isn't sure that's the case yet.

"I think that's the hardest position to get ready as a freshman. Linebacker is hard because you have to play the pass and the run. And you've got to decipher things and you hit your gaps."

Up until now, Rutgers has not shied away from playing young players if they were needed and Coach Schiano said that, "The encouraging thing is that we've got young guys playing and they're playing their tails off and having some success. We've just got to do it consistently and cut down on errors."

On the offensive side the quarterback shuffle seems to continue. Coached Schiano seemed increasingly unsure as compared to the past about Ryan Hart starting.

"We [the coaching staff] have not gone into it yet. Right now it's the same as it has been. Ryan is starting. But we haven't discussed it yet in length, and I will get with the offensive guys and discuss it."

He added that the two quarterback system isn't necessarily a fixture of the offense.

"When we feel that playing one guy gives us a better chance than playing two then that's what you'll see."

"I think it's a week by week thing. We have to ask what are they doing, how do they match up and could it become a permanent thing one way or another? Absoultely," he concluded.

One position that won't be changing much is running back. Despite the offenses inability to move the ball on the ground as effectively as it had hoped the backfield unit remains as one of the more secure situations.

"As the game went on Saturday, not much was clicking and Brian was, so he got the load, but we try not to do that."

"Ray Rice put the ball on the ground once on a tough play. I haven't lost any confidence that Ray will not get the job done."

Schiano also said that backup running backs Justice Hairston, Clarence Pittman and Markis Facyson would likely not see any playing time. He said that, "They are good running backs, it just so happens that by our determination the other guys are better."

Did you know?

At 249 lbs Syracuse's starting quarterback is heavier than every defensive player on the Rutgers two deep except defensive ends Val Barnaby, Ryan Neil and all four defensive tackles.

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