"It's a stop along the way"

It is that time of the year, when the season's warmth serve as the perfect reminder that spring football practices across the country are about to begin. The Scarlet Knights begin their preparation this Saturday afternoon.

Spring Football is about a number of things. Chief among them, according to Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano is having an opportunity to work on key fundamentals without the constant reminder of looming game preparation.

"As a staff, since we can't do everything, we always try to determine the three things that we want to get out of this spring practice. As always there's personnel questions, there's scheme questions, but the number one thing is to get fundamentally better. A time when you don't have to prepare for an opponent. It's a great opportunity with a young group of guys," said Schiano.

For the first time in years, better stated as decades, Rutgers is on a somewhat more level playing field with some of the better national competition by virtue of it's post-season appearance. And the extra practice that comes along with it.

"Each spring is unique, depending on where you are with your program and where your team is. I think no matter where you are it needs to be first and foremost, a fundamental period. But we will have had those practices [due to the Insight Bowl invite] where we have had a head start on some of those things with our younger kids. I think we'll be further ahead of the game, just on basic things like getting lined up, and shifting in motion offensively, and getting lined up in different adjustments defensively. So those things I think we'll be just ahead of the game, which is good," stated Schiano.

Excited would not be a fitting way to describe Coach Schiano when describing the football team's prospects for the future. Certainly, a level of comfort was evident, and most certainly this comfort level was several notches above the general feeling evident at previous Spring Practice Press conferences.

"I'm excited to be getting started again with practice. My biggest thing with this group is that it has been a lot of fun in the off-season since the Bowl Game, and I don't think so much because of any success that we had last year but I think because of the kind of young men we have in the program, what we've been able to build here and now have a group of guys that are really fun to be around in a time of year wich can be not the most fun."

"It's winter conditioning, it's meetings and it's none of the excitement of playing the game, not even practicing the game really, just kind of the grinding period to get better."

"But this is a good group of young men. I think it's a good mix. We're a young football team, we have some really experienced senior leadership," continued Schiano.

Spring Goals

Coach Schiano was adamant in stating the primary goal of Spring practice. From a player's perspective the focus will be on the many things that are often overlooked by the casual fan come fall Saturdays. Working on the fundamentals, the very foundation for every snap, every play.

"The number two goal is, we feel, we have to get our quarterbacks as many snaps as we can in all the different things that we're going to do."

Repetition is important but considering the difference in quarterback type that Rutgers possesses as its first and second team members, a key point will be how specifically to distribute and account for each snap.

Mike Teel, a classic drop-back passer will see different alignments as compared to Jabulani "Jabu" Lovelace, whose athletic mobility are a key attribute.

"Bill Parcells always said something. He said anybody can go out and run plays. I think our biggest goal is to make sure that we're running the right plays for our quarterbacks to get better, to see what they need to see, and that takes organization and that takes creating some different situations."

Indeed overlooked for nearly as long as Coach Schiano's tenure has been at Rutgers is the long-snapper position. Ryan Neill, a staple on the defensive line, served his squad in an additional capacity. Due to his graduation his substitute will have to be found.

"Our third biggest thing, we don't have our long snapper in Ryan Neill, and that is something that gets overlooked by a lot of people. We believe Clark Harris is going to be able to fill in and do a good job because he's been a back-up and done a good job the year that Ryan sat out."

Injury Report

Several Scarlet Knights underwent off-season surgery and other members of the football team continue to recuperate and rehab from previous surgeries.

Jeremy Zuttah, the talented local offensive lineman had surgery on his ankle.

"Jeremy will be out there doing some stuff but no contact stuff."

In addition, Keith Taylor (shoulder), Chris Dirksz (shoulder), and Terry Bynes (knee) will all be doing light, non-contact drills during Spring Football. In regards to Bynes, Rutgers is still awaiting an NCAA decision on whether an additional season will be in the offing.

Robert Baham, who was sidelined this past year, is progressing with his recuperation and will resume full contact drills during summer practice.

Willie Foster will undergo what was termed as a "minor surgery" on his toe and will also be sidelined during this spring.

Player Personnel

Chenry Lewis became a staple on the defensive side of the ball as a LB in 2005. Despite recording 32 tackles during the season and starting each of the last 7 games as a LB, Lewis will be moved from his LB position to defensive end.

Brandon Renkart, who appeared in all 12 games on special teams and as a Safety in 2005, has bulked up to 230-pounds. Renkart will make the move from Safety to SAM linebacker.

Cameron Stephenson, who played in 8 of 11 games on the offensive line in 2004, but was moved to the defensive side of the ball in 2005 where played in all 12 games, will make the mve back to offensive line this spring.

William Beckford, who originally made the switch to defensive end last year will remain there.

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