The expectations have gone up at Rutgers.
The first winning season since 1992 and the first bowl game in 28 years (the Scarlet Knights lost, 45-40, to Arizona State in the Insight Bowl) will do that.
"Without a doubt, there are heightened expectations," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said as his team got set for its annual spring game. "If your expectation levels are not rising, then you're not doing good things building the program. I embrace the expectation levels. That's exciting for me. That's why we're here."
And that's why, despite some key losses (quarterback Ryan Hart, two players off each line), Schiano, armed with a new seven-year contract, is excited about his team -- his very young team -- making it two in a row this season.
He knows a lot has to happen to make it happen -- players returning from injury and coming through, young guys (like QB Mike Teel) delivering, etc. -- but he also knows he has a ton of depth and a slew of talented young players to mix with some strong veteran leadership and talent.
"How do you know?" he said when asked if he has another bowl team. "I think we're a very capable football team. I love coaching this team. I like the eyes looking back at me when I'm talking to them."
His spring game was loaded with youth doing special things -- on a windy and rainy day. His incoming class is considered strong and addresses depth at areas that need help.
The expectations are up. Rutgers football is up.
Notes and Quotes
--The White beat the Scarlet, 14-0, in the spring game, played in terrible weather. Sophomore running backs Ray Rice and Dimitri Linton dominated the offense on a day that belonged to the defense.
--The Oct. 28 Big East home game against Connecticut has been moved to Sunday night, Oct. 29, for ESPN. That gives Rutgers four games on the network stations this season -- two on ESPN and two on ESPN2 -- to go along with one on CSTV.
2007 DRAFT PROSPECTS:
FB Brian Leonard -- The 6-2, 235-pound Pro Football Weekly All-American needs 19 points to become Rutgers all-time leading scorer and is again on the Doak Walker Award preseason watch list.
TE Clark Harris -- A two-time All-Big East player, the 6-6, 255-pound Harris has caught at least one pass in 30 straight games and has 109 college catches.
WR Willie Foster -- The kick and punt return man has 22 college receptions but has also returned two kicks and one punt for touchdowns during his three years at Rutgers.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it does speak to the progress, the depth and the competition. Slowly but surely we keep gathering more good people and more good football players." -- Coach Greg Schiano on his team's spring camp.
Strategy and Personnel
RB Ray Rice -- The freshman All-American ripped off runs of 26 and 24 yards and had 62 yards on seven carries in the spring game.
RB Dimitri Linton -- He opened the second half of the spring game with runs of 32, 5 and 21 yards and then scored from 7, picking up 69 yards for the days on seven tries.
DE Peter Tverdov -- The sophomore had six tackles, two for loss, in the spring affair.
S Courtney Greene -- The sophomore made six solo tackles in the spring game.
DE Gary Watts -- Another sophomore, he had back-to-back sacks in the game.
FB Jean Beljour -- The junior had the position spotlight while Brian Leonard sat out the spring game, and Beljour played well.
WR Taquin Underwood -- He continues to impress as a receiver and a return man.
ROSTER REPORT: The Scarlet Knights went through spring camp without five injured players -- all expected back for the fall. Out were WR/returner Willie Foster (foot), DTs Ramel Meekins (knee) and Eric Foster (foot), TE Clark Harris (knee) and OL Jeremy Zuttah (ankle). "Will the five guys come back healthy? That's the big question," says RU coach Greg Schiano. "If they come back healthy, and we don't lose any key players, we have a chance to be a good football team." Star fullback Brian Leonard sat out the spring game -- he was working out at his own pace as the coaches looked at other players.