Spring Football Review - Part 2

This article is the second of a two-part review of the Rutgers football team as it finished spring camp. This review is intended as a companion piece to my spring preview series. I will review developments in camp, revisit issues raised in my preview, and present my vision of the two-deep roster. Part 1 addressed the defense. I'll finish with the offense.


I would like to acknowledge the assistance of both Andy Richter and Bill Hilden in preparing this series.  The view of spring ball from my vantage point 2,500 miles away was not a good one.  I appreciate the insights that each so generously shared to provide some meat for this review.  The original text is presented in bold italics.   



Although the defense was better relative to the offense last season, one can't truthfully use degrees of "good" to describe either unit.  Rutgers ranked last in the Big East in scoring defense (36 points per game, or #104 nationally), total defense (420 yards per game, or #89 nationally), and rushing defense (231 yards per game, or #109 nationally).  And while Rutgers ranked 27th nationally passing defense (190 yards per game), a porous rushing defense and a schedule loaded with rush-oriented opponents conspired to provide an illusion of performance where there simply was the path of less futile resistance.  While the offense appears improved, performance in spring camp against a still questionable defense can hardly be used as a barometer of quality. While I would expect the defense to outperform the offense, total domination by the defense will be a bad sign.  A very bad sign.  Because our defense is still likely to be in the lower half of the conference. 

My impression was that the defense totally dominated the offense.  This was especially evident in the spring game, when the 1st and 2nd team offenses combined to score only 16 points and gain only 354 yards of total offense in a 60-minute running clock game (about 70 offensive snaps not counting special teams).  The defense dominated from the first snap of camp.  The offense continued to sputter, plagued by many familiar problems – poor run blocking, poor outside pass blocking, poor blitz protection, poor QB progressions, inaccurate throws, dropped balls, etc.  The offense finished spring camp only reinforcing the concerns it brought into camp.  Don't be surprised to see more new players seeing a lot of action next season.  Help is needed.   

Here are a few big picture issues: 

  • I've seen statistics indicating that over half of Rutgers' offensive possessions were "three-and-out", or worse (e.g., a turnover in three downs or less).  Can the offense show improved ability to sustain drives?  The offense showed signs of progress.  However, there is still substantial need for improvement, as witnessed by the offensive struggles in the spring game.  A one-in-three completion rate is a certain recipe for three-and-out possessions.  
  • The OLine last season was notorious for its sieve-like performance.  Opposing DL routinely blew up running plays in the backfield while DEs too frequently rushed the QB unabated, as if the OTs were turnstiles.  Can the OLine keep defenders out of the backfield and open rushing lanes for the RBs?  Can the OLine provide reasonable pass protection to allow the QB to survey the field?  Reports from spring camp indicated that the OLine is still a major concern.  Especially at OT.  Both DTs and DEs were stopping running plays in the backfield.  In the spring game, the 1st and 2nd team offenses combined to average only 3 yards per, excluding yardage lost on QB sacks.  The OTs were unable to keep the DEs off the QB, a persistent problem last season.  
  • Lack of depth on the OLine was another tremendous problem last season.  Unexpected attrition and a weak class of 2nd year players further compounded an inherited depth problem.  Schiano relied primarily upon an 8-man rotation; the 8th and 9th OL played a total of 11 games.  It will be interesting to observe the OL rotations in spring ball.  Will evidence indicate that Schiano plans to use a deeper rotation than 8 men?  The spring saw the deepest OLine in years, as OLine Coach Joe Susan was able to field a three-deep.  As recently as last spring, a shortage of healthy OL prohibited the use of separate units in scrimmages or the spring game.  The 2nd team OLine contains two former starters (Mike Esposito and Howard Blackwood), one backup who saw limited action last season (Rob Dinsmore), and two players who redshirted as true freshmen last season (Sameeh McDonald and Mike Clancy).  
  • The pass defense should be better than the pass offense.  That is particularly true when comparing the QB against the secondary.  I would expect the secondary to give the passing game problems.  Can the QBs reduce the negative plays that sucked the life out of the offense last season?  Can the QBs move the offense through the air?  The pass defense outplayed their counterparts on offense.  The offenses combined for four INTs in the spring game.  Not good.  This offense isn't yet powerful enough to turn the ball over and still outscore the opposition.  The 1st team offense especially struggled moving the ball through the air, which was its primary emphasis. 
  • Shoddy pass protection by a poor offensive line was compounded by young running backs that too frequently were incapable of picking up blitzing LBs and DBs.  This problem was especially noticeable in the UConn game against an opponent that Rutgers should have dominated.  The inexperience of three young RBs was further complicated by the inexperience of the RB coach.  How will he RBs handle their blitz protection responsibilities?  The replacement of former RB Coach Mike Miello with Darren Rizzi should constitute an upgrade to the staff.  The young RBs need an experienced coach who can help them quickly assimilate their responsibilities – rushing, protecting the football, run blocking, blitz protection, pass routes, etc.  However, the inexperience of the RBs is still apparent.  Reports from camp indicated that the blocking by the TBs is still poor.  Since OC Bill Cubit often doesn't employ a FB, the TBs will be the last line of defense.  This is still a concern heading into summer camp. 
  • The FB was not a productive position last season.  With the exception of the Navy game, the FB was an afterthought in the offense.  Will OC Bill Cubit use the FB more frequently this spring?   The FB was not used much differently in spring camp than it was last season.  FBs received only a handful of carries and receptions combined during spring camp.  With a shortage of personnel at RB, Cubit simply lacks the talent at FB to use this position as anything other than a role player (i.e., run and pass blocking) at this time.  Perhaps the true freshmen recruits, including Brian Leonard, will offer more possibilities from this position. 
  • Lack of quality depth at receiver, relative to the performance of the 1st team, was a major problem last season.  The purpose of multiple receiver formations is too spread the defense out while spreading the ball around to a variety of receivers.  But it is nearly impossible to realize that objective with a receiving corps that possesses only two viable receiving threats.  Will QB Ryan Cubit continue to rely upon two primary targets or will other receivers emerge as reliable targets?  The 1st team offense completed only 9 of 26 pass attempts.  Of those nine completions, WR Aaron Martin caught five.  Much too one-dimensional.  The 2nd team wasn't any more diverse.  WR Jerry Andre caught 5 of Ted Trump's 11 completions and dropped another 4 of Trump's 10 incompletions.  Again, very one-dimensional.  Dropped passes by both Andre and Tres Moses were one of the biggest problems in the spring game.  Furthermore, reports from camp repeatedly indicated that QBs were locking onto their primary receivers and not completing their progressions.  Quality depth at WR is still a pursuit with no answers yet in sight.  Hopefully, help is on the way with the freshmen class. 



The evolution of the depth chart will be the most telling development of spring camp.  Most opponents manhandled our offense – disrupting the running game with penetration into the backfield, pressuring the QB, confusing the RBs with blitzes, and blanketing the receivers.  Maturation of inexperienced starters will contribute towards improvement.  So, will the displacement of non-performing starters with new, more talented players.  The offensive players can better be judged against peers at the same positions rather than their counterparts on defense.  Of particular interest on the offense will be the following: 

  • With three seniors lost off the depth chart, Clarence Pittman will battle Marcus Jones for the starting TB job.  The battle between Pittman and Jones for the starting TB job may be the most interesting contest in spring camp.  Who will emerge on top?  This probably was the most closely contested battle in spring camp.  It ended in a virtual dead heat.  Jones got the nod with the 1st team in the spring game but Pittman had twice as many carries and nearly four times as much rushing yardage (77 vs 21).  This contest will resume in August and may continue indefinitely.  Remember, competition is good.    
  • Rich McManis's return last season nearly coincided with the loss of Bryan Boehrer.  That opened a starting slot for McManis.  Before spring camp opened, Schiano announced that Brian Duffy would be switched to his natural position at OG this spring.  Who among Greg P'zmuka, Mike Esposito, Duffy, and McManis will emerge as the starting OGs?  The logjam at OG was resolved quickly as Head Coach Greg Schiano moved both P'zmuka and Espo to center.  McManis settled in at LG while Duffy played RG.  Each of the four spent spring camp at their respective positions.  Mike Clancy (LG) and Rob Dinsmore (RG) eventually emerged as the backups.   

  • Trohn Carswell and Howard Blackwood will resume the battle for the starting LT job.  Who earns the nod?  The loser will likely keep the RT seat warm until OT Ron Green arrives in the summer.  This was another battle that ended before it started, as Schiano moved Blackwood to RT at the outset of camp.  Any doubts were quickly erased when Mike Williamson displaced Blackwood as the starting RT, relegating Blackwood to backup duty.  Sameeh McDonald locked up the backup LT job very quickly and never relinquished it.  What happens to Blackwood when Green reports for summer camp?  

  • Will Bryan Boehrer, an undersized converted JUCO TE, withstand challenges for his starting center job?  Yet another non-issue as Schiano moved Boehrer to TE at the outset of camp.  This likely reflects an upgrade at the center position if the incumbent start is moved off of the OLine.  

  • Who among Josh Hobbs, Sean Carty, and Jerry Andre will win the 3WR starting job?  Will any emerge as viable receiving threats?  Carty and Andre seemed about even.  Both played with the 2nd team in the spring game, meaning they can be considered the 3rd and 4th WRs.  Andre was the primary target but he dropped nearly half of the passes thrown his way.  So, Andre hardly established himself as the 3WR.  Bryan Wilson – who injured his hamstring during camp – and Chris Baker – who split time between QB and WR – may challenge for the 3WR job in summer camp.  

  • Who among Chris Loomis and Eddie Jordan will win the 2TE starting job?  Loomis appeared to have a slight edge over Jordan although both likely will see equal amounts of action.  In power running 2TE situations, Bryan Boehrer likely will be the 2TE.  

  • Ryan Cubit's performance last season did not exactly cement his hold on the starting QB job.  In my eyes, the starting QB is still open for competition.  Will Ted Trump get significant repetitions with the 1st team offense?  Schiano's opinion differs from mine.  Of course, that is his prerogative and why he gets paid the big bucks.  QBit entered camp squarely in the starter's seat and was never truly put in a position to defend it.  The job was QBit's.  There was no competition.  Rutgers will live or die with QBit next season.  While most reports indicated that QBit outplayed Trump in spring camp, the margin separating them is still slim.  That isn't comforting.   
  • Converted TE Ray Pilch enters spring camp competing with backup Troy Marion for the starting FB job.  Will Pilch beat Marion for the job?  Will Marion at the very least establish himself on the two-deep in spring?  This was another closely contested battle in which progress was difficult to judge because neither player received many touches.  To my knowledge, Pilch neither caught nor carried the ball.  Marion got a few carries in a scrimmage and had a 25-yard catch-and-run in the spring game.  However, Pilch played with the 1st team in the spring game while Marion ran with the 2nd team. 

  • Will Randy Boxill crack the two-deep during spring camp?  Boxill immediately seized the backup LG job at the outset of camp.  However, he suffered an ACL injury midway through camp.  Boxill underwent knee surgery and likely will miss next season with a medical redshirt. 

  • Can third-year players Mike Williamson and Rob Dinsmore hold off second-year players Mike Clancy, Mark Segaloff, and Sameeh McDonald and maintain their slots on the two-deep?  Spring camp opened with only one slot on the two-deep open to second-year players.  If more than one second-year player is to break the two-deep, they likely would have to displace Williamson and/or Dinsmore.  The answer was, "Yes".  Williamson eventually won the starting RT job and Dinsmore beat Clancy and Segaloff for the backup RG job.  The move of Bryan Boehrer from center to TE created a second opening on the two-deep that Clancy eventually claimed after true freshman Randy Boxill suffered an ACL injury. 

  • Considering that only one returning WR averaged more than 2 receptions per game, will Bryan Wilson capitalize upon an opportunity to make a big jump up the depth chart in spring camp?  Wilson made some noise in spring camp.  Reports cited nice hands and good quickness.  However, a hamstring injury suffered early in camp hobbled Wilson and limited his effectiveness.   
  • FB Ron Simone is at his fourth position in four years.  What are the chances of him seeing significant playing time given the opportunities he has had previously?  Simone was injured during a workout prior to the start of spring camp.  He missed camp completely.  

  • Will Jacob Garner contribute or will younger players lap Garner on the depth chart?  Garner was immediately relegated to the 3rd team at the outset of camp.  I don't think that he'll ever see any live action, other than from the sideline.  I prefer my view from Section 126. 



Here's the two-deep, from my perspective, at the end of spring camp.  Players who missed the entire camp have been dropped from the two-deep under the theory that they will have to work their way back into the rotation.  Players who missed only some portion of spring camp are included in the two-deep.  Their location is based upon their actual place in the rotation during the spring, which may have been limited by the injuries.  I've added two extra slots – one for the second TE and another for the third WR since each will likely see more playing time than the FB. 



1st Team

2nd Team


RS Sr Trohn Carswell

RS Fr Sameeh McDonald


Jr Rich McManis

RS Fr Mike Clancy


RS Jr Marty P'zmuka

RS Sr Mike Esposito


RS Jr Brian Duffy

Jr Rob Dinsmore


Jr Mike Williamson

RS Sr Howard Blackwood


RS Sr LJ Smith

Jr Eddie Jordan, Jr.


So Chris Loomis

Sr Bryan Boehrer


So Ryan Cubit

Sr Ted Trump


So Marcus Jones

RS Fr Clarence Pittman


So Ray Pilch

RS So Troy Marion


So Tres Moses

RS Fr Bryan Wilson


Sr Aaron Martin

Sr Sean Carty


So Jerry Andre

Sr Josh Hobbs



The development and progress of the following players will be interesting to observe: 

  • The performance of Ryan Cubit last season was adversely impacted by poor play along the OLine and at RB and WR.  However, Cubit contributed his fair share of mistakes.  How will QBit fare in his areas of responsibility?  How will he read coverages?  Will he lock onto their primary receiver?  When receivers aren't open, will he throw the ball away to avoid sacks?  Will he continue to force throws into heavy coverage?  And will he hit open receivers?  One important factor in the spring evaluation of QBit was his red jersey, which limited contact.  Recall that QBit looked good under similar circumstances last summer, only to fall to pieces once he started getting hit in real games (as did his backup, Ted Trump, in limited mop-up duty).  With the absence of live contact for the QBs, spring camp ended with these questions confirmed rather than answered.   

What of the areas of responsibility directly in QBit's control?  Reports indicated that QB was still struggling with his reads and locking onto his primary receiver.  That defeats the purpose of multiple receiver formations and lets the FS read the QB's eyes and jump the primary route with minimal risk of getting burned elsewhere.  QBit threw two INTs in the spring game, including one on the final drive with his team trailing by 2 points.  QBit completed only 9 of 26 pass attempts for 119 yards (a healthy 13 yards per completion), one TD (a second was nullified on an ineligible-OL-downfield penalty), and two INTs.  Sure, QBit's completion percentage suffered from several dropped balls.  But those drops would have only increased his completion percentage to 50%.   

Rutgers fans saw NFL prospect Mike McMahon struggle to complete 50% of his passes in pass-oriented offenses.  And correspondingly saw Rutgers struggle to average even 17 points per game.  OC Bill Cubit demonstrated last season that even with a true freshman QB, his offense will be pass-oriented.  A 50% (or less) completion rate won't get the job done.  For this offense to succeed, the QB must complete at least 60% of his passes. 

  • Tres Moses is also a lock for a starting job opposite Martin.  Last season, Moses showed glimpses of brilliance while running after the catch with his ability to make tacklers miss.  Can he make the next steps to "go to" receiver and playmaker?  Moses WAS a lock.  Past tense.  Moses had a terrible spring camp.  Instead of establishing himself as a reliable receiving option, Moses put his starter's job up for grabs with inconsistent play, dropped passes, and poor efforts.  In the spring game, Moses' play was most noticeable for his dropped passes.  Not what is needed from a "go to" receiver.  

  • How does Brian Duffy perform at OG?  OG was always considered Duffy's natural position.  Attrition necessitated his switch to OT, where his lack of mobility was exposed.  Improved depth allowed Schiano to switch Duffy back to OG.  This likely represents an upgrade at guard.  I was unable to obtain a solid read on Duffy's actual performance at OG this spring.  

  • With a year to mature physically and a year of experience under his belt as an OL, how will Marty P'zmuka perform this spring?  A newspaper article published during spring camp reported that P'zmuka played as light as 240 pounds last season.  That's much too light in the pants.  The article also noted that P'zmuka is the strongest OL.  His switch to center should enable him to perform more effectively than as a still-undersized OG.  I was unable to obtain a solid read on P'zmuka's actual performance at center this spring.  

  • Has C Bryan Boehrer recovered from a broken ankle?  With a year of seasoning as well as strength and conditioning behind him, how much improvement will Boehrer show this spring?  Boehrer appeared to have recovered from his ankle injury.  However, a concussion cut short spring camp midway through.  It appears that Boehrer will fill Rob Ring's role as the power blocking TE.  As a point of reference, Ring had ZERO receptions last season.  

  • Mike Esposito is the leader of the OLine but his health is a concern.  How will he hold up during spring ball?  By all indications, Espo was healthy this spring.  However, some of his injuries may be chronic so his health could be an ongoing issue.  Espo's demotion to the 2nd team reduces the risks to the performance of the OLine associated with his health.  

  • Ryan Cubit took a physical pounding last season.  He needed offseason surgery on both his wrist and his elbow.  How healthy will he look this spring?  By all reports, QBit looked 100% healthy.  He took all or most of the snaps with the 1st team.  

  • With Ryan Cubit's performance hardly worthy of job security, Ted Trump enters spring camp looking to unseat the incumbent, but handicapped by an inexcusable lack of experience.  How will Trump look while primarily getting 2nd team repetitions in spring ball?  Trump performed like a backup QB.  However, the relatively slim margin separating QBit and Trump is cause for concern.  While Trump has a better arm, QBit has better touch (very important in the spread offense) and a better feel for his receivers.  In the spring game, Trump (11 of 21 for 137 yards and 2 INTs) put up better numbers than did QBit (9 of 26 for 119 yards, one TD, and 2 INTs).  

  • Howard Blackwood must answer concerns about his health this spring.  Can he provide adequate pass protection on the outside?  No reports of Blackwood's health emerged fro spring camp.  However, his heath is still a concern because back problems can be chronic.  In less than a year, Blackwood has dropped from the 1st team LT to the 2nd team RT.  As with Mike Esposito, Blackwood's demotion reduces the risk to the performance of the OLine associated with his health. 

  • Rich McManis needs to make up for lost practice time.  Can he stay healthy enough to do so?  For the first time since he enrolled in January 2000, McManis was healthy for camp – spring or summer.  McManis and Duffy give Rutgers formidable size at OG.  The question remains – do they have the foot speed to trap and pull?  

  • Chris Baker is the most mobile QB in the program.  His mobility offers a potential weapon considering the questionable OLine.  How will Baker perform at QB this spring?  Can he pose a sufficient passing threat to get on the field at QB?  Or will he be switched to WR, a rumored possibility?  Baker practiced equally at QB and WR.  While Baker possesses the strongest arm on the team, his play at QB did not alter the depth chart.  Baker likely will be switched permanently to WR by summer camp and should break the 3WR two-deep.  

  • LJ Smith is the biggest lock for the starting lineup. His competition lies with the top TEs in the Big East.  Pittsburgh's Kris Wilson (19 receptions for 272 yards) has been mentioned as an All-Big East candidate at TE.  And Miami's Kellen Winslow, Jr. could also contend.  Smith had a very quiet spring game with only one reception.  He should never be quiet.  He should average at least 4 catches and 50 receiving yards per game.  Minimum.  

  • Aaron Martin is a lock for a starting job at WR.  Can he step up against better competition?  Martin had a good spring game.  His 5 catch, 69-yard, one TD performance in the spring game confirmed his role as the primary receiver.  His competition for All-Big East honor includes Miami's Andre Johnson, Temple's Sean Dillard, Boston College's Jamal Burke, and Syracuse's Johnnie Morant.  It appears to be a weak year at WR in the Big East.  At least based upon the past performance of returning players.  Don't be surprised to see a second Hurricane nab all-conference honors.  

  • Will QB Chris Baker, scheduled to get reps at WR, be a factor on the depth chart?  Splitting responsibilities between QB and WR made it difficult for Baker to make an impact anywhere.  That should change if he can focus upon WR responsibilities in summer camp. 


Coming Next:  Big East Preview, Part 1.  I'll begin a pre-season tour of the Big East, starting with the defending Big East and National Champion Miami Hurricanes.  I'll look at lost starters, expected replacements, and incoming recruits. 

Please send any comments to bump86@earthlink.net.  I welcome and appreciate your feedback.

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