Friday Night Writes

A Weekly Commentary on the State of Rutgers Football. This week: Rutgers Report Card.

The Rutgers Report Card

It's been quite a season.  Not a perfect season, but for the long-suffering Rutgers fan, it's been a dream season that easily exceeded any expectations of the non-deranged variety.

A second straight bowl bid is a news making event to be sure, but the two late-season losses exposed some holes, so has asked me to go over where we are and what needs fixing to make next season even better.

To answer those questions, I have once again enlisted the aid of some of the most astute football minds that you're likely to meet who have come together to debate the state of the State of Rutgers, Mike Fasano and Donald "Big Dog" Forbes.

The Offense

Quarterbacks: C

Mike and the Big Dog say: Mike Teel definitely improved as the season went on, although he did have a setback against Cincinnati. His best performance was going 19 of 26 for 278 yards in the final regular season game. He always had a strong arm and a good touch but he lacked confidence. Now his confidence is starting to come to him. On the other hand he still must prove he can be consistent. There is no proven backup in case Teel gets hurt.

Key Stat: 10 touchdowns against 13 interceptions.

Running Backs: A+

Mike and the Big Dog say: What can you say about these guys? Ray Rice and Brian Leonard might be the best combination in the nation.  Both have the ability to score from anywhere on the field. If we had any criticism, it was that Kordell Young wasn't getting enough touches, but now Schiano is working him into the line up. Is there any team in the nation with whom you'd make a trade for their running back corps?

Key Stat: 4.6 yards per carry, 27 rushing touchdowns.

Offensive Line: A

Mike and the Big Dog say: This unit turned in a good, solid performance that allowed only 8 sacks and blocked for over 2000 rushing yards. Coach Flood's squad has produced two All-Americans, three All-Big East members and Darnell Stapleton was a finalist for the Rimington Trophy.

Key Stat: 8 sacks allowed (#2 in the nation)

Wide Receivers (Including Tight Ends): B-

This unit lost four starters, but showed it's depth as the young guns impressed.

Mike and the Big Dog say: Emerging star Kenny Britt could break every receiving record in the books before his career is over. He is still developing but his potential is unlimited. Tim Brown is so fast that defensive backs denied his existence until it was proven by the high speed photography. Tiquan Underwood is more a raw talent than a natural wide out.  His development as a receiver has to be nurtured but the potential is there.  Clark Harris's performance was hindered by Teel's slow development, but he performed well enough to be named First Team All-Big East.

Key Stat: Kenny Britt in last 4 games: 25 receptions for 386 yards, 2 TD.

Offensive Play Calling/Coaching: A-

Mike and the Big Dog say: A truly excellent coaching job by Greg Schiano and the offensive staff.  They deserve a lot of credit for moving the ball effectively against any opponent.

Inexperienced players at the quarterback and wide receiver positions limited the offensive variety, but the play calling was effective and the unit moved the ball well.

Key Stat: 333.9 Yards per game

Overall Offense: B+

Mike and the Big Dog say: Although defense was the hallmark of this team, you don't get to 10-2 without good "O". This team had it.

Key Stat: 29.2 points per game

The Defense

Defensive Line: A-

Mike and the Big Dog say: We just love these guys. None of them get the press clippings individually. All of them have earned it as a group.  The unit was highly productive and was one of the reasons why the defense was among the top 10 in the country.  Eric Foster (51 tackles, 6 sacks, 8 hurries) was named First Team All-America by the Football Writers of America.

Key Stat: 38 team sacks for 235 yards, #8 in the nation

Linebackers: B+

Mike and the Big Dog say: This unit played very well.  The experience of the two seniors made this unit the second most improved on the team.  Devraun Thompson is Rutgers version of the human highlight film. He has incredible instincts in goal line situations. He also possesses a second sense of where the play will flow and perfectly times his arrival at the point of attack. Frierson and the others are solid contributors. The unit as a whole is excellent. They play together well and make brilliant reads as a group.

Key Stat: 7.9 team tackles for loss, #6 in the nation

Defensive Backs: B

Ron Girault and Courtney Greene made plays all over the field and were honored with Second Team All-Big East honors for their performance.  Derrick Roberson was playing the best football of his career before being injured.

Mike and the Big Dog say: This is a good and improving unit that will only get better.  At the start of the season, this was a unit that was questioned.  Now it is among the team's strengths.

Key Stat: Allowed 152.9 yards passing per game, #7 in the nation.

Defensive Play Calling/Coaching: A-

Mike and the Big Dog say: Another superb coaching job.  At times, Coach Schiano has been brilliant with his play calling.  Among these times was the 2nd Qtr of the Louisville game, where his defensive play calling held one of the nation's best offenses scoreless.  The coaches lost almost their entire pass rush to graduation, and then replaced it immediately.  The linebackers swarmed to the ball but almost never got fooled on misdirection.  The defensive backs matured considerably.

Key Stat: Held opponents to 259.8 yards per game, #7 in the nation.

Overall Defense: A-

Mike and the Big Dog say: Simply put, one of the best defenses in the nation.

Key Stat:  Allowed 14.7 points per game, #9 in the nation.

Special Teams: B

Mike and the Big Dog say: Ito and Radigan were sensational but as the season wore on punt and kick coverage teams gave up too much yardage. The early flurry of blocked kicks disappeared as the season went on.

Key Stats: Joe Radigan: 44.11 yards per punt, #9 in the nation.  Jeremy Ito: .792 FG success rate

Overall Team Grade: B+

Rutgers has one of the most exciting teams in the nation.  The team plays with heart and passion.  The most effective weapon is probably "the chop": A single-minded focus on achieving excellence at the immediate task at hand.

Mike and the Big Dog say: Definitely a top 15 team, perhaps a top 10 team despite what the rankings say. Had the Knights come to play against Cincinnati, we would have given them an A+ ... and they would have been playing for a BCS bowl.  They still came within 2 points of achieving that goal.  This was the best Rutgers team since the undefeated 1976 squad.

Key Stats: 4-2 on the road, 6-0 at home

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