Spring is in the Air

Another winter has nearly dropped off the calendar pages - what does that mean? It means that Spring Football must be right around the corner. Rutgers Head Football Coach Greg Schiano got things started on Friday afternoon by discussing personnel, the always popular depth chart, and much more.

"I'm real excited about getting underway. There are many changes that are going to present additional challenges, but ones that I'm looking forward to," stated Rutgers Head Football Coach Greg Schiano, referring to the loss of key players from last year's squad, the turnover in staff, and the normal routine associated with starting preparations toward another season.

That said, challenges, it should be noted, should not be interpreted in a negative manner. "I don't think there's been a time in our program where, from Freshman to Senior we've been as talented as we are right now now, which is something that's exciting for our program."

"I'm excited about this team, I'm excited about the outlook that they have."

"As always, the spring is a time to really hone in on fundamental football. You don't have an opponent to play on Saturday, although we'll scrimmage most of the Saturdays. It's an opportunity during the week where it's not practice, practice, practice, play a game. You practice, you have a day off, you lift. So it's a slower learning environment, one where I think young players especially can really thrive in."

Rutgers returns 7 starters on offense and 8 on defense. The Scarlet Knights did lose key pieces of the team, members that helped elevate RU into a respectable program. Seven starters (4 on offense and 3 on defense) in addition to do-it-all Specialist Jeremy Ito have departed. In their wake, a number of returning Knights will have the opportunity to compete for time and a starter's job.

But as it did last year and the year before, it will all start at the top.

"In 2008, leadership is not going to be an issue with this team," said Coach Schiano, in reference to key returnees. "I just think we have a great group of guys in here."

One of the key questions facing the 2008 version of Rutgers Football will be the offense's adaption to Ray Rice's departure.

"There's certainly going to be questions to answer in certain areas. I guess, the one that jumps right at you is, we lose what arguably is the best running back in the history of the school and one of the best in the country last year in Ray Rice," stated Schiano.

First and foremost among those likely to see a sharp increase in the number of carries will be redshirt Sophomore Kordell Young. Young returns as the most experienced tailback on the roster. He's played in 14 career games, but has only carried the ball 18 times while also participating in kickoff returns.

"Kordell is going to be eased back into things this spring," said Coach Schiano. Young is progressing nicely, but the expectation that he will participate in the Spring Game, may be unrealistic, or at best, unlikely. A pair of players that are going to see significant action this spring are Mason Robinson, Jourdan Brooks, and the all-time leading rusher in New Jersey state history, Joe Martinek.

"Mason has shown us that he is a very talented player. How far he goes is going to be totally up to him."

The fullback position hasn't quite been the same since the departure of RU great Brian Leonard. The depth chart currently indicates Andres Morales and Jack Corcoran in a virtual tie for first team. "I think with Morales and Corcoran, they need to step up their play. And I think they will, and when that happens I think they will get more touches," stated Coach Schiano.

During the days of Brian Leonard, the FB position was not utilized in the traditional blocking role, only. But, that was to be expected given that Leonard would also see time in a 1-back set as the sole player in the backfield. One of Leonard's main assets was his ability to catch the ball either in the flat or continue to dig down on a wheel route. In may be in passing situations, similar to one of the many ways Leonard was utilized, where RU's current stable of FBs, both of which are athletic enough to amass YAC, may see their opportunity of touching the ball.

"We have such good skill players that the fight for the fight for a piece of the pie is really a great competition."

"The plays get used up very quickly and what's happened on all the good football teams I've ever been a part of is, you get the ball if you weren't getting the ball." Certainly, the Kenny Britts, the Underwoods and the Timmy Browns of the world will have to get their touches. But that isn't to suggest that some of the newcomers may be left out in the cold. "What I want them to do is what they've been doing," continued Coach Schiano, now in reference to RU's trio of early entrants. All three of these guys are very serious about football. I look forward to them continuing to get acclimated to college football," coach stated. For players like Keith Stroud and Art Forst, however, the opportunity at significant, early playing time is right there for them.

The Tight End corps is one that historically has seen tremendous production at Rutgers. The departure of Clark Harris was followed by an almost immediate dip in production in '07, until Kevin Brock began to assert himself. "I think Kevin Brock, from about mid-season on really set himself apart. He's continued to do that. Kevin's acting like a Senior, doing the kind of things I'd expect a Senior to do. We need Kevin to come through big-time and I think he will." Brock reeled in 23 passes for 241 yards and a pair of scores in 2007 and became more of a focal point of the offense during the second half of the stanza.

"I think a lot of it [last year] had to do with confidence. As he [i.e., Brock] becomes more and more confident, he now has reason to be confident. I think he's going to have a good year." Coach Schiano alluded to the Syracuse game as the instance in time wherein Brock made the leap forward, a continued trend expected out of the Hackensack [NJ] native going into spring, summer, and beyond.

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