Spring Practice #1 Notebook

You couldn't have drawn up better weather for the initial Spring Football practice of the season if you were in control of the actual atmosphere yourself. Temps in the mid- and upper-40's along with a mix of sun clouds, but barely a breeze through Rutgers Stadium greeted Coach Schiano and his 2008 Scarlet Knights.

If evidence was needed by outsiders to see just how far the Rutgers program has come under Greg Schiano, all they would have to do is take a look at the number of BCS teams that have participated in the last three consecutive bowl games. Among all D-I candidates, Rutgers is one of only 25, and one of a select trio to accomplish the feat in the Big East (WVU and USF being the others). A fourth such trip is at stake for the Scarlet Knights and preparation toward that goal oficially got underway Tuesday afternoon.

"Some good, some not so good," stated Coach Schiano in reference to his squad's first practice. "You have a mix of youth and experience on the team, so some of the experienced guys looked very good and some of the younger guys looked a little younger."

There are several positions where the race is wide open, such as the offensive backfield. Replacing Ray Rice's 173 all purpose yards per game is probably chief among the solutions Schiano and his staff will look for during this spring and upcoming summer. "We'll find out about these running backs when we go scrimmage," stated Schiano, suggesting that a quantitative assessment of today's performance is difficult, given that the initial practice was in pads. "We won't with Kordell until training camp, but the other three we will [find out about]. I think they're good players." There are choices and there are differences in style. On the one hand, the 235-pound Jourdan Brooks will look to run over you, through you, even around you. Surrounding him, Joe Martinek and Mason Robinson are more of your typical 195 to 200-pound 'backs, that combine speed and agility with a touch of elusiveness.

What makes Brooks stand out, however, is the combination of speed and agility bottled into a big frame. "I think he's very fast, he's very powerful, he's got the raw ability of what I would label a big back, yet he's got the feet of a small back," stated Schiano.

The spring, however, remains about teaching fundamentals, getting all the 'backs sufficient repetitions, and building more of an idea of who can do what, and how well. "I don't think anybody is going to put themselves into the driver's seat this spring," said Schiano.

In front of the 'backs lies a partially revamped offensive line. Rutgers returns two-fifths of its starting rotation from 2007 [LT Anthony Davis and C Ryan Blaszczyk] but Coach Schiano was quick to point out that the OL is not necessarily as green as some make it out to be. "I think Blaze (i.e., Blaszczyk), kind of being here an extra year, he's kind of quickly become the elder statesman there, along with Kevin Haslam. I think Kevin has been here for a while, Mike Gilmartin has been here for a while, so even though they may not have started very much, they've started a few and they've been around, so they understand."

Notes:
**The open date, for September 27th, still remains open as of today.
**The three-year starter for West Boca, WR Alexis Robenson, has been moved to CB.
**Al-Ghaffaar Lane, the former Paterson Catholic HS standout, will also be tried out at Safety during spring drills.


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