Spring has Sprung at RU

For some it's the changing of the clocks forward to "spring ahead" mode, for others it's whatever mood a certain marmot named Phil happens to be in when he emerges from a long winter nap but for Rutgers Football fans the unofficial start of Spring is signaled by the annual Rutgers Football Spring Press Conference.

This year's press conference at the Hale Center by Coach Greg Schiano was attended by SOR as well as other media representatives. Below is a brief summary of what was talked about.

Rutgers returns 16 starters and 47 letter-winners from last year's squad that won its third straight bowl game in the PapaJohns.com Bowl and finished with an impressive seven game win streak. Spring Practice commences on March 10th this year. The Scarlet and White game on Saturday April 18 marks the end of RU Spring football.

2009 Schedule Announced
Rutgers opens at home with the Cincinnati Bearcats, the Big East's defending champions, the weekend of Saturday Sept. 5 (specific date to be determined at a later time). The newly expanded Rutgers Stadium will be host to seven home games including a Thursday night ESPN game against South Florida and the season finale against West Virginia on Dec. 5 that will also be televised by an ABC/ESPN channel. Another RU game that will be nationally televised will be the Oct. 16 Pitt game.

Coaching Staff
Although not yet finalized and positions remain open Coach Schiano did say he was not concerned. "We've been actively interviewing people but I'm not going to make moves on the staff just to do it before we start practice. We have plenty of experienced guys that can fill in, to coach the positions that may be open," stated Coach Schiano, who added that that there may some things that may be done before Tuesday in regards to finalizing coaching positions.

Open Positions
Rutgers does have some question marks this year at different positions not least of which is of course at quarterback. Rutgers will have to find a replacement for Mike Teel amongst the four quarterbacks it currently has on its roster with a fifth highly recruited QB in Tom Savage joining them in the summer. Currently on the QB depth chart, Rutgers lists Jabu Lovelace although he will miss spring practice while recovering from an injury. The expected starter going into spring is Domenic Natale, a senior who will take over the position with much anticipation.

However, will Natale be the answer at QB for Rutgers? Schiano indicated that it may be too early to make such a judgment. "It's anybody's position, whoever earns it both on the field and the classroom and off the field in the way they live."

D.C. Jefferson and Steven Shimko are also in the mix and when further questioned, Schiano reiterated: "You earn it by doing things right off the field and by making plays on the field … making plays and not making bad plays."

"Competition is good. We have four talented quarterbacks and a fifth one coming. We are excited about all five of them." So Schiano's message to RU's next starting quarterback is that he must prove himself both on and off the field to earn the position.

Another area of concern for Rutgers this coming season is finding replacements for two of it's most prolific receivers ever in Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood who are now either graduated or have left early for the NFL. Here as well there is plenty of talent in Sr. Tim Brown, Julian Hayes, Keith Stroud, Marcus Cooper, Eddie Poole and Andrew DePaola. Outside if Brown and Hayes the corps lacks game day experience.

"I think that role will be defined by the way things unfold. Physically, it's not going to be an issue, just experience and I think we're going to have to accelerate that as much as we can." Schiano was optimistic that the group of wide receivers currently on roster can get the job done this coming season.

Giving Up Defensive Coordinator Role
This year's Scarlet Knight team will not have Schiano as defensive coordinator as he has stepped down from that role and appointed co-defensive coordinators in Bob Fraser and Ed Pinkham. "I believe it was time for me to do more things better… there are only so many hours in the day," stated Schiano when talking about his decision to step down as defensive coordinator. He went on to add, "The reason I felt I could and felt comfortable doing it was by the two guys that I named on defense [who] are two very, very experienced coaches that will do a great job." Schiano did indicate he would remain involved, however: "I'm still going to be very involved so I'm very comfortable with it."

Former RU Players Visiting
Schiano was asked to comment of recent sightings of former Rutgers football players and current NFL players Brian Leonard (St. Louis Rams) and Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens) at the Rutgers facilities training with current Rutgers players.

"It's an awesome thing to see all the NFL guys coming back and training here it says three things. One, Jay Butler and his staff are tremendous because these guys can afford to go train anywhere but they choose to come train here. Two, that this is a family atmosphere, that they feel comfortable in being here and three it's great for our young players to see because I don't know any players that we sign that don't dream about playing in the National Football League. To have guys that are in the weight room, up in the Bubble with them, that are doing what they aspire to do is a great motivation, to have in your sights that guy [who] wore the same uniform that I do, it's tremendous."

So, take heart RU football fans: like Coach Schiano said at the beginning of his press conference, "Spring time already? How ‘bout that?" Spring has officially come to Piscataway and before we know it the smell of charcoal grills and the sights and sounds of the very game Rutgers played in for the first time in history will be back as well.

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