An in depth look at Howard

Between a new offensive coordinator, new season and generally flying under the radar because of the Bison's FCS status, Howard is a relative unknown. To get you ready for what to look for come tomorrow afternoon, SOR takes a look at what Howard brings to the table from the opinions of head coach Greg Schiano and the Scarlet Knights.

Howard offense:
Very little is known about the Howard offense. After the Bison went 1-10 last season, things got even worse when their offensive coordinator fell ill and had to leave his post.

Because a new coordinator is calling the shots, game tape from last season is fairly meaningless when it comes to play recognition for Rutgers.

"They went with a guy on staff, but there's conversation about what exactly they're going to do," Schiano said of the Howard offense. "We have to be fairly generic I think because we're not sure what we're going to get."

What is known about Howard, however, is that the team went 1-10 last season and is among the worst of the FCS.

"We can't really get too much off of them," said junior defense end Alex Silvestro, who intercepted an errant pass last week. "We kind of have an idea of what they ran last year and a combination of what their coordinators were doing."

Personnel-wise, Schiano pointed to the wide receivers as the strength of the team.

"They have some fast wide receivers," Schiano said. "I think their wide receiver group as a whole [can have an impact]. Now some of this is off tape and some of this is off word of mouth. They have very talented speed wide receivers."

Schiano also mentioned tight end Phillip Dokes, a 6-foot-6 transfer from Tulsa, as a potential impact guy on offense.

Howard defense:
The biggest concern with the Bison defense comes in the form of starting linebacker Patrick Jean-Mary, a Canadian native and second-year starter.

"They have a very good linebacker that I think we have to know where he is because he's going to come from everywhere," Schiano said. "They do blitz, more than a little bit."

The blitzing ability of Jean-Mary and the rest of the Bison is something that true freshman quarterback Tom Savage will have to both recognize and deal with in his first career start at Rutgers.

"It's definitely going to be different, but I'm just doing what Coach [Schiano] told me to do," Savage said. "He says go out there, I'm going to go out there. … It's the same thing even if I'm third string. You have to go out there and watch the film. You have to analyze the defense and you have to take each game seriously.

"They're an aggressive team. They're fast and they're ready to play so we just have to go out there and we just have to compete."

Howard special teams:
The team returns both its kicker and punter from last season and could be dangerous in the return game. Schiano pointed to the speed and athleticism of the entire squad as reasons to take the Howard special teams very seriously.

Howard opens the season Saturday in Piscataway. The Bison were 1-10 overall and 0-8 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) in 2008.

Rutgers is in elite defensive category, as one of five teams in the nation to record a shutout in each of the last three seasons. Rutgers shut out Illinois and Navy in 2006. In 2007, Norfolk State was shutout and Morgan State was held scoreless in 2008.

Since 2005, Rutgers is tied with the Bearcats for the second best Big East Conference record (17-12), trailing only West Virginia. Louisville (15-13) rounds out the top half of the conference with a fourth place position.

Tom Savage will be in elite category following the conclusion of this weekend's contests, as he will join Matt Barkley (USC), Tate Forcier (Michigan), and Trent Steelman as the only true freshman QBs to start an FBS game this season.

Senior WR Tim "Duce" Brown is currently tied for ninth in school history with 11 career touchdown receptions.

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