Savage's style change; defending UConn's QB

Rutgers quarterback Tom Savage makes his first Big East start Saturday at Connecticut. His season has already been full of adjustments, including a major one to his playing style as he learns the ropes as a pocket passer. Also, the Huskies began the season as a running team, but that changed last week after quarterback Cody Endres threw for 378 yards.

Tom Savage isn't declaring he is the best quarterback in the Big East, or he has everything figured out, or even that he is playing well.

What he will acknowledge is the transition from high school to playing as a true freshman isn't as tough as he anticipated …mostly because he feared the worst.

"All I heard coming in was how difficult and how rare it is for a true freshman to play,'' he said. "So, I feel like with the talent we have on the field, it makes it a lot easier for me.''

Savage will make his first career conference road start Saturday at Connecticut.

Outside of the typical speed and size adjustments in jumping to the college level, the biggest adjustment Savage had to make was to modify his playing style.

At Cardinal O'Hara (Springfield, Pa.), Savage rarely stayed in the pocket.

Instead, there were three-step drops, quick releases out of the shot-gun and plenty of rollouts, with Savage either throwing on the run or keeping the ball and turning up field. Rutgers is clearly a drop-back, stay-in-the-poccket offense.

"In high school I never used to play in the pocket much,'' Savage said. "Not many high schools do. We worked on trying to get the ball out quick, but I've never really just stepped up in the pocket.''

Savage said working out at Rutgers in the summer, which included plenty of throwing drills, gave him some sense of how to throw the ball from a stationary position.

It didn't show much early in the season as Savage left the pocket too early and seemed uncomfortable, but the last few games his comfort level rose greatly. He is sliding to avoid pressure and manipulating his body ever-so-slightly to move in the pocket and avoid the rush.

If anything, Savage is staying in the pocket too long these days.

"I guess I'm so confident with the offensive line, I know there will be a pocket there,'' Savage said. "My dad and I always used to work on it. He would always cover that, saying you have to feel it. You can't look at it, you have to feel it. I don't know. Even when people come to my back, I don't even see it. I just feel it.''

Savage's comfort behind the line has allowed him time to throw the ball, and although it seems he is always looking for Tim Brown or Mohamed Sanu, he said that is not the case.

"Timmy and Mohamed are so talented, sometimes you don't have to go to the third (progression),'' Savage said. "Sometimes you do, and I've done it.''

More Savage
Of the 144 passes Savage threw this season, perhaps the one he would like back the most was an overthrow to tight end Shamar Graves last week at Army. Graves was open for a sure touchdown, but Savage's pass was nowhere near him.

"I got really excited,'' Savage said while shaking his head. "… I don't know. I put it behind me and it's over now.''

Stopping the scramble
Rutgers' defense has been victimized by big scrambles this season, most notably against Pittsburgh. Defensive end George Johnson said the Scarlet Knights must remain cognizant of it against Huskies quarterback Cody Endres.

"What the (defensive) line can do is keep their pass lanes,'' said Johnson, who has 4.5 sacks. "That's the main reason why quarterbacks scramble and can get around is because defensive linemen do not keep their pass lanes. They think too much about getting a sack and they get out of their lanes and open gaps so quarterbacks can get through.''

So much for imbalance
Heading into last week, it was easy to build a case UConn was a one-dimensional, running team.

However, Huskies quarterback Cody Endres changed that when he completed 25 of 41 passes for 378 yards in a 28-24 loss at West Virginia.

"Right now they're balanced,'' Rutgers safety Joe Lefeged said. "It really stood out against West Virginia because they're a top-notch football team. They run the ball well and throw the ball well. We really have to be ready.''

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