Savage, RU offense at 60 percent mark

The opening two-thirds of the season have been a great learning experience for Rutgers freshman quarterback Tom Savage, who performed well thanks to a philosophical approach by the coaching staff. Rather than burden and bombard the true freshman quarterback with an entire playbook, Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano said only a portion is being used. So, will the Scarlet Knights open it up now?

Want more from the Rutgers offense, especially when it comes to a variety of plays? Well, it could take a while.

A big part of preparing a young quarterback like Scarlet Knights true freshman Tom Savage for games is making sure he is not overloaded before the opening kickoff.

That is why the installation of Rutgers' offense is somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of the playbook.

"If you look at the offense right now, we're probably 60 percent installed,'' Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "And I don't know how much further we'll go this season. So there's a lot of things that we're not doing, and we're just making sure what we do, Tom feels comfortable with.''

It is hard to argue with the individual results.

One of the reason Rutgers leads the nation in turnover margin (+2.25 per game) is Savage's ability to protect the football, and the willingness of the offensive staff not to ask Savage to do too much.

He is 94 of 168 for 1,341 yards and eight touchdowns. Incredibly, he has thrown only one interception, and very few other passes which could have been intercepted.

"The No. 1 thing that he continues to do is take care of the football,'' Schiano said. "That's the most important thing. That gives you a chance. Whether you win or lose, a lot of other things have to happen, but as soon as you start turning the ball over, it really makes it an uphill climb.''

Schiano credits the lack of turnovers to Savage, as well as the approach of co-offensive coordinators Kyle Flood and Kirk Ciarrocca, who doubles as the quarterbacks coach.

"I think Kyle and Kirk have really done a great job of just bringing Tommy along with the right tempo,'' Schiano said. "Certainly, there is the temptation to do more.''

Especially given Savage's stature (6-foot-4, 230 pounds), his arm strength and ever-growing pocket presence.

Savage, the heralded recruit from Cardinal O'Hara (Springfield, Pa.), didn't know what percentage of the offense was installed until he was questioned about it, but he has a handle on everything to this juncture.

"I think I know 100 percent of that 60 percent,'' Savage said. "I feel like I'm comfortable with everything that they gave me, and I'm sure there's plenty more to go in. Whatever coach wants me to do, I'll do it. I feel there's a lot more to learn.''

Even if the installation of the playbook is complete for the season, there is still plenty for Savage to digest through studying.

Game plans are installed early in the week, which often make for a sloppy offensive practice. Some of the plays may be new, but others are a refresher of plays and formations the Scarlet Knights used earlier in the season, or in training camp.

"The biggest thing is actually studying it,'' Savage said. "You still have to go back to your room and study the playbook for two or three hours a night. You can't just go rep it out in practice and then forget about it.''

Whether the passing game is dynamic enough is another matter.

The Scarlet Knights rank last in the eight-team Big East in passing offense (198.4 ypg), seventh in total offense (344.8 ypg) and fifth in scoring (28.9 ppg). Savage ranks sixth in passing efficiency (137.5).

But don't look for a sudden change in approach, especially since Rutgers (6-2) is winning with defense, special teams and not turning the ball over.

"When you do too much, that's when you start to turn it over,'' Schiano said. "That's when you have hesitancies that lead to bad plays. Tom is doing a great job of grasping what we ask him to grasp.''

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