Notes: Freeny's USF fondness, Ruch and more

Rutgers defensive end Jonathan Freeny was born in Tampa, Fla., and grew up going to South Florida football games, which he now laughs about. With the Scarlet Knights hosting the 23rd-ranked Bulls on Thursday, Freeny talks about the irony of the situation. He also is second in the Big East in sacks, and he talks about what is working fr him. Plus, catching up with OL Caleb Ruch.

Rutgers junior defensive end Jonathan Freeny cannot help but laugh at the mental image playing through his mind.

Yes, he was born in Tampa. Yes, plenty of family members still live in Tampa.

And, the most laughably embarrassing aspect of it all, Freeny used to head to Raymond James Stadium and cheer for South Florida.

"I went to a couple of games when I was in Tampa,'' Freeny said before chuckling and grabbing his stomach. "Yes, I rooted for them.''

Freeny certainly sees the irony in Thursday's nationally televised meeting with No. 23 South Florida at Rutgers Stadium, and mostly because his family's allegiance to the Bulls.

"They watch South Florida a lot,'' Freeny said. "A whole lot of them, when I was in (high) school, that was the thing. (Freeny's family) is rooting for South Florida, except when Rutgers is playing South Florida.''

Technically, Freeny is a Tampa native, and he calls it his "second home.'' He was born there, but moved to South Florida when was 18 months old.

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Freeny starred at Coconut Creek (Fla.) High, but wasn't highly recruited. He had offers from Florida International, Western Michigan and the Scarlet Knights, and got lukewarm interest from the Bulls.

But Freeny, who is second in the Big East with 7.5 sacks, isn't out to prove the South Florida coaching staff wrong for not offering him.

"It was a team I was interested in, but they were just talking to me,'' Freeny said. "They never offered me or anything. It doesn't matter because I'm here for a reason, and Rutgers is the place I wanted to be.''

More Freeny
Freeny had one career sack entering the season, and quickly blew that total away. He also has been consistently getting to the quarterback, registering a sack in the win against Connecticut.

Freeny credits improved technique for his solid play, which includes team highs of 10 quarterback hits and 9.5 tackles for loss. Freeny, who backs up senior George Johnson, is also third among defensive lineman with 24 tackles.

"It is definitely using my hands, getting them inside on the tackles, and my footwork,'' Freeny said. "Some teams, when I'm coming off the edge, might go with a (running) back on me, but they really aren't keying on me much because we have other blitzes and stuff where you just can't key on one person. We don't have that kind of defense.''

Ruch ready
The depth of Rutgers' interior offensive line will get a boost with the availability of sophomore Caleb Ruch, who is ready to play after missing the last six games with an ankle injury.

"I feel like if I needed to go in, I'm pretty sure I'd be able to go in and perform,'' Ruch said. "I'm a little sore after practice sometimes, but it's nothing you can't play with. It's not serious enough to keep you off the field at this point. You've got to play through pain and get back on the field.''

Kitchen update
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said senior free safety Zaire Kitchen, who was injured in the third quarter against Connecticut, practiced the last few days and should be available against the Bulls.


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