Notes: Studying Savage, young talent and more

As dooes every team, Rutgers enters the offseason with question marks that will need to be answered in the spring and training camp, but also with an answer at the most critical position on the field. Tom Savage quarterbacked the Scarlet Knights to a 9-4 record, a remarkable feat for a true freshman. Also, coach Greg Schiano likes the talent the Scarlet Knights were able to red-shirt.

Beyond Tom Savage is Steve Shimko. After that, there is incoming freshman Chad Dodd. The depth at Rutgers' quarterback position is lacking, but the most important element is in place, and that is returning starter Tom Savage.

Savage completed a successful freshman season by throwing for a career-high 294 yards and two touchdowns in the 45-24 defeat of Central Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl.

Now comes an offseason in which Savage can learn the nuances of opposing defenses, and the future of the Scarlet Knights' star quarterback has coach Greg Schiano eager with anticipation.

"You are excited, just like our fans are and many of the people who cover him,'' Schiano said. "It is fun to watch when you know you have a quarterback that you know can make things happen. We certainly didn't know that going into last year. At any level, in college or the NFL or high school, it sure is nice to know who your quarterback is.''

Schiano said he does not list offseason goals for his quarterbacks, but expects them to take on a leadership role.

"There needs to be ownership on the player's part with what they think,'' Schiano said. "I think the one thing that Tom will want to do is get in and study the tape with (assistant) coach (Kirk) Ciarrocca, and really understand what defenses are doing, how he should react and do all those things without the time crunch of a game coming Saturday.

"Now, it is (time to) just sit down and understand. I think that is critical for him. To be able to go out after doing that, and go through spring football, go back and do it again in the summertime and get after it in camp. I think it will be a big time for Tom's development."

Savage finished the season completing 149 of 285 passes for 2,211 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Rating the young receivers
Rutgers' receiving corps was dominated by senior Tim Brown and freshman Mohamed Sanu. The combined to catch 106 passes, and the next leading receiver was Julian Hayes with six catches.

But Schiano said that was not an indication of the young talent, and said red-shirt freshmen Tim Wright, Keith Stroud and Marcus Cooper were forced into action prematurely.

"I think they weren't ready to play quite yet,'' Schiano said. "(But) that experience is going to be invaluable to them, and now they go on to spring football knowing how hard it is to play major college football. I think that will help them in their winter program, help them in their spring and make them a much more prepared receiver come fall 2010."

Change of staff
Continuity on the coaching staff is something coach Greg Schiano hopes to have in the offseason, although there was already on assistant to leave when receivers coach Brian Jenkins accepted the head coaching position at Bethune-Cookman.

"Other than that, there is nothing I know of, but when you have good coaches there will be a lot of changeover,'' Schiano said. "There will be changeover in the National Football League as well. We have guys that are desirable coaches.''

Schiano added he is pleased with his current staff, and there will be a concerted effort to keep it together.

"We do everything we can to try and keep the staff together, but sometimes people do things that they think are better for them and their family,'' Schiano said. "I am not going to stand in the way of that, either.

"I really like our staff. I think they work extremely well together. I think they did a very good job this year. It wasn't easy. When you are playing with young players in key positions, it takes a lot of work and these guys were tireless in their effort. I think we have a good chemistry as well."

Building depth through red-shirts
With a veteran secondary, led by senior cornerback Devin McCourty and senior safety Zaire Kitchen, the Scarlet Knights were able to red-shirt a number of freshmen, including Darrell Givens, Abdul Smith and Logan Ryan.

"I think it is critical,'' Schiano said. "We were able to redshirt guys that, in the past, we would have needed to play. You look at the cornerback position and those young corners are good players. They are going to have the opportunity to really compete for some substantial playing time next year.''

Rutgers also red-shirted several defensive linemen, including Antwan Lowery, Isaac Holmes, Jamil Merrell and Andre Civil.

"You see some of those guys … you watch practice, those are really good defensive lineman,'' Schiano said. "I think that is all going to be good for the program as we move forward.''

Scholarship openings>
Will Rutgers have enough scholarships open to fill a recruiting class despite having only a dozen or so scholarship seniors?

That is something many folks wonder, but keep in mind scholarships are renewed annually. Schiano was asked if he anticipated any underclassmen (other than NFL-bound offensive lineman Anthony Davis) to leave the program.

"There are always those conversations that you have at the end of the season,'' Schiano said. "Some guys have just played enough. Other guys look at as ‘I don't see myself playing here and it is very important for me, not only to be on our team, but to play on Saturdays.' We are going through meetings with players. That stuff will all come out at the signing (day press) conference.''

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