Notebook: Priming for Spring, Part I

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano held his annual press conference to preview spring practice, and it was chock full of information. In the first of our two-part notebook, he talks about the youth of the program and the depth at quarterback, position changes and movement along the offensive line and updates the injury situation.

PISCATAWAY – Rutgers begins spring practice March 23, and Rutgers coach Greg Schiano kicked off his spring practice press conference with some exciting, albeit also sobering, news regarding the youth in the program.

Schiano said when the Scarlet Knights report for training camp in the fall, 62 of the 85 scholarship players will have at least three years of eligibility remaining.

There is plenty of talent in the program, but it is young talent, which means the 15-session spring practice focus on fundamentals gains importance looking toward the 2010 season.

"We haven't been that young in a while, but I am excited,'' Schiano said. "I am not afraid of that. I think that is encouraging. We have a lot of young kids that have played, whether they started or played considerable roles, and now it is time to develop."

One of the areas of extreme youth, not to mention a lack of depth, is at quarterback, where sophomore Tom Savage will split reps with the only other quarterback on the spring roster, Steve Schimko.

"It is a great opportunity for Steve,'' Schiano said. "He and I have talked about it. He is really a great guy to have on our football team. He prepares in the classroom and does everything right. He works extremely hard in the conditioning drills and has gotten better at being a quarterback.'' Spring practice will also serve Savage well.

Although he had a tremendous freshman season, Savage never had the opportunity to digest information from practice on a daily basis because he was always getting ready for the next game.

That is no longer the case, which will give Savage time to better understand what takes place in practice.

"There is no game at the end of the week,'' Schiano said. "There is not that pressure to get ready for someone else. We are not game planning, we are doing generic defense. You are looking at defenses and are thinking about them generically.''

Mixing the offensive line
Schiano said Howard Barbieri was sliding from guard to center, Art Forst will get a chance to play guard and right tackle, Antonio Lowery was moved from defensive tackle to offensive guard and Desmond Stapleton would get opportunity at left tackle with Desmond Wynn (shoulder surgery) out of spring practice.

"We are going to move guys around,'' Schiano said. "Art is going to play some guard and some tackle. We know Howard can play other positions but we moved Howard to center right after the bowl game and I think he is going to be a real leader, a real tough guy that is respected amongst his teammates.

"I am excited to see Stapleton step up. He has matured. He has shown that he has the potential to do it. Well, now is his chance. I look at a guy like Caleb Ruch. He has certainly been involved enough and certainly understands what we are about. It is time for him to step up.''

Schiano added Devon Watkis and Hoftra transfer Matt McBride will also get opportunities to prove they belong on the two-deep, but a non-football-related injury will keep promising freshman Betim Bujari out of spring practice.

"Frank Quartucci is a young guy that we want to find out about,'' Schiano said. "It is a shame about Betim's situation because he was ready to go, but you can't mess around with some things that need to be taken care of and we will do that, and then we will get him back in the summer time.''

Lowery's switch
One of the more intriguing moves is the switch of Lowery to offensive line.

"He is a very talented guy that we thought could bolster the offensive line,'' Schiano said. "We know he can play on defense and, generally, if he can play on defense he can do a pretty good job on offense.

"It will be a learning curve, we are not naive to that. It is good that we are doing it in the spring and he gets a chance to work at it. If he is as natural as I think he will be, he will have a chance to compete for playing time."

Injury update
Schiano rattled off numerous surgeries players underwent that will keep them out of spring practice, with the most notable being running back De'Antwan Williams, who had his knee cleaned out. He is expected to be ready for summer conditioning and workouts.

Also set to miss spring practice but be ready for summer workouts are running back Kordell Young (knee), tight end Fabian Ruiz (Achilles surgery) and receiver Jamal Merrell (knee surgery).

Defensive back Colin McEvoy (shoulder surgery) and running back Mason Robinson (knee) will be limited in the spring, and be held out of contact.

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