Recapping Saturday's Scrimmage

Rutgers held its first scrimmage of the spring Saturday, and it was an interesting day as the defense was expectedly dominant. Check out what the principles had to say about the offense's performance, what makes the defense so good and who had good days. Also, there were a number of recruits in attendance including a big four-star player from Maryland.

PISCATAWAY – The first scrimmage of the spring showed Rutgers' defense, with only several new parts on the first unit, is on pace.

And that means the offense is, predictably, in need of marked improvement over the second half of the spring practice schedule.

The defense dominated, from stuffing the running game to harassing quarterbacks Tom Savage and Steve Shimko. When it was over, coach Greg Schiano summed it up.

"It was a good first scrimmage in that there was great energy and focus,'' Schiano said. "They played hard. They hit each other.

"We were inefficient on offense. I didn't think we protected the quarterback very well on offense, and I don't think we ran the ball very well on offense, but some of that has to do with the defense played very well, and tackled pretty well.''

Savage was 7 of 14 for 55 yards before the scrimmage moved to situational drills. More concerning was the work of backup Steve Shimko, who was 8 of 21 for 92 yards. He also had an interception returned 49 yards by Darrell Givens for a touchdown, and afterward Schiano characterized Shimko's problems as his feet being behind his mind when it came to throwing passes.

"This defense, you already know they're going to be great, and I think that's what is going to benefit us all spring,'' Savage said. "We're going to be going against one of the best defenses in the country. You look at them. They're all young, fast. All of them are explosive, especially that defensive line.

"I think we moved the ball a little bit. I think we were consistent. Not too many mental mistakes, just technique stuff.''

In reality, much of the problems for the offensive struggles can be attributed to an offensive line in transition. Not only are the Scarlet Knights breaking in three new starters, but projected starters Howard Barbieri (center) and Desmond Wynn (right tackle) were also out with injuries.

Mix in Atwan Lowery, a converted defensive tackle, making his first appearance at right guard in a game-like situation, and it will take time for the offensive line to build.

That was one of the reasons running back Joe Martinek was held to 2 yards on eight carries.

"It was a little upsetting at times, especially moving the ball, but we just have to come back and watch film,'' Rutgers left tackle Desmond Stapleton said. "We're not going to try and put anyone down. We're going to try to pick them up and get things right. I was hoping we could score a little more, but we need to execute.

"It's a nick there, a pick there. We just have to get our technique right and get back at it.''

In the passing game, Mohamed Sanu had two early catches for 18 yards and Tim Wright continued his impressive spring with three catches for 23 yards.

Givens' switch
Givens, who moved to safety from cornerback, had two practices at his new position before the scrimmage, and he started off with a bang.

Givens intercepted Shimko's pass and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown, avoiding a few tackles near the goal line to get into the end zone.

"I just jumped the route,'' Givens said. "I was in the right spot. The call that they made, I was just in the right spot.''

Givens said he was surprised by his position change, but is embracing the chance to earn playing time.

"Coach came to me and said he wanted to see what I could do from the safety position,'' Givens said. "Hopefully, I can help the team and become a better player at the safety position. I played corner in high school, but if one of our safeties were to get injured, I would go to safety.

"It's a learning experience for me. It's something new, at a different level. I like it so far, though. I'm starting to get real comfortable there. I'm picking up on the safety calls, and all the techniques for the safeties.''

Recruiting watch
On the recruiting front, signees JT Tartacoff, Brandon Coleman and Lorenzo Waters were at the scrimmage. Coleman is every bit of 6-foot-6, but is lean and needs to put on weight once he is done with basketball. He was hanging around with Bishop McNamara and Rutgers target Nico Law part of the day.

Owing Mills OT Donovan Smith was there, and he is a big kid, as were Red Bank Catholic's Jack Tabb and Bronxville's Kieran Borcich.

Extra points
Tight end Evan Lampert missed part of the scrimmage with a bruised hip but should be fine. …Schiano said he saw injured receiver Phil Lewis late Friday night. Lewis had surgery to repair a broken right arm suffered in Friday's practice.


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