Top 25: QB Tom Savage (No. 1)'s series profiling the Top 25 most important players for the 2010 season comes to a close just as Rutgers opens training camp. In the last installment, sophomore quarterback Tom Savage is the subject. He is coming off a strong freshman season and spent the offseason fine-tuning his mental and physical schools.

There was no consistent running game to rely on and Tom Savage was under constant pressure from unrelenting pass rushes.

Yet, he protected the ball and won eight games as a starter.

Imagine what he will do in 2010 now that he is a sophomore, and has an understanding of opposing defenses and a full grasp of his own offense.

Quarterbacks are also central to the success of a team, but Savage is vital in so many ways it is nearly impossible to quantify, which is why he is No. 1 in's countdown of the Top 25 most important players for the 2010 season.

What so many people wonder is what will Rutgers do if Savage gets hurt since his backups, red-shirt sophomore Steven Shimko and incoming freshman Chas Dodd, have no experience? (For now, Shimko is the backup, but Dodd will be given a chance to win that job.) How much "Wildcat" would Mohamed Sanu run if Savage went down?

Those are valid, and speak to the important of keeping Savage healthy.

However, that only begins to tell of what Savage means to the offense, especially if he stays health.

Savage isn't a stop-gap quarterback for a year. He is a quarterback to build a program around, and Rutgers in the middle of doing that.

The 6-foot-5, 226-pound sophomore has a strong arm, showed good pocket awareness last season and does not get rattled easily. He is a main reason why the Scarlet Knights believe they are much better than projected by the media, which selected them to finish fifth in the Big East at Tuesday's media day.

A year ago Savage threw 14 touchdown passes against seven interceptions, a remarkable total for a true freshman with little balance on offense because of the running game woes. True, he wasn't asked to make a lot of difficult throws, but he understood how to manage a game and not turn the ball over.

He completed 52.3 percent of his passes, a low number, but also something expected as he tried to adjust to the speed of the game and a less-than-stellar receiver set in which Tim Brown and Sanu were the only reliable options.

Savage had the offseason to better learn the offense, to work with the receivers to get their timing down and to understand how to deliver a pass on time and not hold the ball too long in the pocket. And he also used the offseason to study opposing defenses and learn tendencies, and tricks they may employ to confuse a quarterback.

And, when defenses change this season, Savage will have a mental reference point to make a quick adjustment.

Savage said he tinkered with his mechanics in the offseason and will use more of his body in his throws to keep passes from sailing, which was an issue at times last season.

Savage already made 11 starts, more than any returning quarterback in the Big East. At a position where experience is more important than anywhere else on the field, it means a lot is expected of Savage, and he has the tools to deliver.

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