New System Breathes New Life Into Scarlet Knights

Head coach Rich Rodriguez believes that much of Rutgers' offensive improvement lies in the fact that the Scarlet Knights are utilizing their talent better in a scheme that's more closely matched to their personnel.

"Rutgers has a new system, and a new offensive coordinator," Rodriguez noted in repsonse to a question about the Knights' improved offense. "It fits their personnel better. Both (Brian) Leonard and (Justise)Hairston are quality backs, and they are being more patient in the run game. Sometimes, that's what it takes. They have a nice package to keep people off balance with.

"Also, they have recruited well, and from a talent standpoint have really improved themselves."

Rodriguez also has some concerns about defending Leonard. Although he is listed as a fullback, Rodriguez considers him as "just a big tailback".

"Leonard runs well, and he catches the ball well too. When they run the iso you can't disregard the fullback. They'll run the flood route and dump it off to the fullback, too. They do that well. It makes you be more disciplined defensively. You have to account for him, and you have to read your keys."

To prepare for the Rutgers game, Rodriguez gave the team a couple of days off in order to recharge their batteries.

"We gave the team Saturday and Sunday off to kind of get refreshed a little bit. That gave some of them a chance to go home for a few days, because a lot of them haven't been home since school started. We're in pretty good spirits, anbd the focus was good. We've talked a lot about moving on from last week's game."


The wide receiving corps is still fighting to become a bigger part of the offensive attack, and Rodriguez blames that on a number of different factors.

"Miquelle Henderson is still not 100%. He hasn't been able to go at full speed, and that has held im back. Travis Garvin's problems have been indicative of the overall problems with our passing game - sometimes he's open and doesn't get the ball, and sometimes he doesn't get open."

Garvin's status for Saturday is still up in the air as he helps with arrangements for his cousin's funeral. Steve Bird has been talking with Garvin, and Rodriguez says the staff might have a better handle on Garvin's status this evening.

Adding to the wide receiver woes, Aaron Neal's status remains in question after he did not travel with the team to Miami.

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Rodriguez remains concerned with the mounting deficit between offensive and defensive snaps, which totalled 26 in the Miami contest.

"The lack of plays come from two places. One is not sustaining drives on offense, and the other is your defense giving up too many long drives. Our defense is playing 80 some plays, and sometimes it because the offense is three and out, and sometimes because the defense isn't forcing three and outs.

"We are working more on third down situations. It's not that we are not aware of it - we are trying to fix it.

"On offense, I don't think it's so much Rasheed as it is the entire situation. Third and longs are harder to make, and we have a lot more of those this year than we have had in the past. We need to throw successfully on first and second down to try to get out of those situations. We have more variety in our passing game now, and more play action. The open week helped us there some."

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Rodriguez noted he was pleased with the progress of cornerback Adam Jones, who got his first start of the year at cornerback.

"Adam competed well. When you get tested, you have a chance to make some of those plays. He is getting more confident in knowing the entire defense. Plus, having Brian King gives us a different look at free safety - he covers a lot of ground and is a good tackler.

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Rodriguez said that the Mountaineers are "getting closer" on where they want to be with personnel, but did not rule out further changes. "There's still competition at several spots on offense, including right guard and tackle, and also at wide receiver. We think Jeremy Hines is also ready to play more at center.

"Most of the defensive personnel changes are due to injury. We haven't played as many defensive linemen as we need to. Ben Lynch has exceeded our expectations as a starter in all our games. Ernest Hunter has played well at times. Blueford hasn't played as well as we'd hoped, but part of that has to do with injuries. He's playing through a lot of pain. Pat Liebig we were thinking about redshirting, but he's going to play more now. Jason Hardee has played pretty well for his first year after moving from tight end. They have all played hard, but they need to keep improving."

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