2011 Rutgers Preview
Rutgers WR Mohamen Sanu
Rutgers WR Mohamen Sanu
Posted May 21, 2011

Rutgers has struggled just a wee bit, failing to fully reap the benefits of the tremendous seasons of a few years ago. Now, ten starters return to an offense that was a complete and utter disaster. Will experience translate into production? Can the Scarlet Knight be cack among the Big East's stars? Check out the 2011 CFN Rutgers Preview.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Preview 2011

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Greg Schiano
11th year: 59-63
Returning Lettermen
Off. 20, Def. 16, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best Rutgers Players
1. WR Mohamed Sanu, Jr.
2. DT Scott Vallone, Jr.
3. LB Steve Beauharnais, Jr.
4. WR Mark Harrison, Jr.
5. LB Khaseem Greene, Jr.
6. RB Jeremy Deering, Soph.
7. FB Joe Martinek, Sr.
8. FS David Rowe, Sr.
9. DE Manny Abreu, Sr.
10. QB Chas Dodd, Soph.
2011 Schedule

Sep. 1 NC Central
Sep. 10 at North Carolina
Sep. 24 Ohio
Oct. 1 at Syracuse
Oct. 8 Pitt
Oct. 15 Navy
Oct. 21 at Louisville
Oct. 29 West Virginia
Nov. 5 USF
Nov. 12 at Army (in NYC)
Nov. 19 Cincinnati
Nov. 26 at Connecticut

Pandemonium in Piscataway has been replaced by panic in Piscataway. Rutgers has fallen, but can it get up?

The program used to chop wood, a metaphor for its blue-collar work ethic, but is now in danger of getting chopped at the knees. An overreaction to the Scarlet Knights' first losing season since 2004? Maybe, but probably not. Even during an unprecedented five-year postseason run, including four consecutive bowl wins, Rutgers appeared to have hit a wall. Since the memorable upset of Louisville in November of 2006, red-letter wins have been scarce, and that long-awaited Big East title never came. The Knights were getting fat on a sugary-sweet non-conference schedule that always included at least one FCS opponent.

And then last season happened.

All of a sudden, hitting a plateau didn't seem so bad. After awkwardly getting to 4-2, the bottom fell out. The Scarlet Knights lost their final six games, but more important, lost DT Eric LeGrand to a spinal injury during the final victory of 2010. With their teammate paralyzed from the neck down, the air quickly left the team and wins and losses didn't seem quite as important. The fight was gone on both sides of the ball, but especially the usually stout defense. Making matters worse, one-time franchise QB Tom Savage opted to leave school and transfer to Arizona.

This is a big year for Rutgers, which has to rebound quickly. With the bar now higher than ever, the Knights can ill-afford a reprisal of the gory days, when nine-loss seasons were the norm. The concern, however, is that the problems that plagued the team last fall will not be easily resolved by the returning talent. Chas Dodd is a raw second-year quarterback and both lines have serious concerns. The defense needs another full season of reps in order to correct its problems, especially when the ball is in the air.

In an area of the country that's dominated by pro sports, Rutgers needs to stop the bleeding immediately, or else run the risk of becoming less relevant locally. Head coach Greg Schiano is facing his toughest challenge since accepting this job more than a decade ago, looking to recapture the momentum that left his program in 2010.

What to watch for on offense: Osei can you C? Rutgers knew it was going to have a problem at center before spring began. The situation, however, got far worse when projected starter Dallas Hendrikson suffered a season-ending knee injury in the spring. Enter sophomore David Osei, who's about to be thrust into the pivot on a line that's already the weakest link of the 2011 squad. Fortunately, Osei played well in April and adapted quickly to his promotion. He does have to add weight to his 6-4, 266-pound frame, though, or else he could get overpowered by opposing linemen.

What to watch for on defense: Going Greene. Junior Khaseem Greene was one of the brightest defensive stars on last year's team, making 77 tackles and three picks in his debut in the lineup. However, that was when he was a free safety. This season, he'll be playing weakside linebacker, the staff's attempt to bring more speed and ferocity to the second level of defense. While he'll be undersized at 6-1 and 215 pounds, he plays fast and much bigger than his size, packing a punch in run defense and against unsuspecting receivers.

The team will be far better if… the Scarlet Knights get back to running the back with authority. That's the plan of new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, who wants Rutgers to get back to basics with the ball. After ranking 110th nationally on the ground and averaging 2.7 yards a carry, an improved ground game will serve multiple purposes. First, it'll take some heat off true sophomore QB Chas Dodd, who isn't ready to be the focal point of the attack. It'll also give much-needed breaks to a defense that wore down last season and won't count depth as one of its strengths.

The Schedule: The Scarlet Knights get their share of easy games with NC Central and Ohio to potentially provide a few layup wins, and the Army and Navy games have to be victories to have any chance of getting to a bowl game. From the beginning of October until late November, Rutgers leaves the New York and New Jersey just once, going to Louisville. Getting West Virginia, South Florida, and Pitt at home is the biggest Big East break in the book, while closing out at Connecticut this year isn't all that bad. In other words, the schedule can't be used as an excuse in any way if the season isn't strong.

Best offensive player: Junior WR Mohamed Sanu. While Sanu didn't deliver a monster sophomore season, that's no indication of his ability or potential. The 6-2, 218-pounder rarely played at 100% and was negatively impacted by an offense that stumbled around him. When properly utilized, he's a versatile gamebreaker, catching 44 passes for 418 yards and two touchdowns, tossing three touchdown passes and rushing for 309 yards and four more scores in 2010.

Best defensive player: Junior DT Scott Vallone. Vallone is sort of a well-kept secret. He doesn't put out the kind of numbers that draw national attention, making 44 tackles and 6.5 stops for loss, but his coaches and teammates understand his value. He plays with a non-stop motor, bringing it on every down and for all 60 minutes. Despite being just 6-3 and 270 pounds, it's not uncommon for the junior to require double-teams in order to prevent him from blowing up running plays.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore RB Jeremy Deering. While no one person is going to solve the Knights' problems, Deering is capable of having a profound impact on that toothless offense. Although primarily a receiver in 2010, he showed enough in Wildcat formations, rushing for 352 yards on 77 carries, to be moved into the backfield. An exciting blend of speed and elusiveness in a 6-2, 203-pound frame, he has the physical ability to provide an instant jolt to a running game in need of repair.

The season will be a success if ... Rutgers wins the necessary games to return to the postseason. Whether that's six or seven victories isn't particularly relevant at this juncture of the rebuilding process. For the sake of the fan base and prospective recruits, the Scarlet Knights need to find the right formula to make it back to a bowl game, especially with a schedule that includes North Carolina Central, Ohio, Army, and Navy.

Key game: Oct. 1 at Syracuse. The Scarlet Knights should feel pretty good about themselves coming out of September, but that could change in a hurry in the Carrier Dome. The Orange has unexpectedly passed Rutgers on the Big East ladder, something the visitors will take offense to. With Connecticut coming off a Fiesta Bowl season, the Knights must protect their station in the Northeast, a ranking that's been steadily slipping over the past 12 months.

2010 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards per carry: Rutgers 2.7 – Opponents 4.2
- Total yards: Rutgers 3,539 – Opponents 4,490
- Fumbles lost: Rutgers 5 - Opponents 14

- 2011 Rutgers Preview | 2011 Rutgers Offense
- 2011 Rutgers Defense | 2011 Rutgers Depth Chart
- Rutgers Previews  2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006