Rutgers Preview 2006
Rutgers RB Ray Rice
Posted Aug 1, 2006

Is the best still ahead for Greg Schiano and Rutgers or did the team plateau last season?

Offense  | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

It seemed like things had been building to something big over the first five seasons, all losing ones, in the Schiano era with improved recruiting and a better attitude. Enough good things were happening on both sides of the ball to suggest that a little tinkering and little more luck would mean a bowl game for the first time since 1978.

It also helped that the schedule was flat-out awful.

Let's not go overboard quite yet about Rutgers football after one winning season and a good post-season appearance. The 2005 Scarlet Knights only came up with one win over only one team that finished with a winning record (Navy), but you can only beat who's on your schedule.
This was, and still is, a tremendously flawed team that needs another relatively easy road and big years from a slew of young players to make it two straight bowl appearances.

Head coach: Greg Schiano
6th year: 19-39
Returning Lettermen: 44
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best Rutgers Players
1. FB Brian Leonard, Sr.
2. TE Clark Harris, Sr.
3. RB Ray Rice, Soph.
4. LB Devraun Thompson, Sr.
5. FS Ron Girault, Jr.
6. SS Courtney Greene, Soph.
7. PK Jeremy Ito, Jr.
8. DE Jamaal Westerman, Soph.
9. DT Ramel Meekins, Sr.
10. TE Sam Johnson, Sr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6

9/2 at North Carolina
9/9 Illinois
9/16 Ohio
9/23 Howard
9/29 at South Florida
10/14 at Navy
10/21 at Pitt
10/29 Connecticut
11/9 Louisville
11/18 at Cincinnati
11/25 Syracuse
12/2 at West Virginia

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-6
2005 Record: 7-
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 at Illinois L 33-30 OT
9/10 Villanova W 38-6
9/17 at Buffalo  W 17-3
9/30 Pittsburgh W 37-29
10/7 West Virginia L 27-14
10/15 at Syracuse W 31-9
10/22 at Connecticut W 26-24
10/29 Navy W 31-21
11/5 South Florida L 45-31
11/11 at Louisville L 56-5
11/26 Cincinnati W 44-9

Despite getting as much pressure on the quarterback as any defense in the nation, the secondary gave up too many yards. Meanwhile, there wasn't enough of a run defense against the above-average ground games. This year's defense is missing pass rushers Ryan Neill and Val Barnaby, but the secondary should be better.

The offense has a great pair of backs in Brian Leonard and Ray Rice, and tight end Clark Harris could be one of the league's best pro prospects, and now the passing game needs a little work with new starting quarterback Mike Teel, or Jabu Lovelace, needing keep the offense moving.

The big issue is the depth. This coaching staff has never been afraid to play true freshmen, and it'll have to rely on this year's class to come through in a big way if injuries strike. Linebacker will be a big, big problem if the front three go down.

But come on, Rutgers went to a bowl game. Rutgers. You know, the program that went without a winning season since 1992. It's not time to get nitpicky or ask questions. Last year was a bowl season, and no apologies have to be made. Now the program has to prevent a slide back into the abyss. Now about that schedule ...

The Schedule: It's tougher than last year's, but its not rough enough to prevent another trip to a bowl game. Things should be fine if the Scarlet Knights can survive a midseason three game road stretch at South Florida, Navy and Pittsburgh after a winnable three-game non-conference stretch against Illinois, Ohio and Howard. Louisville has to come to Rutgers Stadium, but a bowl bid had better be wrapped up by the end of November with a regular-season finale at West Virginia. It's all about getting to seven wins, and Rutgers should be better than Illinois, Ohio, Howard, and Cincinnati. That means it has to win two of three against Navy, Connecticut and Syracuse; that's doable. 

Best Offensive Player: Senior TE Clark Harris. It depends on how you want to define "best" player. Fullback Brian Leonard is the main man of the offense and the star of the team, but Harris will be a first round-caliber draft pick next April. Leonard is the more indispensable of the two for the Scarlet Knight offense even though Harris will make more All-America lists.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Devraun Thompson. Safeties Ron Girault and Courtney Greene might have something to say about this. Thompson has grown in a big way over his career becoming a do-it-all star in the middle of the defense. He was second on the team in tackles, turned into a steady pass rusher, and has been a nice pass defender.

Key players to a successful season: Linebackers Chenry Lewis an Quintero Frierson. With Devraun Thompson a steady rock in the middle, the two veterans on the outside have to come up with huge seasons to up the overall production of the defense, and most importantly, they must stay healthy. There was a big haul of linebackers in the recruiting class, but it's rolling the dice to rely on true freshmen against the better Big East teams.

The season will be a success if ... Rutgers goes back to a bowl game. The program has gone to back-to-back bowls ... never. Considering there have been two bowl appearances in over 130 years of Rutgers football, two straight would be a really big deal.

Key game: September 29th at South Florida. This has to be a win if Rutgers wants to take the next step. Beating West Virginia and Louisville right now might be too tall an order, but South Florida is dead even with the Scarlet Knights. A 1-0 Big East start with a road win under the belt would be nice.

2005 Fun Stats: 
Sacks: Rutgers 47 for 343 yards - Opponents 19 for 110 yards
- Second quarter scoring: Rutgers 108 - Opponents 54
- Interceptions thrown: Rutgers 19 - Opponents 6

The Last Time Rutgers…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Insight Bowl vs. Arizona State)
…missed a bowl game…2004
…pitched a shutout…2002 (Army)
…was shutout…2002 (Notre Dame)
…scored 50 points…2000 (Buffalo)
…went undefeated…1976
…won a conference title…never
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2004 (Ryan Hart)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Ray Rice)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2004 (Tres Moses)
…had a first-round draft choice…never

Related Stories
Rutgers Preview 2006 - Offense
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Rutgers Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 1, 2006
Rutgers Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 1, 2006

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