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2007 Rutgers Preview

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 31, 2007


Was 2006 just a small glimpse of bigger things to come for Rutgers? It appears that way, as head coach Greg Schiano has assembled a tremendously talented team, led by Courtney Greene on defense, that will be a major contender for the Big East title, and possibly more.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Preview 2007

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2007 Rutgers Offense Preview | 2007 Rutgers Defense Preview
-
2007 Rutgers Depth Chart | 2006 CFN Rutgers Preview 

Alright, Rutgers, what can you do for an encore? 

The program arrived last year winning 11 games and its first bowl game in 137 years of existence, but now it has to prove it wasn’t a fluke.  With substantial momentum and a loaded team returning, there doesn’t appear to be any slowing down. However, as many before have found out, winning when it’s expected is a whole lot tougher than it is to sneak up on everyone. 

Head coach: Greg Schiano
7th year: 30-41
Returning Lettermen: 36
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best Rutgers Players
1. RB Ray Rice, Jr.
2. DT Eric Foster, Sr.
3. OT Pedro Sosa, Sr.
4. OT Jeremy Zuttah, Sr.
5. S Courtney Greene, Jr.
6. PK Jeremy Ito, Sr.
7. DE Jamaal Westerman, Jr.
8. S Ron Girault, Sr.
9. WR Kenny Britt, Soph.
10. LB Brandon Renkart, Sr.

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
10-2

Aug. 30

Buffalo

Sept. 7

Navy

Sept. 15

Norfolk State

Sept. 29

Maryland

Oct. 6

Cincinnati

Oct. 13

at Syracuse

Oct. 18

South Florida

Oct. 27

West Virginia

Nov. 3

at Connecticut

Nov. 9

at Army

Nov. 17

Pitt

Nov. 29

at Louisville

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6

2006 Record: 11-2

Preview 2006 predicted wins

9/2 at No. Carolina W 21-16
9/9 Illinois W 33-0
9/16 Ohio W 24-7
9/23 Howard W 56-7
9/29 at South Florida W 22-20
10/14 at Navy W 34-0
10/21 at Pitt W 20-10
10/29 Connecticut W 24-13
11/9 Louisville W 28-25
11/18 at Cincinnati L 30-11
11/25 Syracuse W 31-7
12/2 at W Virg. L 41-39 3OT
12/28 Texas Bowl
Kansas State W 37-10

On a foundational level, Rutgers is building brick by brick with Greg Schiano as its unflappable mason.  His decision to remain in New Jersey by spurning Miami and blowing off Alabama resonated even louder than the team’s Texas Bowl victory last December.  He cast his vote regarding the future of the program and his commitment to it, and recruits, particularly those local blue-chippers that never used to consider the Knights, are beginning to pay attention.     

Not that there needs to be a major youth movement.  Almost 70% of the roster last season had three or more years of eligibility remaining, including the one really, really big star, running back Ray Rice, along with starting quarterback Mike Teel and just about the entire second unit, some of whom will be starters this fall.  If Teel is better and is a bigger part of the offense, the team could go from tremendous to truly special.             

If last year was the breakthrough, this season should be what cements the program as a power.  The Scarlet Knights have the impetus and the returning talent on both sides of the ball to land a third straight bowl invitation, moving further from their dark days, while adding to the swelling masses of believers.  There’s still time to get on board the bandwagon.

What to watch for on offense …While Rice will continue to be the focal point, Teel, with a season of experience behind him, is about to get the training wheels taken off.  The junior struggled mightily throughout most of 2006, but made noticeable strides late in the season and will be throwing to Kenny Britt, Tim Brown and Tiquan Underwood, a trio with enormous upside. Don’t expect this to be Air Rutgers; Rice will be the offense with Teel along for the ride when things start to get tight.

What to watch to watch for on defense … Rice and Schiano gobbled up most of the headlines, but without the play of the Knights’ no-name defense, 11 wins could have easily turned into seven.  As a whole, the unit isn’t big, but it is extremely quick and aggressive, which translates into takeaways while doing a surprisingly good job against the run.  The soul of the group is undersized tackle Eric Foster, whose knack for penetrating into the backfield is contagious and tone-setting.  Courtney Greene and Ron Girault, arguably the Big East’s best safety combo, fill the lanes instantly in run defense and should be rocks in pass coverage.  

The team will be far better if …Teel evolves into more than just the guy that hands the ball off to Rice.  The defense, running game and special teams are in good shape, but unless the quarterback can get those exciting, young receivers involved in the offense, contending for a conference crown comes off the table.

The Schedule: The schedule can't be used as an excuse if the team doesn't build on last year's breakout campaign with South Florida, West Virginia and Pitt all coming to New Jersey. The non-conference schedule is more than manageable with four of the games at home and the only challenge of the four (no offense to Navy) to come against Maryland. The one non-Big East road game is at Army; a layup if the team's head is on straight. In all there are only four games going to Syracuse, Connecticut and Army before finishing up the year at Louisville. In other words, 11-0 is possible before the showdown against the Cardinals.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Ray Rice.  In a sublime 2006, Rice made the leap from nice player to national phenomenon slashing through defenses for 1,794 yards and 20 touchdowns, while turning into the national face on one of the year’s biggest stories.  Even without breakaway speed, he’s got the right mix of vision, balance and cutting ability to always crank out positive yards.          

Best Defensive Player: Senior DT Eric Foster.  After sitting out 2005 with a knee injury, Foster blossomed into the physical and emotional leader of an underrated defense.  At only 6-2 and 260, the defensive captain relies on a sudden burst off the snap and tremendous athleticism to embarrass plodding linemen and hunt down opposing backs and quarterbacks for negative yards.          

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore TE Craig McGovern. It’ll either be McGovern, a Michigan State transfer, junior Kevin Brock, or redshirt freshmen Jessie Cisco and Jeff Minemyer, or a combination of the four, to replace three-time All-Big East star Clark Harris. All Harris did was catch 105 passes for 1,431 yards as the team’s main safety valve. Now Mike Teel will have to find a new go-to guy in the clutch.

The season will be a success if ... Rutgers wins the Big East title and goes to the BCS. Last year was just a primer for what should be coming if everything works out as hoped. With South Florida, West Virginia and Pittsburgh all coming to Piscataway, only the season-ending showdown at Louisville should be able to screw things up if RU can hold serve at home. Schiano has built enough of a monster that beating the Cardinals can be expected, too.

Key game: Nov. 29 at Louisville. Of course, if the Scarlet Knights don’t beat West Virginia, South Florida and Pitt, and the other Big East teams, the battle in Louisville won’t mean nearly as much, but if they win the games they’re likely going to be expected to, the late-November date could be for even more than just the conference championship.

2006 Fun Stats: 
- First half scoring: Rutgers 204 – Opponents 89
- Sacks: Rutgers 41 for 259 yards – Opponents 8 for 62 yards
- Average yards per carry: Rutgers 4.7 – Opponents 2.9

  

Related Stories
2007 Rutgers Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 26, 2007
2007 Rutgers Preview - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 26, 2007
2007 Rutgers Preview - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 26, 2007








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