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2009 CFN Rutgers Preview
Rutgers OT Anthony Davis
Rutgers OT Anthony Davis
Posted Jun 18, 2009 2009 Preview - Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Preview 2009

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2009 CFN Rutgers Preview | 2009 Rutgers Offense
2009 Rutgers Defense
| 2009 Rutgers Depth Chart
- 2008 Rutgers Preview | 2007 Rutgers Preview | 2006 Rutgers Preview 

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Head coach: Greg Schiano
9th year: 46-51
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 25, Def. 20, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best Rutgers Players
1. LT Anthony Davis, Jr.
2. LB Ryan D'Imperio, Sr.
3. CB Devin McCourty, Sr.
4. S Joe Legford, Jr.
5. WR Tim Brown, Sr.
6. C Ryan Blaszczyk, Sr.
7. RT Kevin Haslam, Sr.
8. DE George Johnson, Sr.
9. DE Alex Silvestro, Jr.
10. RB Kordell Young, Jr.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 7-5
2009 Record: 0-0

9/7 Cincinnati
9/12 Howard
9/19 FIU
9/26 at Maryland
10/10 Texas Southern
10/16 Pitt
10/23 at Army
10/31 at Connecticut
11/12 USF
11/21 at Syracuse
11/27 at Louisville
12/5 West Virginia

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 7-

9/1 Fresno State L 24-7
9/11 North Carolina L 44-12
9/20 at Navy L 23-20
9/27 Morgan State W 38-0
10/4 at West Virginia L 24-17
10/11 at Cincinnati L 13-10
10/18 Connecticut W 12-10
10/25 at Pitt W 54-34
11/8 Syracuse W 35-17
11/15 at South Florida W 49-16
11/22 Army W 30-3
12/4 Louisville W 63-14 Bowl
12/29 NC State L 29-23

Rutgers enters 2009 with a head of steam, but will it be enough to get the program over the hump and into a coveted BCS bowl game?

Last year was an odd one for the Scarlet Knights. Seemingly poised to make a run at a Big East title, they opened miserably at 1-5, only to storm back with a season-ending seven-game winning streak. It was a bittersweet 8-5 campaign that was both disappointing and a show of perseverance. If, however, they’re to maintain the momentum, they’ll need to replace offensive stars for a second straight year.

QB Mike Teel and receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood weren’t just any players. They were three of the best to ever play their respective positions in Piscataway. Couple those exits with the departure of All-America RB Ray Rice a year ago, and Rutgers is facing the end of an era, at least on offense. While Teel was the most maligned of the group, he might also be the hardest to replace. Sure, he was maddeningly inconsistent, but he also had an NFL arm and won more games than any quarterback in school history. His likely replacement will either be Jabu Lovelace or Domenic Natale, who’ve made it to their senior years without so much as a single start. The team’s goals rest heavily on their development under center.

Since emptying the stands with a defining win over Louisville in 2006, Rutgers appears to have reached a plateau. Sure, the Knights have gone a respectable 18-12 since that memorable Thursday night, but there’s a hunger for more, especially since the Big East no longer harbors a clear-cut favorite. With a schedule that includes such lightweights as Howard, Army, Florida International, and Texas Southern, another bowl game is almost a foregone conclusion. Rutgers and head coach Greg Schiano are shooting a little higher, though, yet another sign of how far this once dismal program has come since the beginning of the decade.

What to watch for on offense: The battle at running back. While all eyes will be focused on the quarterback race between Domenic Natale and Jabu Lovelace, the backs are staging an entertaining competition of their own. Junior Kordell Young and sophomores Joe Martinek and Jourdan Brooks all showed flashes and slightly different gifts in last year’s first season without Ray Rice. While a committee certainly remains an option for the staff, none of the three is ready to dismiss the possibility of being an every-down feature back. Young is the playmaker, Brooks is the masher, and Martinek is somewhere in between. 

What to watch for on defense: The play of the new defensive tackles. Last year, Pete Tverdov and Alex Silvestro did an underrated job on the inside for the Scarlet Knights. Well, Tverdov is gone and Silvestro has moved back to defensive end, his more natural position. Enter junior Charlie Noonan and senior Blair Bines, Rutgers’ answer at defensive tackle heading into the new season. While scrappy and quick off the snap, both are only about 6-2 and 260 pounds, making them candidates for getting bullied off their base. Sophomores Eric LeGrand and Justin Francis will provide reinforcements, but neither qualifies as the 295-pound space-eater that this defense sorely needs.

The team will be far better if… the defense starts forcing more turnovers. It’s been a few years since Rutgers excelled at takeaways, collecting a mere 15 interceptions over the last 26 games. On a team that’s going to be challenged offensively, it’s incumbent upon the defense to create as many short-field opportunities as possible. If the Scarlet Knights are among the Big East’s best in turnover margin, that attack might not appear so feeble after all.

The Schedule: Don't blame the schedule if Rutgers has a lousy season. The non-conference game has one tough battle, at Maryland, and the rest are as light and breezy as they come. Cincinnati, South Florida, Pitt and West Virginia are all home games with the toughest Big East road test at Connecticut. The only down side is the mid-season stretch of four road games in five, but they're spread out with a week off in between and a Friday night home game with South Floridt.

Best offensive player
: Junior LT Anthony Davis. Sometimes mega-recruits don’t pan out. Other times, they do. Davis has clearly fallen into the latter category. The most heralded high-schooler to ever sign with the Scarlet Knights, he’s started in each of his first two seasons, making the transition to left tackle look easy in 2008. A hulking 6-6, 325-pounder, he’s what NFL scouts refer to as a circus elephant, a massive young man, who is surprisingly light on his feet.

Best defensive player: Senior LB Ryan D’Imperio. Yeah, the numbers are stellar, but D’Imperio is so much more than last season’s 93 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks. After just one year as the starter, he’s already the emotional leader of the defense and the one player that the young try to emulate. The first in the weight room and the last off the practice field, he’s got a blend of physical ability and intangibles that could lead to a career on Sundays.

Key player to a successful season: The starting quarterback, either Domenic Natale or Jabu Lovelace. While you don’t want to oversimplify the direction of a program, how far Rutgers goes in 2009 will absolutely depend on Mike Teel’s successor. It’s the giant unknown on a team that’s relatively stable everywhere else. An inconsistent passing game means drives stall before they produce points and opposing defenses can gang up on the backfield trio of Kordell Young, Joe Martinek, and Jourdan Brooks. Predictability will be the undoing of this attack.

The season will be a success if ... Rutgers wins nine games and bowls for a fifth consecutive season. With Howard, Army, Florida International, and Texas Southern on the non-conference schedule, the postseason invite is pretty much a sure-thing. The Scarlet Knights, however, are aiming a little higher, like getting past the eight-win threshold of the last two years and vying for something more prestigious than the International Bowl or Bowl.

Key game: Oct. 16 vs. Pittsburgh. This has the potential to be one of those pivotal Big East games that sets the tone for the rest of the season. Both schools are in the market for a BCS bowl game, so every conference clash will matter come December. Plus, this is one of those Friday night national TV affairs that affords the Knights a chance to spread their brand outside the region.

2008 Fun Stats:
- Fumbles: Opponents 20 (lost 11) - Rutgers 11 (lost 5)
- Penalties: Opponents 72 for 610 yards - Rutgers 58 for 505 yards
- Sacks: Rutgers 29 for 193 yards - Opponents 19 for 138 yards

- 2009 CFN Rutgers Preview | 2009 Rutgers Offense
- 2009 Rutgers Defense
| 2009 Rutgers Depth Chart
- 2008 Rutgers Preview | 2007 Rutgers Preview | 2006 Rutgers Preview