2010 Rutgers Preview – Offense
Rutgers QB Tom Savage
CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Rutgers Scarlet Knight Offense
Preview 2010 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Rutgers handed the ball to a couple of true freshmen, QB Tom Savage and WR Mohamed Sanu, and the results were predictable. The rookies flashed incredible long-term potential, but the attack was erratic and ranked last in the league in total offense. While Savage, Sanu, and leading rusher Joe Martinek are all back, will the Scarlet Knights be any more potent? It all depends on the play of an offensive line that got schooled in 2009 and must replace three important starters. It will not be easy. Surrounding veterans Art Forst, Howard Barbieri, and Caleb Ruch is a wave of young kids who have to perform beyond expectations. If Rutgers is to improve in 2010, it'll be as much about Desmond Stapleton, Desmond Wynn, and Devon Watkis as it is about Savage, Sanu, and Martinek.
Star of the offense: Sophomore WR Mohamed Sanu
Passing: Tom Savage
149-285, 2,211 yds, 14 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Joe Martinek
206 carries, 967 yds, 9 TDs
Receiving: Mohamed Sanu
51 catches, 639 yds, 3 TD
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior OT Desmond Stapleton
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Tim Wright
Best pro prospect: Sophomore QB Tom Savage
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Sanu, 2) Junior RB Joe Martinek, 3) Savage
Strength of the offense: Potential at quarterback, protecting the ball, explosiveness and versatility of Sanu
Weakness of the offense: Quarterback depth, offensive line, pass protection, third down conversions, red zone conversions
Projected Starter: It was common knowledge that 6-5, 230-pound Tom Savage would be the quarterback of the future the moment he signed his letter of intent. Few, however, thought it would happen so quickly. The sophomore took over behind center early in his rookie year and never looked back, finishing 149-of-285 for 2,211 yards, 14 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. With the potential to be the best hurler in school history, he has terrific arm strength and uncommon poise for such a young player. In terms of upside, the sky's the limit, provided his offensive line can keep him from getting knocked around like a piñata.
Projected Top Reserves: The graduations of Domenic Natale and Jabu Lovelace mean 6-5, 230-pound Steve Shimko will be the backup this season. A prototypical pocket passer, with limited mobility, he can see the whole field and spot his receivers as they come out of their breaks. He has good arm strength and a quick release, needing to get some reps in order to hasten his development.
The only other quarterback on the roster will be 6-0, 195-pound true freshman Chas Dodd, who arrives in the summer. Yes, his size is a drawback, but he does everything well, has good zip on his passes, and will bring poise and a ton of intangibles to the position.
Watch Out For .... Savage to take the next big step toward becoming one of the best passers on the East Coast. The first year was an undeniable learning process that came with all kinds of hurdles and physical pain. Now a year older and wiser, he's set to become more of a leader and a better all-around passer.
Strength: Arm strength. Savage can make all of the throws, and Shimko is aiming to be the same type of hurler. Both go 6-5 and 230 pounds, are continuing to fill out, and will be assets to the Scarlet Knight vertical game. Once Savage perfects his touch, the receivers will be lethal on go-routes.
Weakness: Depth. Savage is just a little over a year removed from high school, and yet, he's the seasoned veteran of this unit. Considering his concussion issues last year and the complete lack of experience for Shimko and Dodd, the staff could be holding its breath at times this season.
Outlook: It took the program just one year to replace Mike Teel. Savage is a budding superstar with a next-level trajectory if he continues to develop. If the line can keep him healthy and afford him time—two critical question marks—he'll move a little closer to being one of the game's top young hurlers.
Projected Starters: The muddled heap of Rutgers backs produced a feature runner last season, 6-0, 215-pound junior Joe Martinek. He emerged early in the season to give the Scarlet Knights a workhorse, rushing for 967 yards and nine scores on 206 carries, adding a dozen catches for 140 yards. With a no-frills, north-south running style, he's deliberate in his approach and difficult to arm tackle. While he's never going to be the type to get around tackle and beat defensive backs down the sidelines, he has spent the offseason getting a step quicker in order to get through holes before they close.
The graduation of long-time starter Jack Corcoran has the Knights breaking in a new fullback. The leader is 6-1, 220-pound senior Edmond Laryea, who probably won't see a ton of the field as the offense shifts away from a traditional blocking back. A linebacker when he arrived, he has the requisite physicality and blue-collar work ethic to prove valuable in short yardage situations.
Projected Top Reserves: Rutgers has its meat-and-potatoes grinder to wear down defenses and pick up the bulk of the yards. Now, it needs a little flash to complement Martinek. Hoping to provide that will be 5-8, 195-pound sophomore De'Antwan Williams, who gave a glimpse of his potential as a rookie. Mostly appearing in blowouts of six games, he had 235 yards and a score on 44 carries. He explodes off the snap, running with the pad level that allows him to navigate between and outside the tackles.
Senior Kordell Young has one more season of eligibility remaining, which he's hoping to actually spend on the field. He's persevered through multiple knee surgeries, and was limited to just nine carries for 28 yards a year ago. Will he be ready in 2010? No one knows for sure. However, when healthy, he still has the speed and cutback ability to give the running game the change-of-pace it desperately needs.
Watch Out For .... Martinek to be a little quicker through the hole than in recent years. He's dedicated himself in the offseason to improving his speed and squaring his shoulders as he heads up field in the hopes of improving last season's 4.7 yards per carry average.
Strength: Short yardage running. Whether or not Martinek has a little more giddy-up in his step, he'll remain one of the league's toughest runners, always lowering his shoulders and barreling for more yards. When it's necessary, he has no problems emulating a fullback and moving the pile.
Weakness: A proven change-of-pace to Martinek. It could be Williams, but he's still young. It could be Young, but he's still an uncertainty. The Scarlet Knights need the kind of runner who can jet through the hold and bring the crowd to its feet with a 60-yard dash to the end zone.
Outlook: While Rutgers has a stable situation in the backfield, it's determined to be better than just average. Martinek is a 1,000-yard rusher with enough carries, but can use some help from Williams and Young. Of course, if they don't deliver off the bench, it'll only increase the role of WR Mohamed Sanu out of the Wildcat package.
Projected Starters: For the second straight year, Rutgers is being forced to replace its most productive receiver. One part of the solution is sure to be 6-2, 215-pound sophomore Mohamed Sanu. A complete revelation in his first year, he shocked the Big East with his versatility and explosiveness. As a receiver and runner out of the Wildcat formation, he caught 51 passes for 639 yards and three touchdowns, while running for 346 and five more scores on 62 carries. Virtually unstoppable down the stretch, he dispatched a loud statement by carving up Louisville for 148 yards and two scores on the ground. A superb natural athlete, he hasn't even scratched the surface of his full potential.
The development of a No. 2 receiver is going to be a vital aspect of the passing game now that Tim Brown is gone. Sophomore Mark Harrison took that challenge seriously, nudging ahead on the depth chart coming out of spring. At 6-3 and 230 pounds, he possesses improbable speed and the long stride to get behind the secondary. He also has big hands, and uses his body well when the ball is in the air, debuting with five catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.
So far, so good on the experiment of moving 6-6, 245-pound sophomore D.C Jefferson from quarterback to tight end. With Tom Savage around, he wasn't going to get many snaps behind center, but as a hard-to-miss receiver, he has the potential to take this relocation a long way. In his first season, he caught five passes for 108 yards, gradually getting more comfortable in his new role. Still raw as a receiver and a blocker, he's worked hard to improve both areas, and should continue making positive strides as he gets more snaps at the position.
Projected Top Reserves: In 6-0, 175-pound redshirt freshman Quron Pratt, Rutgers may have mined its slot receiver of the future. While he doesn't have elite speed, he's plenty quick and caught everything thrown in his direction during the offseason. As his role continues to evolve, he could wind up being a reliable option on third down and the type of receiver who can take a short slant and use it to gash the secondary.
Behind Sanu, the Knights are cautiously optimistic that 6-4, 215-pound sophomore Tim Wright can evolve into a productive player off the bench. Like a young Kenny Britt, he possesses an incredible combination of speed, size, and physicality. Now all he needs to do is continue polishing up the finer points, such running crisp routes and bringing the ball into his body with his hands.
Can junior Mason Robinson get back in the mix after missing all but the opener to a season-ending injury? The 5-10, 190-pound former running back has the speed, athleticism, and experience to meet the challenge, but will first have to shake off some rust. As a runner and a receiver, he's shown flashes of brilliance, needing to put it all together in 2010.
Watch Out For .... the competition opposite Sanu to really heat up in August. Harrison has the edge, but it's not by much. Wright and Pratt played very well in the spring, and Robinson is going to enter the mix again, ensuring that the coaches have a tough decision leading up to the opener.
Strength: Size. And that doesn't mean just vertical size either. At 6-2 and 215 pounds, Sanu sets the standard, but Wright and Harrison also have the frame needed to get position, box out defensive backs, and win battles for balls in the air.
Weakness: Proven players after Sanu. What does it say when the leading man was in high school last year? For starters, that he's very special, but also that the unit is painfully light in proven players. Someone has to step up in a complimentary or else the passing game is in danger of becoming predictable.
Outlook: While Sanu is on the tarmac, he's going to need a lot more help for the corps as a whole to lift off. Wright, Harrison, and Pratt are three underclassmen with considerable upside potential. For the sake of the entire offense, at least one of them needs to bloom into a 40-catch guy this fall.
Projected Starters: An already underachieving offensive line will be regrouping without three of last year's starters, including NFL first-rounder Anthony Davis. The new anchor might be 6-8, 310-pound junior Art Forst, a third-year starter making the shift outside from guard to tackle. Will he stay put? That remains to be seen. While he looks the part and has the upper body strength to control linemen on running downs, he still must prove he has the footwork and technique to become an asset for the troubled Scarlet Knight pass protection.
The favorite to man the other tackle spot is 6-5, 280-pound junior Desmond Stapleton, a candidate to protect Tom Savage's blindside. Now in his third year in the system and coming off his most extensive action, he's poised to begin approaching expectations. He has the light feet and long arms that the coaching staff covets, but needs to continue working on his technique and fundamentals in order to not get exposed.
The veteran on the inside is 6-4, 290-pound junior Caleb Ruch, a potential rock for the Knights at guard. He's played plenty for the program in his first two seasons, making him a natural to move into the starting lineup on a full-time basis. A versatile and nasty blocker, he's also one of the strongest players on the team, using heavy hands and a thick upper body to move his man out of the play. He's also a possibility to fill in at center if needed.
Leading the way at the other guard spot is 6-6, 275-pound junior Desmond Wynn, who's working his way back from a shoulder injury. A former defensive tackle when he arrived in Piscataway, he's made a nice transition to the offensive side of the ball, honing his blocking technique. He's built like a tackle and moves like a tackle, which is where he might wind up if Forst happens to return back to his familiar guard position.
At the pivot, 6-5, 295-pound senior Howard Barbieri is preparing to be the replacement for long-time starter Ryan Blaszczyk. A fifth-year player, with all of the intangibles of a veteran, he brings a blue-collar work ethic and intimate knowledge of the system into his final year of eligibility. A luxury for a coaching staff, he's played every position in the lien and is going to bring it on every down.
Projected Top Reserves: At tackle, 6-7, 320-pound sophomore Devon Watkis is pushing to be no worse than the first man off the bench. While raw, it's hard not to like his size, strength, and reach at the position. It's unlikely at this stage that'll he'll win a job in time for the opener, but the staff is going to work him hard in an effort to improve overall depth and maximize his potential.
On a very young line, 6-7, 300-pound senior Mo Lange will provide some much-needed veteran depth on the inside. While not a threat to win a starting job, his size and experience in the system will be underrated assets on a unit that's currently starved of adequate and proven players heading into the summer.
Watch Out For .... the depth chart to be juggled regularly throughout the summer. The staff shouldn't have bothered putting out a post-spring two-deep here because it's written in sand. Until everyone comes back from injury, no one is 100% certain how this group will shake out for the opener.
Strength: Reach. For obvious jousting reasons, long arms are preferred for offensive linemen, which won't be an issue for this group. As a whole, the Scarlet Knights are long and lean, with the arms to punch pass rushers and impede their progress.
Weakness: Protecting the pocket. Having a long reach is one thing, but knowing what to do with it is something entirely different. Even with two quality tackles at their disposal, the Scarlet Knights were 111th nationally in sacks allowed, which cannot bode well for this makeshift unit.
Outlook: This is a troubled area, and there's no simple way around it. Not only does Rutgers lack the star power that Davis provided, but there's no continuity yet and depth is a concern. If some of the former backups, like Wynn and Stapleton, can't come through in a big way, it's going to greatly impede the development of Savage behind center.
- 2010 Rutgers Preview |
2010 Rutgers Defense |
Rutgers Depth Chart
- Rutgers Previews