2010 Rutgers Preview
Rutgers WR Mohamed Sanu
Rutgers WR Mohamed Sanu
Posted Jul 2, 2010

Rutgers has somewhat quietly been solid, but it hasn't been able to get back to the high level it achieved a few seasons ago when the building job appeared to be complete. This year there are plenty of reasons to think the Scarlet Knights might have a shot at the Big East title. Check out the CFN Rutgers Preview.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Preview 2010

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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Greg Schiano
10th year: 55-55
Returning Lettermen
Off. 23, Def. 20, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 25
Ten Best Rutgers Players
1. WR Mohamed Sanu, Soph.
2. QB Tom Savage, Soph.
3. RB Joe Martinek, Jr.
4. DE Jonathan Freeny, Sr.
5. DE Alex Silvestro, Sr.
6. SS Joe Lefeged, Sr.
7. OL Art Forst, Jr.
8. LB Steve Beauharnais, Soph.
9. DT Scott Vallone, Soph.
10. LB Antonio Lowery, Sr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 2 Norfolk State
Sept. 11 at FIU
Sept. 18 OPEN DATE
Sept. 25 North Carolina
Oct. 2 Tulane
Oct. 8 Connecticut
Oct. 16 at Army
Oct. 23 at Pitt
Nov. 3 at USF
Nov. 13 Syracuse
Nov. 20 at Cincinnati
Nov. 26 Louisville
Dec. 4 at West Virginia

Rutgers is one of just four schools in the country that's won four consecutive bowl games, yet the thirst for even more success On the Banks has not been quenched.

Having built a solid foundation and conquered bowl eligibility over the past decade under Greg Schiano, the Scarlet Knights are still looking to raise the bar. With rumors of realignment continuously swirling, the program realizes that winning a Big East championship and playing in BCS bowl game may never be more attainable than it is right now. In an abridged conference that's there for the taking, Rutgers is determined to capitalize, bringing it to an entirely new level of relevance.

The best news for the Knights, besides Schiano staying home, is that last year's nine-win squad used a handful of very young players. They kept the train on the tracks despite breaking the seal on heralded recruit Tom Savage behind center. Oh, and the school's best playmaker, do-everything WR Mohamed Sanu, was just out of high school as well. On defense, DT Scott Vallone, LB Steve Beauharnais, and FS Khaseem Greene also flashed all-star ceilings in their debuts on the field. The point? While Rutgers lost a fair amount of talent to graduation on both sides of the ball, this coaching staff has recruited and taught well enough to ensure it a shot at winning a fifth straight bowl game.

Long gone are the days when Rutgers was overjoyed by a postseason invitation ...any postseason invitation. That's old news in Piscataway, one of the many signs of progress since Schiano took on this enormous challenge. The Scarlet Knights are tired of playing in anonymous bowl games at anonymous bowl sites. Now that the franchise quarterback is a year older and the league has no runaway favorite, they're just a break or two along the way from playing for a lot more in January.

What to watch for on offense: The development of Tom Savage at quarterback. All things considered, he had an auspicious debut as the starter, throwing twice as many touchdowns as picks and winning nine games. A lot of the inconsistency he delivered in 2009 was attributable to a lack of experience and a leaky line. While the former should be solved, the latter remains a flashing warning sign entering the summer. He looks and acts the part of a next-level hurler, which the Knights are hoping to see a lot more of now that he has a full season as the starter in his muscle memory.

What to watch for on defense: The loaded defensive line. This unit has the potential to be as deep and as talented as any in the Big East. And that's especially good news for a secondary that'll be without star CB Devin McCourty. While not exactly flush with household names, Jonathan Freeny, Alex Silvestro, Scott Vallone, Eric LeGrand, and Justin Francis all showed a penchant for beating the block and making stops for loss in 2009. The Knights lose little from a group that fueled the nation's No. 15 run defense and No. 4 pass rush.

The team will be far better if… the offensive line can somehow get better after losing three key starters. As unlikely as that might be, it'll be a key component to the Knights contending for a Big East crown. That fact is that if this group stunts the growth of QB Tom Savage, Rutgers will have trouble getting to higher ground. The team was 111th nationally in sacks allowed a year ago, when first round NFL Draft choice Anthony Davis was still manning left tackle. That cannot bode well for the season ahead.

The Schedule: North Carolina. If Rutgers can beat the Tar Heels in a key late September home game, there's no excuse whatsoever to not start the season 6-0 before going to Pitt. The Scarlet Knights have to face Connecticut at home over the first half of the season, but any team that thinks it can win the Big East title has to win that game. Unfortunately the breaks stop there with as brutal a Big East road schedule as could be made: At Pitt, at USF, at Cincinnati, and at West Virginia. It's just bad enough to eliminate any and all dreams of going to the BCS, and if there isn't a big early start and a nice fat record, it could be an ugly turn once November kicks in.

Best offensive player: Sophomore WR Mohamed Sanu. What can Sanu do for you? He arrived as a heralded safety prospect, wound up as a starting wide receiver, and by the end of the year was excelling out of the wildcat. Now that's versatility. Exceeding all expectations, he flourished as his role expanded, catching a team-high 51 passes for 639 yards and three touchdowns, while running for 346 and five more scores on 62 carries. An incredible athlete for a 6-2, 215-pounder, there's no telling how good he'll be once the offense grows up around him.

Best defensive player: Senior DE Jonathan Freeny. Talk about efficient. Freeny started one game in 2009 and was mostly used as a situational pass rusher, yet still had 33 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, a team-best 9.5 sacks, and 10 quarterback hurries. Now that he's added some weight and earned a starting nod, he's capable of grabbing the attention of more than just opposing tackles. A flash off the snap, he has the edge speed to take his game to Sundays next year.

Key player to a successful season: Junior OT Desmond Stapleton. While it might not be fair anointing a single player since there are so many issues, Stapleton has a high ceiling and is bucking to replace current San Francisco 49er Anthony Davis on the left side. The Scarlet Knights are pining for an anchor in pass protection, and if the junior fails to come through, it'll force the staff to do some shuffling around in order to get the five best players on the field.

The season will be a success if ... the Knights win 10 games, including a fifth straight bowl game. Aggressive? Not when you break down the schedule. Half of it is comprised of Norfolk State, Florida International, Tulane, Army, and Syracuse and Louisville at home. Of the remaining six games, North Carolina, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, South Florida, Cincinnati, and West Virginia, Rutgers would need to split in order to have a crack at double-digit wins for the first time since 2006. Not easy, but attainable.

Key game: Oct. 23 at. Pittsburgh. If the Scarlet Knights want to make a statement, they'll go into Pittsburgh and upset one of this year's favorites to wear the Big East crown. They've fared well in this series under Schiano, even blowing out the Panthers, 54-34, in their last visit to Heinz Field in 2008. However, stopping RB Dion Lewis will be a tall order, even for this stingy defense.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards per game: Rutgers 134.4 – Opponents 103.2
- Yards per catch: Rutgers 15.1 – Opponents 12.3
- Fumbles lost: Rutgers 4 - Opponents 19

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