#82 Rutgers Football 2014 Preview

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Overall Rank: #82
#13 Big Ten

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Rutgers has enough talent to be relatively competitive in the Big Ten, but the schedule makers have not been kind. On paper, the only winnable games for the Scarlet Knights in conference play come against Indiana and fellow newcomer Maryland. Six wins is the absolute best this squad can do and that includes winning three games (Washington State, Navy and Maryland) on the road.

2013 Record: (6-7, 3-5)
2013 Bowl: Pinstripe Bowl vs. Notre Dame (L 16-29)
Coach: Kyle Flood (15-11 at Rutgers, 15-11 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Ralph Friedgen
Defensive Coordinator: Joe Rossi

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Paul James, RB, 914 yards
Passing: Gary Nova, QB, 2,159 yards
Receiving: Tyler Kroft, TE, 573 yards
Tackles: Steve Longa, LB, 123
Sacks: Darius Hamilton, DT, 4.5
Interceptions: 5 Tied with 1

Other Key Returnees: RB Justin Goodwin, WR Leonte Carroo, WR Janarion Grant, DB Lorenzo Waters, LB Quentin Gause, DB Gareef Glashen, LB Kevin Snyder, DB Ian Thomas, OL Betim Bujair, OL Kaleb Johnson,

Key Losses: DE Marcus Thompson, DE Jamal Merrell, WR Brandon Coleman, WR Quron Pratt

When the ball is on the ground, Rutgers should be in decent shape. Although they are about to face the grind of the Big Ten and their toughness will be tested. At running back Paul James, Justin Goodwin and Savon Huggins are all back. James rushed for 881 yards and nine scores despite missing four games with an injury. Goodwin added 521 yards and five touchdowns. Huggins has yet to live up to his potential, but he is a capable back; as is Desmon Peoples who had an impressive spring. The ground attack will benefit from the return of all five starting linemen. On the other side of the ball, the Rutgers defense ranked fourth in the country in rush defense. That is partly due to the fact that opposing offenses did not bother to run when they could just play an easy game of pitch and catch. But the Scarlet Knights do have a talented front seven. Steve Longa is moving to the outside linebacker spot after leading the team with 123 tackles. The bigger Kevin Snyder is moving to the middle with Quentin Gause manning the other side. The front four, led by tackle Darius Hamilton, is getting bigger and that should help them in the Big Ten. They also have enough depth to stay fresh.

The secondary was absolutely torched in 2013, allowing 312 yards through the air per game. Cornerback Ian Thomas is back after quitting half way through last season, but that will not be enough to see drastic improvement. The bigger issue may be on offense where receivers Brandon Coleman and Quron Pratt need to be replaced. Tyler Kroft is a fine tight end and Leonte Carroo is a big play receiver, but there is not much experience overall. And, of course, somebody has to throw them the ball. Gary Nova was benched at the end of his junior campaign and did win the starting job again in the spring, yet that was mostly due to a lack of other options. Nova can have, and has had, some great games. He also has had some terrible games. He has thrown 30 interceptions during his career, including 14 last year.

The Bottom Line:
Rutgers cannot afford to lose the turnover battle. Nova will have to play smarter and new offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen has a tough job trying to change his decision making. But in the end Rutgers is building a Big Ten program and it will be interesting to see how quickly Coach Kyle Flood can bring in the talent. We have seen Rutgers do impressive things in the past and defense is not too far off from being ready to take the next step.

Projected Bowl: None

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 129.5 (100th in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 235.6 (62, 7)
Total Offense: 365.2 (95, 7)
Scoring Offense: 26.5 (77, 6)
Rushing Defense: 100.8 (4, 2)
Pass Defense: 312.0 (120, 10)
Total Defense: 412.8 (73, 8)
Scoring Defense: 29.8 (80, 7)
Turnover Margin: -0.9 (119, 10)
Sacks:  2.46 (32, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 2.69 (102, 7)


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