The countdown to the 2012 college football season marches on. Today we preview the No. 45 team on the Rant Sports 100 in 100 college football preview series, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
For the first time since 2001 Rutgers will have a new head coach. Greg Schiano left the Knights after 11 seasons, where he posted a 68-67 mark with six seasons having a winning record, to become the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Kyle Flood was hired to replace him. An assistant under Schiano for seven years, Flood gave the Scarlet Knights continuity; continuity that kept all but one commit from signing a letter of intent in February.
The Scarlet Knights return eight offensive starters, including both quarterbacks that saw time last year in junior Chas Dodd and sophomore Gary Nova.
In 2011, Rutgers offense was ranked third in the Big East in passing yards per game (241.2), fourth in points scored per game (26.4), eighth in rushing yards (97.77) and sixth in total offense (339).
Last season, Dodd edged Nova slightly in all quarterback categories. Dodd attempted 245 passes to Nova’s 227 and threw for 1,574 yards to Nova’s 1,553. Nova had the slight edge in touchdowns with 11 to Dodd’s 10.
In the Spring Flood said he is a one-quarterback coach, but that quarterback has yet to be determined.
Rutgers will also return their top three running backs from 2011 in sophomore Jawan Jamison, junior Jeremy Deering, and sophomore Savon Huggins. Last year, Jamison led the team with 897 yards and nine touchdowns on 231 carries, while Deering and Huggins ran for less than 200 yards. Huggins found the end zone five times, and averaged 6.22 yards per carry.
The Scarlet Knights lost their best receiver, Mohamed Sanu to the NFL, but will have four receivers who all had triple-digits receiving yards last year in sophomore Brian Coleman (552 yards), junior Quron Pratt (327), senior Mark Harrison (274 yards), and senior Tim Wright (147 yards).
The offensive line lost starters OG Desmond Wynn, C Caleb Ruch, OG Art Forst, and the installment of the new linemen will be a key factor. Flood, the former offensive line coach, shouldn’t have much trouble getting the new guys to fit.
Rutgers returns eight players on a defensive unit ranked at the top of the conference in total defense last season, allowing 311.5 yards of offense per game. They also came in at No. 1 in scoring (18.3) and passing defense (171.8), but the run defense was a weakness, coming in at seventh-best in the Big East with 139.6 yards allowed per game on the ground.
Up front, the Scarlet Knights lost two key pieces to the left side of the line in DT Justin Francis, and DE Manny Abreu, but have a lot of upperclassmen depth at both positions.
The defense boasts three returning starters who were named to the all-conference team in 2011; senior LB Khaseem Greene, junior CB Ryan Logan, and senior safety Duron Harmon all look to have big seasons in 2012.
Rutgers schedule will have two road games back-to-back twice coming in Week 3 in Tampa against the USF Bulls and Week 4 in Fayetteville against the Arkansas Razorbacks, and then in Week 12 against the Cincinnati Bearcats and Week 13 against the Pittsburgh Panthers.
They open their schedule in a non-conference game on the road against the Tulane Green Wave in New Orleans, and follow that up with a matchup versus the Howard Bison.
Rutgers will play host to the other two non-conference games against the Kent State Golden Flashes in Week 9 and the Army Black Knights in Week 11.
The four remaining conference games will be the Connecticut Huskies (Week 6), Syracuse Orange (Week 7), and Louisville Cardinals (Week 14) at home, and against newly-acquired Temple Owls in Philadelphia in Week 8.