Monday Notebook: Conference Play Begins

Gary Nova

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Game week returned to the Hale Center this week with Rutgers in full preparation mode for a road trip to SMU. Opening the American Athletic Conference schedule against the Mustangs, coach Kyle Flood offered news and updates in his weekly press conference.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers is on day one of what will be the toughest 10 days of the 2013 season. The decisive stretch when it comes to a BCS berth, Rutgers travels to SMU and Louisville in the first two games of AAC play and will have to do it without three key players defensively.

Linebacker and team captain Jamal Merrell remains out with a kidney injury, but has not been ruled out for Louisville. Merrell missed the last two games and will be replaced for the second time by Quentin Gause as a starter.

Red-shirt freshman Davon Jacobs will see an increased role at linebacker against a spread offense.

"The combination of Davon Jacobs and Quentin Gause really gives us an advantage," said head coach Kyle Flood. "It's really two players playing -- they are not playing the same position, but it's almost two players playing one position because Kevin [Snyder] kind of flip-flops back and forth and those two guys have a different skill-set."

Rutgers is down one of its preseason starting cornerbacks in Gareef Glashen, who will not practice or play in the next two games with personal issues. Flood did not go in-depth but stated that it was not a disciplinary issue.

True freshman Anthony Cioffi becomes the fourth cornerback with Glashen gone.

Defensive tackle Kenneth Kirksey pushed Ike Holmes as a starter in training camp, but will miss his second game of the year against SMU. Kirksey is out with a practice-week injury to his triceps.

The injury moves sophomore Daryl Stephenson into a feature role in the defensive line rotation.

"The two seasons prior to this, he has not been available to us, and now he's got the opportunity to be available to us and he's really made the most of it and he's getting better every week," Flood said.

Stephenson is the first guy off the bench at nose tackle or 3-technique, but true freshman Sebastian Joseph remains an option.

"His hard work has made him a complete player and I couldn't be more excited for him about getting his opportunity," said sophomore Darius Hamilton on Stephenson. "He's going to get a lot more work. I know he's going to do a great job out there man and we trust him. He does it all."

Monday News and Notes

Wright Transfers

Sophomore offensive lineman Marquise Wright has left the program and will transfer to an FCS school, Rutgers announced. Wright came to Rutgers as a four-star defensive lineman but never pushed for significant action on the two-deep.

Intensity in Bye Week

Rutgers did not use its bye week for rest and relaxation. Quarterback Gary Nova described the week as up-tempo with the team on high alert for the start of the conference season.

"We had great practices," Nova said. "It had a training-camp feel to it because we were going all out. That's good. I think guys got better with their details and fundamentals and I think that's going to help us this week."

Glory Days

Playing a game in Dallas will bring back memories for some of the young faces in the Rutgers program. For receiver Leonte Carroo, offensive lineman Chris Muller and Hamilton, this will be their first trip to Texas since playing in the U.S. Army All-American game as high school stars.

"It's my first time back," Hamilton said. "No question, I'm excited. It's always exciting when you get on the plane with these guys and head out for a business trip."

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