SUMMER CAMP PREVIEW – NEW FACES
College football begins in this week with the opening of summer
camp. The college football season begins on September 1st with a large
slate of Thursday night games including Cincinnati and Connecticut. The
2005 season dawns on the Banks with a sense of trepidation among the
faithful. The 2005 recruiting class suffered the backlash from failed
expectations. After three years of selling the future, the bill came due
last year. And Schiano’s account was overdrawn. After opening the
season with a win against Michigan State before a sold out Rutgers Stadium crowd
and a regional audience on ABC, Rutgers stumbled through the first half of the
season before collapsing in the second half. The program was in a state of
self-doubt as the season ended. Transfer rumors abounded. Recruits
anxiously waiting for proof of progress turned away went elsewhere. One of
the class’ most highly touted recruits reneged on his commitment. Schiano
was virtually shut out of the cream of the New Jersey crop. Schiano
nonetheless soldiered on with recruiting. He signed eight recruits from
New Jersey and four more from metropolitan New York. The staff also signed
six recruits from Florida and two from Canada. The class included only one
junior college player, despite glaring needs on the OLine and DLine. This
article is the first of a three-part preview of the Rutgers football team as it
enters summer camp. The article reviews new faces on the roster, some of
whom are not so new.
RS Fr DT Carl Howard (6-4, 300, Virginia Tech, Cliffwood
Beach, NJ) originally signed with Virginia Tech in 2004 but was unhappy in
Blacksburg. He requested his release during summer camp and transferred
back home to Rutgers in time to enroll for the start of the fall semester.
As such, his freshman redshirt also satisfied NCAA transfer requirements.
Departures and injuries afforded Carl a substantial opportunity in spring
camp. Howard played well in the Spring Game. With only two
experienced DTs on the roster, Howard will likely play on the two deep. He
enters summer camp competing for a starting job.
RS So OG Dan Mazan (6-4, 295, Penn State, Carteret, NJ) transferred to Rutgers last year after redshirting as a freshman at Penn State
in 2003. Mazan missed much of his freshman year with a shoulder injury,
which he continued to rehabilitate last year. Expected to fill the glaring
void at center, Mazan missed spring practice while recovering from another
shoulder surgery. The starting center job was manned by walk-on Joe Giacobbe in spring camp. The starting job is wide open in summer
camp. But Mazan reportedly has been moved to OG for summer camp, where he reportedly was practicing last winter.
RS Fr FS Robert Baham (6-0, 195) was one of the top high
school safeties in Florida in 2003. He signed with Rutgers three days
after national Letter of Intent (LOI) Day. Baham redshirted while fellow
true freshman Ron Girault played. Baham was expected to play substantially
in spring camp as injuries depleted the second team. However, a hamstring
injury cost him some of camp, including the Spring Game. With only three
experienced safeties on the roster, Baham is expected to step forward to fill
the vacancy on the two deep. Will he be beat other first and second year
players for the backup job? At WS or FS? If so, will he
contribute? Or will Schiano be forced to use a three-man rotation at
RS Fr LT Mike Gilmartin (6-6, 285) signed with Rutgers after
initially committing to South Carolina. He redshirted as a true freshman
and missed much of spring camp with a knee injury. The length of his
rehabilitation is not yet known. I do not expect him to play this
season. He was a year away from contributing before he was injured.
RS Fr WLB Chenry Lewis (6-3, 235) was recruited as a LB but
practiced with the scout team at DE last fall. He was moved to WLB in
spring camp and drew raves with his play in the Spring Game, when he recorded 12
tackles. He showed a nose for the football that was sorely lacking
from the Scarlet Knight LB corps. Even though six experienced LBs return,
don’t be surprised if Lewis breaks the two-deep.
RS Fr CB Chazz Lynn (5-10, 175) was lightly recruited and
redshirted last season while practicing on the scout team. Although the
depth chart was decimated last year after the car accident following the Temple
game in which three DBs were lost for the season, Lynn was not seriously
considered to fill the ranks. Schiano instead converted two WRs to CBs,
including another true freshman. Lynn missed spring camp with a shoulder
injury. Lynn is buried behind three experienced CBs and will have to beat
converted WR Sr Corey Barnes, who played well in the Spring Game, for the last
remaining backup CB job.
RS Fr WR Keith Taylor (6-4, 185) redshirted last year and
practiced on the scout team. Injuries to three veterans created an
opportunity for playing time in spring camp. Taylor capitalized upon that
chance and had one of the more remarkable performances in the Spring Game.
He showed a willingness to go over the middle despite a slight build.
Originally not expected to contribute this season other than on special teams,
Keith is now expected to see time in a deep receiving corps. But he
desperately needs to put some weight on his slender frame.
RS Fr QB Mike Teel (6-4, 220) suffered a high ankle sprain
in a summer high school all-star game last summer and missed summer camp as a
true freshman. Expected to compete for the backup QB job immediately, the
ankle relegated him to the scout team for the season. Teel was expected to
beat the incumbent for the backup QB job. Reports emerged from spring camp
the Teel was playing well and could challenge Sr Ryan Hart for the starting
job. But Teel reinjured his ankle and missed the Spring Game, which
effectively cemented the starting job for Hart. The subsequent departure
of incumbent backup Terrence Shawell assures Teel the backup job. Mike is
expected to play early this season. And if Hart stumbles early, don’t be
surprised to see Teel replace him. With an easy early schedule, that
permanent replacement will have to happen early or it won’t happen at all.
With Schiano under pressure to produce a winning season, he can’t afford to have
a freshman QB learning on the job in the meat of the schedule.
RS Fr DE Mike Ziarnowski (6-2, 255) redshirted last season
and practiced on the scout team. He missed spring camp with an unspecified
medical condition. With four returning veterans, he was not expected to
make the two deep. The lost time likely cost him the fifth slot in the
pecking order, which became the fourth spot when incumbent backup DE Piana Lukabu was dismissed from the team after spring camp. Attrition on the
DLine has left only three experienced DEs and two veteran DTs. Ziarnowski
likely will be relegated to special teams.
Fr OT Dave McClain (6-4, 335, Central Bucks South /
Doylestown, PA) was one of the most highly touted players in the 2005 recruiting
class. He twice earned All-Conference honors and was named First Team
All-State last year. Dave committed early to Mayland in May 2004 but
reopened his recruiting in October after mutually agreeing with the Terrapin
staff to part ways. He later received other offers from Louisville,
Marshall, Maryland, Purdue, and Temple. McClain committed to Rutgers on
December 21 as the 16th member of the recruiting class. Dave graduated
high school a semester early and, as such, did not sign on LOI Day because he
was already enrolled at Rutgers for the spring semester, which enabled him to
participate in spring camp. As an early enrollee, McClain’s scholarship
was counted against the 2004 recruiting class, which had four no shows.
With a rash of injuries at center, McClain saw action as the backup
center. McClain split time with walk-on Joe Giacobbe in the Spring Game
but didn’t quite look ready to contribute this year. He needs a redshirt
Fr DT Jon Pierre-Etienne (6-3, 248, Vieux Montreal,
Montreal, Quebec) earned All-AAA honors in 2003 and signed with Syracuse in 2004
but did not qualify. Syracuse again offered JPE last year but he
apparently did not have any other offers. JPE was the 4th recruit to
commit to Rutgers on December 19 and was the 15th recruit of the class. As
a fifth year high school student, was eligible to enroll for the spring semester
at Rutgers. His scholarship was also counted against the 2004 class.
Expected to play DE, JPE was switched to DT in spring camp to fill the depleted
ranks. He played well in the spring game and was expected to compete for a
spot on the two deep in summer camp. However, he underwent surgery after
spring camp for a lingering hip injury from high school. He is not
expected to return until midseason. By then, his redshirt won’t be worth
wasting. Not after missing summer camp.
C Darnell Stapleton (6-3, 305, Hudson Valley CC, Union, NJ)
earned All-County honors as a senior at Union High School in 2002. He
gravitated to Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, NY, where he was a
two-year starter at C and OT. He earned First Team All-Conference honors
last year. He received another offer only from Buffalo. He committed
to Rutgers on January 17, the same day Rutgers offered him a scholarship, as the
18th member of the recruiting class. He enrolled at Rutgers for summer
school and has been participating in voluntary summer workouts with the
team. He is expected to compete for the starting center job in summer
camp. Given the glaring hole at center, Darnell will be the most closely
watched recruit this summer.
OL Darren Salinardi (6-4, 290, Kents Hill Prep [Kents Hill,
ME], Jersey City, NJ) twice earned All County honors in Hudson County.
However, he did not qualify in 2004 and instead enrolled at Kents Hill Prep
School in Maine while his twin brother Joe enrolled at Rutgers. Darren was
the only no-show from the 2004 class to make it back to Rutgers in 2005.
He had already recommitted to Rutgers when he had an official visit in late
January. He was the 22nd member of the recruiting class as of LOI
Day. He will join the team in summer camp. Salinardi will play
either DT or OL. He likely will redshirt this season.
DT Shukree Barfield earned first team All State honors at DE
in 2003. He received scholarship offers from Clemson, Iowa, Kentucky,
Miami, Tennessee, and Tulane. He had official visits with Kentucky and
Miami. However, LOI Day passed with no commitment from Barfield. He
eventually signed with Rutgers five days after LOI Day. Not surprisingly,
the late commitment was a sign of academic issues. Barfield did not
qualify and instead enrolled in Garden City Community College in Kansas.
The Kansas JUCOs are among the best in the country. Given the interest
Barfield drew two years ago, it is unlikely he will again sign with Rutgers
after two years at Garden City.
DT Renold Fenelus was involved with Central Florida, East Carolina, and Temple but only received an offer from Rutgers. He signed on
LOI Day but was not expected to qualify to play as a freshman. And
didn’t. He enrolled at Los Angeles Valley College and played DE for the
FB Dwayne Jones received offers from Boston College,
Nebraska, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. Rutgers was not listed among his
favorites last fall but Jones stunned the Rutgers community with a surprise
commitment in November 2003. That should have been a red flag.
Although he signed on LOI Day, rumors swirled for months that Jones would not
qualify to play as a freshman. Jones did not enroll at Rutgers. Or
anywhere else, including JUCO. In February 2005, Jones signed a letter of
intent with Division I-AA Morgan State. That was a surprise because many
didn’t expect Jones to ever set foot on a college campus.
CB Bruce McKever earned Conference Player of the Year
honors. He was lightly recruited, with only another offer from
Syracuse. McKever verbally committed to Rutgers on January 25th and signed
on LOI Day. He was a surprise deletion from the summer roster and
apparently did not qualify. His current whereabouts are unknown. I
assume that he enrolled in JUCO.
OL Ryan Blaszczyk (6-4, 300, Shawnee HS, Medford Lakes, NJ)
twice earned All-Conference honors and was named First Team All-State last
year. He received other offers from Connecticut and Towson. Ryan
verbally committed to Rutgers in early August – the fifth recruit of the class
and signed on LOI Day. He is expected to play guard. He will likely
redshirt this year and spend the season practicing with the scout team.
Blaszczyk will compete for a spot on the two-deep next spring on an OLine that
is young, inexperienced, and thin.
WR Dennis Campbell (5-9, 170, Plantation HS, Plantation, FL)
earned First Team All-Conference honors as a junior in 2003 while playing RB,
WR, DB, PR, and KOR. Florida recruiting guru Larry Blustein initially
ranked Campbell in the top 100 rising Florida high school seniors in February
2004. He broke his leg in the third game of the 2004 season and did not
play again until the playoffs. Nonetheless, he received other offers from
Central Florida, Minnesota, Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, South Florida, and
Utah. Campbell verbally committed to Rutgers in early December – the
eighth member of the class – and signed on LOI Day. Given the glut of
talent at WR and on special teams, Campbell probably should redshirt and prepare
to compete for playing time in spring camp.
DT Chris Dirksz (6-1, 260, Krop HS, Miami, FL) was a
three-year starter and played OL, DE, and ILB. He earned All-Dade County
honors last year. Florida recruiting guru Larry Blustein ranked Dirksz in
the top 125 rising Florida high school juniors in June 2003. He made a
verbal commitment to Rutgers in late June – the third member of the class –
after attending Schiano’s camp. Blustein eventually ranked Dirksz #75 in
his final 2004 rankings of Florida’s graduating seniors. Chris also
received offers from Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Wyoming, and
Delaware. He signed with Rutgers on LOI Day. Given the lack of depth
along the DLine due to unexpected attrition, Dirksz may get an opportunity to
see early playing time. Schiano is reportedly switching him to DT in
summer camp. The question remains whether third team reps will be worth
the price of a freshman redshirt. Dirksz should only play if he makes the
DB Courtney Greene (6-1, 180, Bridgton Academy [North
Bridgton, Maine], New Rochelle, NY) earned All-County honors at New Rochelle HS
in 2003 and committed to Syracuse in 2004. However, he did not qualify and
instead enrolled at Bridgton Academy. Syracuse re-offered Greene last year
and Courtney again accepted. However, Syracuse’s interest waned after Head
Coach Paul Pasqualoni was fired and Greene never signed an LOI with the
Orangemen. Clemson and Connecticut also showed interest in Courtney.
Greene apparently did not qualify until well after LOI Day. Reports
emerged in mid-June that Greene had signed with Rutgers as the 24th member of
the class. Greene is expected to redshirt and practice with the scout
OL Kevin Haslam (6-7, 265, Mahwah HS, Mahwah, NJ) was a
two-year, two-way starter, earning All-Conference honors both years and
All-County honors as a senior. Haslam was lightly recruited during the
summer and didn’t show up on the radar screen. He had an offer from
Hofstra, likely an early one given the lack of buzz around his name.
However, in January, Haslem picked up a flurry of interest, including
Rutgers. He also received offers from Central Florida, Georgia Tech,
Maryland, North Carolina State, and South Florida. He had narrowed his
choice down to Georgia Tech and South Florida and was about to cancel his visit
to Rutgers. However, fellow recruit Jabulani Lovelace convinced Haslam to
visit the Banks on the final weekend of recruiting season. After a
whirlwind courtship, Kevin committed to Rutgers on January 30 – the 20th recruit
of the class – and signed on LOI Day. He is expected to redshirt this
season and practice on the scout team.
DB Leslie Jackman (5-11, 175, Freeport HS, Freeport, NY) was
a two-year starter who twice earned All-Long Island honors. He also
received offers from Indiana, Kansas State, Michigan State, and Syracuse.
He reportedly favored with Syracuse but did not sign on LOI Day because he was
not yet academically eligible. Jackman was a late qualifier and signed
with Rutgers in early June, the 23rd member of the class. He is expected
to redshirt this season and practice on the scout team.
DB Glen Lee (6-2, 195, New Rochelle HS, New Rochelle, NY)
was a three-year starter and twice earned All-Conference honors as well as First
Team All-State honors last year. Glen took an official visit to Rutgers in
mid-December and committed days later as the tenth recruit in the class.
He reportedly received no other offers and did not show up on the recruiting
radar until his visit to Rutgers. Given the lack of interest in Lee from
other DIA programs, he is expected to redshirt this season and practice with the
QB Jabulani Lovelace (6-2, 195, Tenafly HS, Tenafly, NJ) was
a three-year starter and twice earned All-Conference honors as well as All-State
honors last year. He also received offers from Connecticut, Kent State,
Syracuse, Toledo, Vanderbilt, and Wisconsin. He was primarily recruited as
a DB, although Rutgers, Syracuse, and Vanderbilt recruited him as a QB.
His finalists were Syracuse and Vanderbilt. He took his official visit to
Rutgers in mid-December and surprisingly committed thereafter, as the first of
four verbals on December 19 and the 12th recruit of the class. He signed
on LOI Day. With Mike Teel expected to push Ryan Hart for the starting QB
job, Lovelace will likely redshirt and be the scout team QB. With the
departure of Hart after this season, Jabu will be the only other experienced QB
on the roster besides Teel. Lovelace will have the answer the questions
about his QB ability in spring camp.
LB Kevin Malast (6-2, 215, Manchester HS, Manchester, NJ)
was a four-year starter and thrice earned First Team All-Conference
honors. He was the first recruit of the 2005 class, verbally committing to
Rutgers in February 2004. He ultimately received other offers from Duke,
Iowa, Mississippi, Syracuse, Temple, Virginia, and Western Michigan. Given the
depth at LB this year, Malast will likely redshirt and practice with the scout
team. With three seniors departing – and the status of a fourth uncertain
– Malast will have an opportunity to prove himself in spring camp.
WR Chris McClover (6-4, 175, Dillard HS, Fort Lauderdale,
FL) was a two-year starter who twice earned All-Conference honors and garnered
All-County laurels last year. McClover drew minor interest until last
summer, when he blew up on the summer camp circuit, including a visit to
Rutgers’ camp that drew rave reviews. He received other offers from
Auburn, Eastern Michigan, and Pitt. He visited Rutgers in mid-December and
committed a week later as the third of four verbals on December 19 and 14th
member of the recruiting class. He signed on LOI Day. Although the
receiving corps is crowded, don’t be surprised if McClover cracks the playing
rotation. Hopefully, his redshirt won’t be burned for minimal playing
DB Devin McCourty (5-11, 170, St. Joseph’s HS [Montvale,
NJ], Nanuet, NY) was a three-year starter who twice earned First Team
All-Conference honors. Devin did not receive any other DIA offers besides
that from Rutgers. He visited Rutgers in mid-December and gave a verbal
commitment in mid-December – the 11th recruit to join the class. He signed
on LOI Day. He is expected to redshirt this year and practice with the
DB Jason McCourty (5-11, 170, St. Joseph’s [Montvale, NJ],
Nanuet, NY) was a late bloomer, earning All-State honors in New Jersey as a
senior. He received other offers from Boston College, Kent State, and New
Hampshire. He visited Rutgers in mid-December with his twin brother Devin
and verbally committed that weekend – as the ninth member of the recruiting
class. Jason is also expected to redshirt this season and practice with
the scout team.
LB Damaso Munoz (6-0, 200, Southridge HS, Miami, FL) was a
four-year starter who earned All-County honors as a senior. Damaso drew
some attention as a rising senior – Florida recruiting guru Larry Blustein
listed him in his top 200. Munoz impressed the Rutgers staff at Rutgers’
camp in early June and earned an offer, which he promptly accepted – the second
commitment. He apparently received no other offers even though Blustein
moved Munoz into his top 100 Florida recruits. Damaso signed with Rutgers
on LOI Day. Undersized for LB at 200 pounds, he needs a redshirt year to
grow into his position. Let’s see how he looks in spring camp.
OL Nate Nurse (6-5, 290, Don Bosco Prep, Teaneck, NJ) was a
two-year starter (at least) and earned All-State honors last year. He had
offers from Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Louisville, Maryland, Purdue, and
Rutgers. He initially committed to Wisconsin in September and signed with
the Badgers on LOI Day. However, Wisconsin denied Nurse admission and Nate
was left looking for a new school in June. In mid-July, he signed with
Rutgers as the 25th member of the recruiting class. Nurse automatically
jumped to near the top of the Rutgers recruiting class. He fills a
desperate need on the OLine. He likely will redshirt this year but should
make an impact in spring camp.
LB Chris Quaye (6-0, 230, Timber Creek HS, Timber Creek, NJ)
was a two-year starter (at least) and earned All-Conference and All-Group III
honors as a senior. He had other offers from Louisville, Marshall,
Maryland, Penn State, and Temple. He camped at both Rutgers and Penn
State. Quaye verbally committed in mid-November – the sixth recruit of the
class and the first since the start of a very disappointing season. He
signed on LOI Day. Given the depth at LB, he is expected to redshirt this
season and practice with the scout team.
RB Raymell Rice (5-9, 195, New Rochelle HS, New Rochelle,
NY) was a two-year starter who earned First Team All-State honors as a
senior. He originally received offers from Syracuse and Virginia.
Raymell committed to Syracuse in June 2004 but re-opened his recruiting after
the dismissal of Pasqualoni following the 2004 season. Rice made a
surprise commitment to Rutgers in mid-January, as the 17th member of Schiano’s
recruiting class. Given the unsettled situation at TB, Rice will get a
chance to compete for playing time. Hopefully, if he does play, it will be
significantly and his redshirt won’t be wasted as it was last year for Dimitri
Linton and Jean Beljour.
DB RB Davon Smart (5-10, 185, Hackensack HS, Hackensack, NJ)
was a three-year starter who earned All-Conference, All-County, and All-Group
honors as a senior. He had other offers from Connecticut, Pittsburgh, and
Temple. He had an official visit in early December and verbally committed
on December 19, the second of four recruits to verbal on that day and 13th
member of the class. He signed on LOI Day. He is expected to
redshirt this season and practice with the scout team.
DE Vantrise Studivant (6-3, 260, Suncoast HS, Riviera Beach,
FL) was a four-year starter who earned All-Area honors as a senior.
Although he received interest from Georgia Tech, Indiana, Kansas State,
Mississippi, and Wake Forest, Vantrise did not receive any other offers besides
Rutgers. He visited Rutgers in early December and verbally committed on
January 23, as the 19th member of the class. Given the lack of depth along
the DLine, Studivant will have a chance to compete for playing time this
year. Hopefully, any decision to play him will be a wise one.
DE Peter Tverdov (6-4, 235, Union HS, Union, NJ) was a
three-year starter who twice earned All-Conference and All-County honors.
He didn’t receive any other offers although he received interest from
Virginia. Considered a little too small for Division IA football, Peter
was expected to prep next year. However, he dedicated himself to a
vigorous winter physical training regimen and added the size he was
missing. With a few non-qualifiers in the 2005 recruiting class, Schiano
had an extra scholarship and offered Tverdov in late July. Peter decided
not to wait for Virginia to offer and accepted Rutgers’ offer. He is the
26th member of the recruiting class. Even though NCAA rules limit the size
of a recruiting class to 25 per year, two members of this class (McClain and
JPE) enrolled in the spring and were counted against the 2004 class.
Therefore, the 2005 class is not yet full. And that doesn’t even consider
non-qualifiers such as Messam.
WR Tiquan Underwood (6-2, 170, Notre Dame HS, Lawrenceville,
NJ) was a three-year starter who earned All-County honors as a sophomore at WR
and a junior at QB. He played WR as a senior but missed most of the season
with an injury. Tiquan apparently did not receive any other offers.
He camped at Rutgers and verbally committed in early July as the fourth member
of the recruiting class. He signed on LOI Day. Given the depth at
WR, he likely will redshirt this year and will practice with the scout
DE Gary Watts (6-3, 235, Norland HS, Miami, FL) was a
two-year starter and twice earned All-County honors. Floridakids.com
ranked Watts in their Top 100 throughout 2004, with a final ranking of #82 after
the season. Gary initially committed to South Florida on January 27th but,
after an official visit to Rutgers the last weekend of January, changed his mind
and committed to Rutgers on LOI Day, when he also signed his binding
agreement. He was the 21st and final member of Schiano’s recruiting class
as of LOI Day.
RS Fr DT Joe Salinardi redshirted last season behind six
experienced DTs. The departure of three seniors and the dismissal of a fourth
player created openings on the two-deep. Salinardi missed the Spring Game
for “personal reasons”, rarely a good sign. Joe is not currently shown on
the team roster. I don’t expect to see him back.
RB Jerome Messam (6-3, 235, Notre Dame HS, Brampton,
Ontario) was a three-year starter and also played a season for a club
team. He received other offers from Akron, Connecticut, Michigan State,
and South Carolina. Jerome participated in Rutgers’ first official visit
in December and verbally committed at the end of the weekend – the seventh
recruit of the class. He signed on LOI Day. In June, it was reported
that Messam would not qualify and would instead enroll in a North Dakota
JUCO. Messam is unlikely to make it back to Rutgers. He had
expressed strong desire to play for Michigan State. The Spartans are
likely the leader of his services. We’ll see where he lands in two
Coming Next: Part 2 of my Summer Camp Preview.
Injuries postponed many of the position battles on the depth chart during spring
camp. Other competitions were still undecided by the end of the spring
camp. I’ll look at the spots on the depth chart that are up for grabs in
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