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 safety?
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 season.
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 Monarchs.
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 two-deep.
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 team.
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 scout team.
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 time, though.
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 scout team.
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 team.
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 years.
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 summer camp.
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