"Some good, some not so good. It was sloppy. We're going to need to get our act straight here or we're going to be disappointed," stated the 2006 Home Depot Coach of the Year after the completion of Rutgers' final scrimmage of summer camp.
Words of alarm, they may seem to some. However, words of cautious optimism would be a better description of Schiano's practice description, on the same day the Associated Press Poll granted another accolade to New Jersey's State University.
In a nutshell, this camp, and the entirety of pre-season 2007, has been primarily about meeting expectations, and keeping a level head amidst attention coming from every angle. With the AP Poll's release arrives another sign of the continual development of Schiano's football program. As the milestones pile up, expectations follow suit, in an inexorable upwards spiral. It's a bit of a different cap that the head man must don, as it falls on him to instill the sense of urgency necessary to ensure that increased expectations are met head on by increased effort and intensity, on and off the field. And off the field, interview requests, awards, team and individual recognition, they just keep on coming. Most recently, filling in the No. 16 spot in the initial AP Poll of the 2007 season, it marked the first time in the long history of the program that Rutgers was pre-season ranked. Ahead of traditional winners such as Florida State, Penn State, Miami, and others.
On the field, the Rutgers offense continues to be a step ahead of their defensive counterparts. But it wasn't all roses for the Scarlet Knights Saturday afternoon as bad news arrived when speed-demon Tim Brown went down midway through the session. "Timmy broke his hand. He'll be out 4 to 6 weeks," stated Schiano. Brown, the blur of a WR out of Northwestern HS [Miami, FL] arrived on the Banks with high expectations last year and did not disappoint. His surge in the latter half of the season, including his 2-touchdown performance in RU's Texas Bowl victory, served as the coming out party for the diminutive speedster. As the game of college football, and indeed all sports at every level, go, Brown's injury will allow for an alternate to step onto the landscape of Piscataway's bright lights.
"We have people that can play. We gotta figure out what to do next," stated Schiano. Though it's little consolation considering Brown's presence causes significant match-up problems against whoever is guarding him, several players may profit from this unexpected opportunity including Sr. James Townsend and Jr. Dennis Campbell.
Coach Schiano commented on the specific opportunity ahead of Dennis Campbell, adding that he "played better today - we need Dennis to play better. Dennis is a very good athlete. He just kind of hit a little slump midyear and never came out of it. Hopefully he's starting to come out of it now because, certainly with Timmy being out for a while I know Dennis has an opportunity."
Defensively, the spot(s) that are up for grabs have revolved around the LB corps. While significant talent awaits in the wings, it's very 'green', and replacing the experience of Devraun Thompson and Quintero Frierson will take time. Rutgers has experimented with a number of players, but outside of Sr. Brandon Renkhart, there is no penciled-in starter that is assured of opening day snaps. "We're going to have to evaluate the whole LB-ing situation this weekend. Our defensive staff and myself, we got to really figure it out, because Monday we gotta lock it in. We really have to start to get the guys where they're going to be and who's going to be in," continued Coach Schiano.
News and Notes
Rutgers TD Club members were in attendance for Rutgers' final scrimmage of summer camp. With practice sessions fully closed to the public for the foreseeable future, the TD Club membership, only, receives an open invitation to a summer practice.
SI Pre-Season All-America Eric Foster
The Chop-Master himself, Rutgers interior lineman Eric Foster [Homestead, FL], was tabbed as a Sports Illustrated Pre-Season All-American this past Friday. In addition, Foster was also named to the Outland Trophy Preseason Watch List - an award granted to the nation's top interior lineman - and Nagurski Watch List earlier this summer. The 6-foot-2 and 260-pounder was last year's spiritual leader, recording 51 tackles in 2006, 6 for loss, to go along with 6 sacks. Constantly demanding double teams last year, Foster's presence will create match-up problems for opposing offenses as the Rutgers fleet-footed defensive line looks to continue in '07 what they began in '06.