Rutgers to implement new offense
At first it appeared the Rutgers football team’s offense might be the most certain part of the team next year with most of the unit set to return.
Within a month of season’s end, sophomore running back Jawan Jamison and offensive coordinator Dave Brock’s departures changed that complexion.
Now whoever takes over Brock’s duties will adopt an offense with several question marks.
Head coach Kyle Flood is certain of one thing about the offense: sophomore Gary Nova will still be the starting quarterback, at least come spring practice.
The Scarlet Knights offense finished this season averaging 21.5 points per game, third-to-last in the Big East. Improving that number will not only require progress from Nova, but creating a system that makes it easier for him.
Flood said Jan. 18 he would replace Brock with a coordinator who also implemented a pro-style offense.
Sophomore wide receiver Brandon Coleman, who led Rutgers with 718 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns this year, returns as the focal receiver.
Sophomore Miles Shuler, junior Quron Pratt and freshman Leonte Carroo give Rutgers enough speed for a quicker offense.
Coleman wants the receivers to help Nova out more, and a quicker offense could do that with more bailouts.
“We try to make each other look better, and that’s what you have to do,” Coleman said Dec. 28. “You have to find a way, and [in the Russell Athletic Bowl] I know I didn’t find a way a couple times, so I know I just have to work on that.”
Flood did not have the same view once the season ended, which puts a 13-10 loss against Virginia Tech on the offense as a whole.
“There is no responsibility to bail anybody out,” Flood said Dec. 28. “There are expectations of performance, and our expectations of performance are very high, and I think we met them on defense. I don’t know that we met them on offense.”
Jamison ended his Rutgers career on a low note with 22 yards on 13 rushes while re-aggravating his previously injured right ankle against Virginia Tech.
An ineffective running game crippled Rutgers’ offense, and now the Knights have to figure out how to move the chains without Jamison at all.
Sophomore Savon Huggins will likely start at running back, where Rutgers enters next year largely unproven.
Huggins rushed for 410 yards this season and only totaled more than 50 yards Nov. 17 at Cincinnati, where he totaled a career-high 179 yards on the ground.
Redshirt freshmen P.J. James and Ben Martin will both compete for a backup role. They have taken only five and 10 career handoffs, respectively.
Incoming freshman Dontea Ayres, who will enroll early and practice with Rutgers this spring, will likely be in the mix as a backup, as well.
The most certain part of the offense is the line, which returns every starter except right tackle R.J. Dill.
But even the offensive line was unreliable against the Hokies, allowing three sacks.
“Even the plays that weren’t stacks there were pressures,” Flood said Dec. 28. “I think it is hard for a quarterback to set his feet every time if he’s not sure he‘s going to be protected or not.”
The line only allowed 11 sacks all year after giving up 30 in 2011, but junior guard Antwan Lowery still sees room for progress.
He noted one problem as the line’s biggest difficulty all season.
“Communication,” Lowery said Dec. 28. “Everybody being on the same page. There were times when we weren’t on the same page and everybody wasn’t playing as one. [Improving that] is going to be a big key.”
Whoever takes over for Brock will be lucky to have an established line, but every facet will need fixing to improve the passing game and an unproven running game.
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Josh Bakan on Twitter @JBakanTargum.