Juniors aim to replace production lost at receiver
With the graduation of Quron Pratt and Brandon Coleman forgoing his last year of eligibility, the wide receiver position is one of a few in question for the Rutgers football team.
Last season, Coleman and Pratt led the wideouts with 34 and 32 receptions, respectively. The Scarlet Knights lost over 1,000 yards from the duo and four touchdowns from Coleman.
But the Knights do return two of their top receivers from a season ago.
Junior tight end Tyler Kroft, who has been held out of spring practice due to a shoulder injury, led the team with 43 receptions and 573 receiving yards.
Rutgers also returns junior receiver Leonte Carroo, who led the team with nine touchdown receptions.
“I have more of a leadership role leading these young guys and this wide receiver core, and just going out there and competing every single day and watching more film,” Carroo said. “That’s one of the things Brandon taught me, ‘You always have to know your opponents and what they are doing.’ I’m going to go out there, watch film and play football.”
To add some more depth to the youth in the receiving core, junior Tejay Johnson was converted to offense after playing cornerback and free safety during his career at Rutgers.
The experience Johnson has both on defense at Rutgers and some offense at previous schools gives him a good advantage, according to senior free safety Johnathan Aiken.
“Tejay is a great athlete, so no matter what position he plays, he is going to be good at it. He has great hands and great speed, and I think he played receiver at his junior college, so moving him to receiver is a good fit,” Aiken said. “From learning how to cover, you know how a defensive back adjusts to a certain route. The transition is easy and it helps you more because you know the ins and outs of where the DB is going to be at.”
Rutgers will play its first scrimmage of the spring season this Saturday at 10 a.m.
There are several questions that will be answered Saturday, and Flood thinks that any Knight who is participating will be competing for regular-season snaps.
“Everybody on the team will be auditioning for sure, and they are all fighting for their spot on the depth chart,” Flood said. “One of the messages I left with the team today is that Saturday is their day to show us where they think they should be on the depth chart.”
The scrimmage will also present some challenges for Rutgers.
The injury report for the Knights will be high, with up to five players out and several others limited during this weeks practice.
The format of the scrimmage will adjust according to the injuries.
“From a numbers standpoint, we are going to be limited. We are going to move the field a little bit and spend a lot of time in the redzone,” Flood said. “Then, we’ll see how far we can go with what our numbers are. There are some guys who I don’t know will be able to go right now, so unfortunately that will limit us.”
Perhaps the biggest lingering question in the spring season is the quarterback situation.
As of this week, five different quarterbacks were splitting the reps during practice. But Flood said to expect a change soon with more regularity.
“Today, Gary [Nova] and Chris [Laviano] took the reps with the ones, Mike [Bimonte] took the reps with the twos and Blake [Rankin] and Devin [Ray] also with the twos,” Flood said. “It’s tricky. If you really want to make the jump as a team, you can’t do it repping five quarterbacks. It’s just not the reality of this game.”
As for a clear-cut No. 1 at quarterback, Flood wants to wait until after Saturday before he reveals his opinion.
“I’ll wait until after Saturday,” Flood said of if he has seen any separation among the quarterbacks. “I am [seeing separation], but I’m not going to comment individually until after the scrimmage.”
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.