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Before the start of last season, the Rutgers football team was counted out.
The Scarlet Knights sat third in the preseason rankings, behind defending champion Louisville and a South Florida team that returned nearly all of its starters from the previous season.
Entering last season, Gary Nova’s top three wide receivers collectively had more than five seasons of combined significant game experience.
This season, the Rutgers football team’s junior quarterback has only one of those three — junior Brandon Coleman — and only one other wideout — senior Quron Pratt — that has seen more time at receiver than on special teams.
One year removed from the program’s first-ever share of the Big East Championship, the Rutgers football team has a few more questions thanks to several player losses to graduation and the NFL draft. Many of those questions exist on the defensive side of the ball.
Each defensive position for the Rutgers football team suffered some losses following last season, but none more than the cornerbacks. After the graduation of Marcus Cooper and Brandon Jones coupled with Logan Ryan’s departure for the NFL, the cornerbacks became the only group on defense to not have at least one returning starter. That left junior Gareef Glashen and sophomore Tejay Johnson — neither earned a start last season — atop the depth chart.
Miles Shuler spent two seasons waiting. He looked on as former wide receivers Mohamed Sanu, Mark Harrison and Tim Wright soaked up the bulk of the Rutgers football team’s receptions. Now with those players no longer on the roster, the junior wideout sees an opportunity for the younger receivers to make their mark on the program, just as their predecessors did. “I feel that some people have to step up,” Shuler said.
When I woke up Thursday morning, I checked Facebook as I normally do — and saw my good friend, colleague and Sports Editor Josh Bakan’s column in response to the previous day’s firing of now former head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice. He called for Pernetti to either be fired or to change his ways. Shortly after I finished reading, I received a text from an old roommate asking me if I thought Pernetti should be fired.
There is no doubt — in the public eye at least — that whoever ends up playing alongside senior linebacker Jamal Merrell this season will be caught in two very large shadows. Following last season, the Rutgers football team lost two prominent figures in one position group. Two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year Khaseem Greene and Steve Beauharnais both exhausted their eligibility and moved on with NFL hopes in mind.
Savon Huggins spent a large portion of last season the same way he did the healthy portion of his freshman campaign — waiting behind Jawan Jamison. Huggins finally received his opportunity Nov. 17 against Cincinnati, following Jamison’s right ankle injury. He tied Jamison’s Rutgers football team record with 41 carries and earned a career high 179 rushing yards — a season high for the Scarlet Knights. Once Jamison recovered, the two split reps for the remainder of the season.
Of the four returning starters on the Rutgers football teams defense, junior safety Lorenzo Waters is in the most difficult position. Senior linebacker Jamal Merrell lines up next to junior Kevin Snyder, who has seen action each of the last two seasons. The defensive line has senior defensive ends Jamil Merrell and Marcus Thompson — both of whom started last season — as well as senior Issac Holmes and junior Kenneth Kirksey coming off of injury.
One word the Rutgers football team will hear often this preseason will be “new.” The Scarlet Knights have some new coaches with some new personalities, new players and a slew of new starters. One new coach is offensive coordinator Ron Prince, who is clearly dissimilar to his predecessor Dave Brock. But there does not appear to be any issues with his new personality.
Another Rutgers football season — another group of coordinators. Last season, the Scarlet Knights brought in Dave Brock to call the plays on offense and promoted secondary coach Robb Smith to defensive coordinator. Following last season, Brock took the head-coaching job at the University of Delaware, while Smith joined former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano in the NFL. Current head coach Kyle Flood brought in Ron Prince to be the offensive coordinator.
NEW YORK — In the first round of the Big East Tournament, the Rutgers men’s basketball team had the luxury of playing a team that did not know its way around the basket. DePaul was statistically the worst rebounding team in the conference, pulling in an average of 3.9 less rebounds per game than its opponents. But when the Scarlet Knights met their second round opponent — Notre Dame — the story was vastly different.
NEW YORK — The Rutgers men’s basketball team has battled the Big East’s best big men throughout the season, with Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng and Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley among the talented group. More often than not in conference play, the Scarlet Knights were on the wrong end of a lopsided interior battle. But in last night’s 76-57 win against DePaul, the roles were reversed as the Knights became the aggressors in the paint.
In the Rutgers men’s basketball team’s regular season finale Friday against Seton Hall, the Scarlet Knights found themselves in a very unusual position. Entering the contest, they had lost 11 of their previous 12 games. This meant that, at the end of each of those 11 games, the Knights were typically forced to foul in order to get the ball back. The Pirates assumed that very role Friday while Rutgers enjoyed the benefits of Seton Hall’s 13 second-half team fouls.
NEWARK — The Rutgers men’s basketball team needed a win — badly. After dropping 11 of their last 12 games, the Scarlet Knights found themselves sharing a court with the only team they had beaten during that span, in-state rival Seton Hall. The opponent was not a concern for Rutgers — only the end result, which ended up being a 56-51 Rutgers victory, mattered. “Whether it was a rivalry game … didn’t matter,” said head coach Mike Rice. “It was a win. The way we did it — because we slept-walked through the first half — we responded and found a way.”
This college basketball season has, if nothing else, shown that there are no automatic wins in the power conferences. If Penn State, a team whose RPI once sat at 194, can beat a top-five team in Michigan, and Indiana can lose three times as the nation’s No. 1, each win must be earned. The Big East is a clear indication of this. Georgetown, which leads the conference, fell to South Florida, which is tied for last in the conference.
Marquette entered last night’s contest with the Rutgers men’s basketball team as the No. 15 team in the nation. It also sat one game behind league-leading Georgetown in the conference standings. After a rocky start, the Golden Eagles stole the game from the Scarlet Knights as they earned a 60-54 win at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. After the first 20 minutes, Marquette faced a 10-point deficit.Reminiscent of Rutgers’ loss to Villanova on Feb. 18 — in which it also held a 31-21 lead at halftime — the Knights looked every bit in control against a tougher opponent.
Austin Johnson is about to play his final game at the Louis Brown Athletic Center. After 90 career games for the Rutgers men’s basketball team — 33 of which he started — the senior forward will take his home court for the final time. And yet, there was a time in Johnson’s career when it was possible that his final game at the Rutgers Athletic Center was going to be March 4, 2010 — in an 11-point loss to Seton Hall. Following that season, Johnson — along with the rest of the team — faced a decision.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Facing No. 7 Georgetown and the nation’s No. 10 scoring defense is tough enough as it is. It is even more difficult when the Hoyas spend most of the game on the free throw line. And it is near impossible to come out on top when the person who takes most of those free throws is player of the year candidate Otto Porter. The Rutgers men’s basketball team received a firsthand look at this Saturday night, when an excessive free throw differential led to a 64-51 Scarlet Knights loss to the Hoyas.
Time is running out on the Rutgers men’s basketball team. The Scarlet Knights are locked in to playing on the first day of the Big East Tournament, and a chance at an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament is a thing of the past. But several of its losses were not bad ones. Only four of its’ Big East defeats were by more than 10 points, and it kept pace with nearly every team for at least the first half. Records do not show how hard a team fights or how close the games are.