Greene wins league award, comes full circle at Rutgers

Knight notebook

<p>Junior linebacker Khaseem Greene led the Big East with 127
tackles in his ascent to Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year
with Cincinnati’s Derek Wolfe.</p>

Junior linebacker Khaseem Greene led the Big East with 127 tackles in his ascent to Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year with Cincinnati’s Derek Wolfe.

Khaseem Greene knew Rutgers head football coach Greg Schiano moved him to linebacker in the offseason for a reason. The Big East’s leading tackler culminated the position change with the conference’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year award yesterday, the league announced.

Greene’s honor, the first in school history, highlighted the Scarlet Knights’ second-best season total of eight Big East selections.

“I’m excited,” Greene said. “I’m very happy for this family. I’m very happy for my family at home. I’m happy for myself. More or less I’m happy for everybody around me.”

The Elizabeth, N.J., native recorded 127 tackles in his first year at linebacker, 20 stops more than the conference’s second-leading tackler. He was the face of a defensive unit that ranked first in the Big East in total defense and scoring defense.

And he did it all with only 15 spring practices at Rutgers to draw on at linebacker.

“I’m proud of his efforts,” Schiano said. “[Greene is] a guy who puts it on the line for this program every day, whether it’s in the meeting room or on the practice field. He trusted us when we changed his position and went out and did great. I think it’s well deserved.”

Greene played linebacker at Elizabeth High School and during Pop Warner, but transitioned to safety at Avon Old Farms (Conn.) after committing to Rutgers.

He returned to his old position in the spring, when Schiano realized his 2010 defense lacked the resources to contend with Big East spread offenses.

Greene turned Schiano’s plan into results, headlining a defensive effort that returned the Knights to their aggressive past.

“To coach’s credit, he knew I would be able to do something special there,” Greene said. “I just credit coach and my teammates for putting me in a position to perform.”

Junior wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who broke the single-season conference record with 109 receptions, was one of two Knights selected to the league’s first-team offense.

Sanu’s 12-game total was good for fifth nationally, contributing 1,144 yards and seven touchdowns in the process.

“It’s a great recognition,” Sanu said. “I’m proud that I’m able to be first-team All-Big East. That’s a great feeling just to know that all the hard work you put in is getting recognized.”

Sanu finished the season in sole possession of Rutgers’ single-season reception mark, surpassing former Knight Kenny Britt’s 87-catch haul in 2008.

He needs only four catches in Rutgers’ bowl game Dec. 30 to break the program’s career receptions total, held by now-Cincinnati Bengal Brian Leonard at 207.

“Everybody knows he’s getting the ball, and he still gets it, still makes plays,” Schiano said. “He’s got two catches that are the top catches I’ve ever seen. He did it in one season. You don’t get to coach many Mo Sanus.”

Senior right guard Art Forst and junior safety Duron Harmon rounded out the Knights’ first-team selections. Senior left guard Desmond Wynn, sophomore cornerback Logan Ryan, sophomore kick returner Jeremy Deering and junior punter Justin Doerner earned second-team Big East honors.

Schiano still has not seen enough of them, but he said the addition of five schools to the Big East affirms his faith in the league’s leadership.

“I trust the people that are doing the decision making,” he said. “I haven’t studied it enough to know. I know they’re five good football programs. It’s going to be fun to add them to the league, and I’m excited.”

The Big East announced Wednesday that Boise State and San Diego State would join the league in football only in 2013, while Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist would have complete membership.

The addition aids the conference in its hopes to maintain its automatic-qualifying status with the Bowl Championship Series, Schiano said.

“All along, we know. The facts are misrepresented,” he said. “You know you’re going to be AQ at 12 or 13 [schools]. Then there’s a new contract to be negotiated. No one may be AQ. There may be no AQ. I don’t put that much concern into that.”

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