Kyle Flood takes the reins for a Rutgers program that rebounded in 2011 and has one of the fiercest defenses in the east. Will the offense continue to hold the Scarlet Knights back?
Flood, 41, was promoted to interim coach once Greg Schiano decided to leave the program to take over the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But in January, it seemed that FIU’s Mario Cristobal would be over the Scarlet Knights. Instead, Cristobal decided to stay put and Flood was handed the reins. He coached under Schiano for seven seasons and has strong in-state recruiting ties.
Replacing Schiano will be challenging. Although his record was barely over .500 at 68-67, he transformed the Knights from a Big East doormat into a conference power. Fortunately for Flood, talent did not leave along with Schiano. Many top players return from a 9-4 team that won the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, and that gives Rutgers a strong chance to contend for what will once again be a wide-open Big East race.
Flood has been a college assistant the last 17 seasons, serving as Rutgers’ offensive line coach and also as Schiano’s assistant head coach the last four years. He has a team, particularly on defense, that’s good enough to contend for its first league crown, especially now that West Virginia has relocated to the Big 12.
What to watch for on offense: The Jawan and Savon Show. Considering the erratic behavior of the passing game, and the loss of star WR Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers will be resigned to put a little more weight on the ground troops in 2012. The complementary backs, sophomores Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins have ample talent, but need a lot more help from the blockers than they received a year ago. The Scarlet Knights ranked 117th nationally at just 2.7 yards a carry, a feeble level of output that absolutely has to improve this fall.
What to watch for on defense: The end game. The Scarlet Knights D promises to be oppressive this season. The lone concern? Who is going to create the pressure off the edge? Heck, who is going to start? At one spot, juniors Michael Larrow and Marcus Thompson are battling for playing time. At the other, seniors—and converted linebackers—Ka’Lial Glaud and Marvin Booker are locked in a very tight competition. Since the quartet has just five career sacks between them, it’s imperative that at least one becomes an antagonist, an agitator who keeps the defense from having to overuse the blitz.
Returning starters: Offense 6; Defense 8; Kicker/punter: 1.
Key returners: LB Khaseem Greene, NT Scott Vallone, CB Logan Ryan, S Duron Harmon, WR Mark
Harrison, RB Jawan Jamison, OT Kaleb Johnson
Key losses: WR Mohamed Sanu, S David Rowe, K San San Te, LG Desmond Wynn, RG Art Forst, DT Justin Francis
Odds to win Big East: +550