Three keys for Rutgers in 2015
Few people realize that Rutgers is seeking its 10th bowl game appearance in 11 years. There aren’t many teams in all of college football than can boast of that kind of consistency. Here’s what Kyle Flood’s group needs to do to keep that streak rolling.
Shore up offensive line holes
A total of 114 starts disappeared from Scarlet Knights’ three departed offensive lineman. Returners Keith Lumpkin and Chris Muller are as experienced as it gets up front. The two have started each of the last two years for the Rutgers line. The rest, however, is a mystery. J.J. Denman, a former Wisconsin recruit, appeared in eight games and also figures to have a starting spot locked in. Redshirt freshman Marcus Applefield could be someone to step into a spot on the right side. But Lumpkin at left tackle is the only one with an established position entering 2015.
Establish trust in starting quarterback
Chris Laviano and LSU transfer Hayden Rettig are both battling to take over for the departed Gary Nova, who led the program to eight wins last year. Neither of his potential successors have a touchdown pass to speak of. A decision from Flood is expected to come in the next week or two. For Rutgers to exploit the matchup nightmare that is Leonte Carroo, who believes he is the best receiver in the Big Ten, it’ll take a first-year starter to lead the way. No matter who gets the job, they’ll have to be plenty comfortable by the time that Week 3 showdown in Happy Valley rolls around.
Limit Big Plays
Against inferior competition last year, the Rutgers defense bent but didn’t break. Against elite competition, it broke. It surrendered an average of 45 points to the likes of Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin. Part of that was because Rutgers ranked 90th in the country in defensive third-down percentage. If Darius Hamilton and field goal-block specialist Kemoko Turay can establish a dominant force up front, it would go a long ways toward preventing five-step drops and plays downfield.