Twitter timelines, college football groups on Facebook and social media everywhere have been constantly flurried with Rutgers news spanning recent of weeks.
While the hope of repeating a swell year in the Big 10 blooms, the Scarlet Knights look to continue their success under head coach Kyle Flood.
We welcomed Dan Duggan into Today’s U as we pick apart the beat writers’ mind on how 2015 should fare.
AK: I’ve had a keen eye on quarterback Gary Nova since he took over for the Scarlet Knights a few seasons ago. He only had three games in 2014 in which he recorded more interceptions than scores. What is Rutgers’ plan going forward under center?
DD: The quarterback competition is wide-open right now. When spring practice opens next week I expect Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig to be listed as co-starters, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how things remain into training camp. Laviano has a slight edge going into spring practice because of his experience last season as the No. 2 quarterback and getting some game action. But Rettig has more natural talent, and he can pick up the offense. I think he’ll ultimately win the competition.
AK: Wide receiver Leonte Carroo broke through huge last season, nearly eclipsing 20 yards per reception. Will we see a decline in performance in 2015? Will there be an additional playmaker on offense to maybe take the pressure off?
DD: Obviously, Carroo’s production depends on how the quarterback competition plays out. Assuming someone competent emerges there, I expect Carroo to put up big numbers again. He’ll definitely be at the top of opposing scouting reports, but I don’t think that was any different last season and he still found ways to make plays. Rutgers returns the majority of its skill players so there should be enough options to keep defenses honest. Again, everything really hinges on the quarterback play.
AK: Grazing over the upcoming schedule, is there one game that sticks out right away, whether it be a trap game or possibly a contest where Rutgers can catch a team like Ohio State or Michigan State off guard?
DD: The conference schedule is going to be rough again, but that’s life in the Big Ten East. Looking at this six-game stretch: vs. Michigan State, at Indiana, vs. Ohio State, at Wisconsin, at Michigan, vs. Nebraska, two wins would be a huge achievement. And, as I expect to be the case every season, the Penn State game sticks out. Rutgers travels to Happy Valley early (Sept. 19) for a game that could set the tone before that brutal stretch starts in early October.
AK: What would you say was the key factor in head coach Kyle Flood racking up some wins in his initial year in the Big 10?
DD: I think the main reason the team exceeded expectations last year was its ability to pull out close games. Rutgers went 4-1 in games decided by seven points or less last season. Obviously things looks much different if they don’t pull those games out. I think that’s in large part due to having a veteran team that found ways to win.
AK: In your opinion, where is one slot where the Knights will be efficient in for 2015, and what’s one position where they may see some trouble?
DD: I think the running game should be a strength next season. Josh Hicks and Robert Martin broke out at the end of the season and Paul James should be healthy by training camp, so there’s plenty of quality options in the backfield. The biggest mark is the offensive line, where Rutgers has to replace three starters. If the young linemen aren’t ready to step in it will make for a long season.