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News, insights and analysis on the Rutgers football program

Friday, August 31, 2007

Knights win, 38-3

The win was expected. The margin of victory, for the most part, was expected too, although the Knights didn't quite deliver on the 50-10 win I predicted in yesterday's paper.

The real story here was Tiquan Underwood, who set a school record with 248 receiving yards, and caught two touchdown passes, which went for 65 and 66 yards, respectively. Remarkable, the junior from Lawrenceville was only 42 yards shy of equaling his total from all of last SEASON, when he had 290 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

Talk about bursting onto the scene.

But there was a lot to be happy about and not a lot to be down about overall.

Ray Rice was great, especially early, and finished with 184 yards and three touchdowns. Mike Teel was great too, completing 16 out of 23 passes for a career-high 328 yards.

And the defense, which looked a little suspect in the first quarter when it allowed Buffalo to move the chains before causing them to punt each time, virtually eliminated receiver Namaan Roosevelt and James Starks from the game.

Starks, an All-MAC selection last year, had just 40 yards on 18 carries, and Roosevelt caught just one pass for a loss of two yards.

Tomorrow's Trentonian is loaded with Rutgers stuff, including a game story and Rutgers Replay box from me, and two side bars from Kevin O'Connor.

You can check all that out tomorrow, but I'll leave you with a few quotes I couldn't fit in the paper:

Ray Rice on the atmosphere: "Seeing the sold-out crowd today (which was the third-largest in Rutgers history) was a truly special moment. I remember during my freshman year, the crowd wasn't as large. They were always supportive, but seeing a full house really got us excited. We love our fans, and I'm looking forward to cherishing every moment this season."

Mike Teel on the win: "Today was a good start to our season. We have been working for so long and we looked forward to stepping out on the field today. Our team did some very good things today, but we will continue to work and improve, to keep us strong for the duration of the season. My job is to help this team win games, and I plan on doing the very best I can get us to win."

Greg Schiano on Underwood's touchdowns: "They were great plays. I think he's an exceptional athlete. Not only those plays, but he made some really nice catches too. . . "The way Buffalo played defense it freed up Tiquan. We had some plays called that we thought were going to Kenny but the way they played it, they went to Tiquan. You take what they give you and you don't force it and I thought that was a good thing Mike did."

Buffalo coach Turner Gill on the Rutgers offense: "Coach Schiano and his staff did a great job as far as getting the offense going. They threw the ball deep down the field and I didn't expect them to do that but when you get the running game going, the passing game is going to be established well too. They had a great balance in their offense."


Thursday, August 30, 2007

35-3 after three

At the end of the third quarter, the Scarlet Knights lead 35-3. The third quarter was by far the least interesting quarter so far, but did include a 41-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice, his third TD of the game.

The Bulls got on the board with a 35-yard field goal by A.J. Principe that gave the freshman walk-on the first points of his career.

The Knights are right on the edge now when it comes to covering a 32-point spread, so there's actually a chance Trentonian Trenton Devils beat writer Rob Chakler could be $5 richer tomorrow. Imagine that.

We'll see how the fourth quarter plays out. But one thing's for sure: it looks like the Knights' lead is pretty safe.

More after the game.

Half time

Rutgers leads 28-0 at the half and, without any question, Lawrenceville's Tiquan Underwood is the star of the night so far.

He's already set a career high in every receiving category, and his 228 receiving yards are the third most in Big East history. He's only the third player in Rutgers history with a 200-yard receiving game, and his nine receptions are four more than his previous career high.

Mike Teel has been almost perfect, completing 12-of-16 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went to Underwood for 65 and 66 yards, respectively.

Ray Rice wasn't bad in the first half either. He already has his 16th career 100-yard game, with 114 net yards and two touchdowns.

If you're betting -- which of course, you shouldn't be -- the Knights are looking good giving up only 32 points, and the over of 50 is looking good too.

Jeremy Ito is about to kick off for the start of the second half, so I'll check back in after the third quarter.

One heck of a quarter

Breaking news from Piscataway: Rutgers is going to beat Buffalo.

OK, so maybe we already knew that. And maybe we already knew that it was going to be pretty convincing.

But the first quarter, which just ended, was one heck of an offensive show by Rutgers.

Among other accomplishments, here are three that stand out:

1. Ray Rice already has two touchdowns, including a breakaway run of 36 yards to put the Knights on the board.

2. Tiquan Underwood has five receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown; it's his first career 100-yard game already and a tied career high with five receptions.

3. Mike Teel is 7-for-9 passing with a touchdown.

It's the Knights' first 21-point quarter since Sept. 23 last year, when they scored 21 in the second quarter and in the third quarter against Howard.

More at half time.


Two changes for the Knights starting line up.

George Johnson is starting at defensive end instead of Garry Watts, and Vantrise Studivant is starting at defensive tackle in place of Pete Tverdov. The rest of the Knights' lineup is as expected.

The Knights won the coin toss and will receive. Kickoff is minutes away.

Finally, we're ready to play some football.

Greetings from Rutgers Stadium

It's two hours before kickoff and there are more people in the press box right now than there were in all of the regular season Fairfield basketball games I covered over the previous four years combined.

Rutgers is expecting somewhere around 200 media members in addition to the 42,000 fans who are currently outside tailgating, but who will be packed into the Stadium once we kick off at 7.

For the record, the first meal of the season in the press box is Buffalo chicken sandwiches, with assorted pasta dishes. I'm waiting for word from the Rutgers sports information staff on whether or not they intentionally served Buffalo chicken when the Scarlet Knights are playing Buffalo.

It's either brilliant planning of a strange coincidence.

The Scarlet Knights are favored by 32 points, but I predicted a 50-10 win in today's paper. We'll see how that prediction holds up.

I'll check in with some observations during the game, which is now less than two hours away.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Thursday games screw everything up

Not too much news to report from practice today, which is partially because reporters only saw the last 15 minutes or so, and partially because, well, there wasn't much news.

So we'll start with a light note before we get to the note that actually means something. It's doing things a bit backwards, but the first part is pretty funny.

Greg Schiano was beaming with pride when he told reporters that he had made a big-time adjustment to his routine and gotten a haircut today instead of tomorrow.

“It’s usually the day before the game but you run into some strange things when you play on Thursday night and my barber’s closed on Wednesday,” he said. “It was a very strategic move today.”

Now to the news that actually matters: Less than two weeks after wide receiver Tim Brown suffered a broken hand in the Knights' second intrasquad scrimmage, Schiano said that there's a chance Brown might play THIS week against Buffalo.

Originally, Brown was expected to be out for at least the first four weeks of the season, so Schiano noted that the fact that Brown might be available for the season-opener Thursday was "remarkable."

He also said that Ryan D'Imperio definitely won't play (which was expected) and that defensive tackle Pete Tverdov, who injured his leg last week, is questionable. Blair Bines, as expected, will also be out with a broken jaw.

And as far as news is concerned, that's about it for today. Tomorrow the Knights will have a walk-through on their last day of the pre-season, and I'll be in the office putting together a Game Day page for Thursday's paper.

I'll check in tomorrow with some early thoughts on the opener, in which the Knights are favored by 32 points.

Monday, August 27, 2007

No lollygagging!

I'm back home after a long day at Rutgers and done with my stories for tomorrow's Trentonian. I don't think there has been another day in camp during which I heard so many funny and unusual stories.

There was Greg Schiano mentioning that one of his favorite things about Game Day preparation is getting a haircut the day before the game; there were a few funny moments during the first weekly Big East conference call; and there was Schiano's story about watching Buffalo coach Turner Gill play in the 1984 Orange Bowl while writing a college application essay.

He said he couldn't even remember which college he was applying to (he eventually went to Bucknell to play football), let alone if he got into the school in question.

The funniest thing I heard all day, however, was what Eric Foster said when I asked him if he, as a captain, was especially vocal while making sure his teammates didn't take Buffalo for granted.

"“You say it and you show it,” Foster said. “You can’t say in the meeting room that everyone has to be up for the game prior to the game and then go out and lollygag. You have to carry it out on the field. No lollygagging.”

It was the first time I've ever heard a football player borrow the term that was most famously used in "Bull Durham," which, for my two cents, is the greatest movie in history. Not just the greatest baseball movie or the greatest sports movie. Flat out, the greatest movie.

Mike Teel said that he hadn't seen Bull Durham, but that he liked the expression anyway.

"Everything we do around here is up-tempo, whether it's running off the field after a drill, or going through a drill, it's a high-speed, fast-paced football team. So we don't want any lollygagging around here."

And Schiano, Foster, and Teel all said or indicated that the Knights are a lot closer to being game-ready than they were two or three weeks ago, when everyone seemed to agree they were behind schedule.

Said Foster: "I think we're ready. Two weeks ago, I couldn't say that. I think we're at a point where we're getting ready. We're still not where we should be. We still have two days left, and we're going to be ready for that ballgame."

Foster also chimed in on facing Buffalo's option offense, which is likely to be difficult in spite of the Knights' obvious edge in talent.

"I'll tell you what, the first game is always difficult . The option, that's even tougher," he said. "You never know what they're going to throw at you the first game. We got a sense of what they're coming into the game and trying to do, but I'm telling you, there are going to be some wrinkles in there."

That's all for tonight. There's plenty more in tomorrow's paper. I'll check in again tomorrow and talk about what Schiano has to say after practice.

Greetings from Rutgers Stadium

I'm sitting in the press box, looking right down at the 50-yard line as workers are putting together the temporary seeting in the open end of the stadium.

It's been a busy day here so far, and we still haven't gotten a chance to talk to any players, which we'll do after practice.

So far though, the Big East coahces were all on a conference call this morning, Greg Schiano had a press conference, and we had a conference call with Buffalo coach Turner Gill.

I'll have much more later, but here are a few funny things I've heard so far from coaches:

1. One of the things Schiano said he's looking forward to this week is getting a haircut on Wednesday, which he always does the day before Game Day. He said the Scarlet Knights aren't ready, but he knows Buffalo isn't either. He said no team is ever as ready as they need to be for the season-opener.

2. Syracuse coach Greg Robinson said he was happy with how the pre-season went because "we were undefeated in the pre-sesaon." The guess here: the Organe won't be undefeated for long. They open the season with Washington, and although the Huskies are hardly a powerhouse in the Pac-10, they're a lot better than any of the assorted cupcakes the other Big East teams are playing this week.

3. UConn coach Randy Edsall said the Huskies, who are the only Big East team opening the season on the road, will be playing in a tough environment Saturday at Duke. That caused several reporters to wonder if Edsall thought the game was at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

4. When Schiano came on the conference call, Paul Franklin from the Home News Tribue asked him what improvements he's seen from his defensive coordinator. Schiano didn't really answer the question, but that would have been tough for him to do since he IS the defensive coordinator.

I'll check back in after practice.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

They kind of, sort of, have a plan

That's the news from The Bubble, where the Scarlet Knights practiced today with a little more than a week to go before the season-opener against Buffalo.

The plan, relating to the situation at middle linebacker, seems to be to stick with Damaso Munoz as the starter in between Brandon Renkart (strong side) and Kevin Malast (weak side).

Schiano wouldn't confirm that Munoz has the job locked up. When I asked him if that was the case, he replied simply: "we'll see." But Munoz got all the reps with the first time, while Jimmy Dumont, with that big old club on his broken right hand, took the reps as the second-team 'mike.'

Chris Quaye, who for a while appeared to be the front-running middle linebacker , practiced as the second-team strong side guy yesterday.

The plan Schiano had was thrown out the window when Blair Bines broke his jaw in practice Monday morning. That could mean Schiano was planning on giving the starting job to Bines, or just that the backup situation changed with Bines out.

Schiano beams when he talks about the competetivess of Ryan D'Imperio so much that you get the impression he'd rather have D'Imperio at half-speed than anyone else at full-speed. That's obviously not what the Knights are going to do, but you can bet on D'Imperio being a starter when he fully recovers from the broken leg he suffered during spring practice.

Schiano also said that Gary Watts has moved ahead of George Johnson at defensive end, and that he won't officially name a starter at right guard until Saturday. With that said, it looks like Kevin Haslam has prety much locked up the job, and there'll be a story on Haslam and Anthony Davis in tomorrow's paper.

Tomorrow's practice --- which I hope will be outside in the stadium -- is at 10:30 a.m., so I'll post an update some time tomorrow afternoon.

That's all for today. Enjoy Yankees-Angels if you're staying up.

What's the plan?

That's the question reporters will be asking Greg Schiano today, when the Knights will have to make some kind of a move towards solidifying their depth chart at middle linebacker.

Schiano said yesterday that he'll need to have a plan in place no later than Friday night, when the Knights will start planning for the opener agaisnt Buffalo.

Today we'll see if it looks like the Knights are going to stick with Damaso Munoz in the middle, or move Brandon Renkart or Chris Quaye there.

Jim Dumont and Ryan D'Imperio will get on the field at some point this season, and both have been practicing. But Dumont has a giant club on his broken right hand and can't use his fingers, and D'Imperio won't be ready for the opener because he's still recovering from the broken leg he suffered during spring practice.

Yesterday the Knights practiced outside despite a steady rain, and they might do that again today. If that's the case I'll be more prepared. Yesterday, I was one of two morons wearing shorts and a t-shirt despite weather you'd expect to have shortly before Thanksgiving.

Today, I'm breaking out my authentic Red Sox windbreaker in honor of the Sawx' five-game lead over the Yankees in the A.L. East.

I'll check back in after practice and let you know what kind of answers Schiano has to the questions that are still facing his team.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Some answers, some more questions

Looks like, with a little more than a week to go before Rutgers opens the season against Buffalo, most of the questions we had coming into camp have been answered.

We're pretty sure we know who's going to be lining up at center (Ryan Blaszczyk), right guard (Kevin Haslam) and fullback (Jack Corcoran). And today, we're just about certain we know who's going to be the starting tight end -- fifth-year senior Chris Rudanovic, who sat out last year after transferring from Indiana. Schiano announced that Rudanovic would be the starter and that all that needed to be worked out was who his main backups would be and who would be used in situations with multiple tight ends.

But the situation at middle linebacker got a little trickier today when Blair Bines broke his jaw in the morning practice during a kick return drill.

When reporters realized Bines wasn't on the field, we didn't think that meant any radical changes on the depth chart, since Damaso Munoz has been practicing as the first-team middle linebacker for a week. But Greg Schiano wouldn't commit to Munoz as the starter, and said there are several different possibilities, including moving Brandon Renkart back to the middle from the strong side, and giving Chris Quaye another look in the middle.

There's a story in tomorrow's Trentonian detailing the whole situation, so be sure to check that out. Tomorrow, there's certain to be more developments, and I'll post whatever comments Schiano has about the situation after practice.

A few other notes and quotes I couldn't fit in tomorrow's paper:

Jeremy Zuttah, one of the four Knights' captains who had a meeting with Schiano to discuss the need for imrpovement after Saturday's scrimmage, had this to say about improving: "I think there's a lot of room for improvement. We're trying to be the best we can be, and as soon as we start paying attention to the smaller details; when every single person on the team starts doing that, we'll get to that level." Mike Teel also emphasized attention to detail and said the Knights have to get better at the mental aspects of the game. There's more on that in tomorrow's paper as well.

Zuttah on the battle for playing time at right guard between Kevin Haslam and Anthony Davis: "Anthony, he's starting to pick it up right now. He's progressing and getting better every day. Haslam really has a grasp on the whole thing. Time will tell, but they're both fantastic players...."If (Davis) ends up passing (Haslam) he ends up passing him but Haslam's doing a really good job, so it doesn't really matter who's out there."


While Jack Corcoran seems to enjoy talking about his days as a state-championship wrestler at St. Joseph's High School in Atlantic City and Tiquan Underwood likes to chat about winning the state title in the triple jump at Notre Dame High School, Brandon Renkart wasn't too talkative about being a high school baseball star in Piscataway.

"There's not much to tell," he said, noting that he didn't remember exactly what his batting average was during his senior year, but that it was somewhere above .400.

I don't remember my high school batting average either, but that's because it was "somewhere below .200." I might have chosen to remember it if it were more like Renkart's.

Less than two weeks away

...And a lot of work to do. That's been the attitude of coach Greg Schiano AND most of his players, after what everyone in Piscataway has described as a dissapointing week of practice and a lackluster showing at Saturday's scrimmage.

It'll be very interesting to see how the Scarlet Knights' mindsets are going to chance between now and Aug. 30, when Buffalo comes to town for the season-opener, and without a doubt, this week of practice will show us a lot about whether or not the Knights can make up some ground and get to where they all want to be.

The biggest question marks the Knights still have are the following:

1. Who's the starting middle linebacker?
2. Who's the third wide receiver now that Tim Brown is out 4-6 weeks with a broken hand?
3. Who's the tight end, if they are in fact, going to use one?

Schiano also hasn't named his starters at right guard or fullback, but will at some point this week.

Now that all the work has been done for The Trentonian's Rutgers preview section, which will be in Friday's paper along with a Big East preview in the regular edition, I'll be at practice the next couple of days and provide an update later on today about how things went at practice.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

First day in full pads

Everywhere you turned at practice today, you heard the sounds of pads hitting pads and helmets hitting helmets.

That's because the Scarlet Knights practiced in full pads today for the first time, after two days in just helmets and two days with helmets and shoulder pads.

Greg Schiano said he was happy with what he saw as a whole, and the players I talked to after practice all said it was good to be able to go full speed for at least some of the afternoon.

"I've been waiting on this day since the bowl game," Tim Brown said. "We just went out today and focused. It doesn’t matter what kind of pads you have on. Its just a matter of being focused and doing your job."

Ray Rice, who sat out most of practice with a tweaked hamstring and will do the same again tomorrow, said he was happy with the effort he saw from his teammates.

"We've had our ups and downs but everybody's working hard," he said. "I can't criticize anyone's effort."

A few other notes and quotes:

Schiano said backup defensive end Jonathan Pierre-Etienne, a sophomore from Montreal, isn't with the Knights in camp because of a hip injury that could hold him out for the season or the rest of his career.

He said Pierre-Etienne, who played in two games last year and made one tackle, is still enrolled at Rutgers and a member of the team, and will join the Knights when school starts in September.


Schiano said offensive lineman Kevin Haslam, who toook some reps in practice at left tackle, will be used as a "utility guy." Haslam is one of a handful of players in a battle for the starting right guard spot. He also said tackle Jeremy Zuttah is the Knights' Blaszczyk option at center behind Ryan Blaszczyk until Dan Mazan is healthy enough or a younger player is good enough. Of Blaszczyk whom he has not officially named as the starter, Schiano said: "He's a consistent guy. Do I think he has to get a ton better? Yes. I trust him because I know he can do everything in his power to do that."


Kenny Britt on coming up short last year in triple overtime against West Virginia, which cost the Knights a trip to the Orange Bowl and has been a rallying cry every day in camp: "We could have gone farther than we did last year. We didn’t reach our goal last year so we’re gonna try to reach it this year. That’s definitely driving the whole team because we could have done better than we did last year in West Virginia."


I've officially named defensive line coach Cary Godette as my favorite assistant. He's animated but not mean-spirited when he yells at players (which he does a lot) -- my kind of coach, and a guy who will hopefully be a good tutor for one of our local guys, Wayne Thomas, a defensive lineman who played last year at Nottingham High in Hamilton.

And that's all I've got for today. Tomorrow's Trentonian has a story on Kenny Britt and Tim Brown and a notebook with some more quotes from the Knights' first day in full pads.

Check back for more tomorrow.

- Ben

Monday, August 6, 2007

Bring on the hits

Today was the second day during which the Scarlet Knights practiced in shoulder pads, which meant an increase in contact from the first two days of practice.

Courtney Greene put a vicious hit on Kenny Britt that would have been a lot more vicious if he was allowed to follow through. Yesterday the hits were just that -- hits, not full tackles -- but tomorrow, along with the full pads will come full hits.

Every player I talked to today, in addition to Greg Schiano, said they're looking forward to the contact, though the one defensive guy I talked to -- Ron Girault -- seemed understandably more excited than Kordell Young or Jourdan Brooks.

An ear-to-ear grin broke out on Girault's face at the mere mention of being able to tackle.

Below are a few quotes I couldn't fit in the paper. I also wrote a story on Jeremy Ito and a notebook focusing on the contact that we'll see tomorrow, and both will be in the paper.

Schiano on spotting the ball at the 30-yardline instead of the 40 for kickoffs, a rule change being instituted this year: "Everybody wanted to talk so much about the clock issues last year. It pales in comparison to what moving the kickoff back to the 30 does in college. In the NFL they have the finest kickers in the world. It's going to change college football."

Schiano on the team's effort: "We're working awfully hard. It's a very focused football team that's trying to do everything they can to be the best they can, but we've got a long way to go."

Schiano on George Johnson's back: We're trying to make sure that we stay ahead of his back. He goes a few in a row and then we try to give him a little break. Hopefully tomorrow he'll be able to go again."

Schiano on linebacker Chris Quaye stepping up as a leader: "He's a great young man, and he really is passionate about what he's doing. He works very hard at what he's doing. It's just going to be a matter of can he do it? Not can he do it, but relative to the other guys at the position, who can do it best?"

Ron Girault on the weather, which was overcast and significantly cooler than the previous three days: "It feels better, but the hotter days are a little better. They get you in better shape. They get you more prepared. It's more of a test to not think about the weather and just get the job done. But the cooler weather was a nice change-up."

Girault on how things have gone for four practices: "The young guys, the freshman are starting to pick up things. They seem really energetic. They're buying into the system. So it seems like we're on the right track. We still have improvements to make, but we're on the right track."

Jourdan Brooks on the Knights' attitude: "Effort, everything around here is about effort and doing your job. It's a real big thing around here, and I like that."

That's all for today. I'm going home to watch Curt Schilling take on the Angels. I'll check in tomorrow night and let you know all about the first day in full pads.

- Ben

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Media Day

Today was Media Day at Rutgers Stadium, and with a Greg Schiano press conference and an hour of player availability, I've got a ton of quotes that I couldn't fit in the paper.

Here are a few highlights:

Greg Schiano on Ryan D'Imperio's injured leg: "D'Imperio's leg is coming along well. He's ahead of schedule, but even ahead of schedule you've got to take it slow. He's doing a little bit mroe than they thought he'd be doing. I don't think it's realistic to say the opener, but somewhere in the season he might be able to play. We'll just play it by ear."

Schiano on Ray Rice: "One thing that stuck out is how Ray's been working. He did it in the winter program and he did it in spring practice. He is taking the top off of every run. He sprints all the way over the top of the secondary."

Schiano on RU's fan support: "It is great. Our fan support is tremendous, every single ticket is sold; we have a waiting list of close to 6,000 people. I think that's good stuff. Hopefully we can do the things in our stdium to meet the needs of our fans...I think our fans in the last two years have made a name for themselves. Both of our bowl games were three quarters of the way across the country, and people hopped on a plane and went to see us play...I think it's good for the program. When decisions are made about who to include in bowl games, being able to travel well makes you a better option."

Schiano on Eric Foster's leadership: Eric's got that kind of personality, that's for sure. He has charisma. He works incredibly hard, plays the game with passion. So I think that's why he can pull it off; that's why people follow him. Eric has been that emotional leader, he's been that guy. He has really worked hard to be the guy who drives the team, who drives himself."

Brandon Renkart on the linebacking corps: "It's not about attention at all. Whoever gets it gets it, but it's all about doing our 1/11th , and making it work. We constantly preach doing our 1/11th, doing our 1/11th, doing our 1/11th. That's what makes our team work.... It's definitely good to have open positions, not being so relaxed, being a little tense, studying a little harder. It pushes yourself to have to compete for a starting spot."

Kordell Young on the backfield: "Me and Ray help each other out. If I make a mistake he helps me, and I help him. It goes both ways...I told Ray I'm going to push you to be your best because he hasn't reached his potential yet...I think we can do a lot of things. We bring a lot of deception with the players we have now. I think we have a lot of young players who no one knows about."

There's plenty more in tomorrow's Trentonian, and I'll check back in tomorrow to fill you in on what took place at practice, which starts at 3:20 p.m. in Piscataway.

Enjoy the rest of Massachussets native Tom Glavine's 300th victory.

- Ben

Friday, August 3, 2007

Opening day

Today wasn't Opening Day, with the capital O and the capital D. That term is saved for the day when the first game is played, although in this year's case, it'll be Opening Night.

But today was the first time the 2007 Scarlet Knights took the field together, and every day from here on out they'll have to be a day closer to being game-ready for Buffalo on Aug. 30.

As you might expect, nothing really eye-opening took place today. No staring spots were won or lost, no linebackers unleashed vicious hits (in fact, since players wore helmets but no pads there were no hits), and no quarterbacks fired 45-yard passes down field.

But it was a chance for Greg Schiano to get his first look at his new team and to put his bull horn to good use, making sure that players had their heads up and their hands off their hips during end-of-practice sprints. And it was the day when some of the storylines of the season -- though in their infancy -- began to unfold.

A few things being talked about on Day One of Camp Rutgers:

^ Sophomore Jack Corcoran is the favorite to replace Brian Leanord as the starting fullback, but he'll be pushed hard in practice by true freshman Jourdan Brooks, who at a bruising 255 pounds would provide a big blocking presence out of the backfield.

^ Speaking of backs, Ray Rice isn't the only running back who hits holes in a hurry and looked impressive today in workouts. Schiano said yesterday that all Rice needs for motivation is to look behind him and see Kordell Young, who will likely play well enough to demand carries.

^ There are spots up for grabs on the offensive line, at middle linebacker, at tight end, and at punter. True freshmen Anthony Davis (O line) Manny Abreu (linebacker) and San San Te (punter) are all possibilities to crack the starting lineup.

Those stories and many more will continue to unfold tomorrow, when Day Two gets underway at 3:20 p.m. in Piscataway.

Look back for plenty more tomorrow.

- Ben

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Reporting Day

Just got back from a day that included a few hours at the Hale Center, where Rutgers players reporting for pre-season camp, which begins tomorrow with a 3 p.m. practice.

Look for a story and a notebook in tomorrow's Trentonian.

A few notes and quotes I couldn't fit in the paper.

1. Members of the media who were waiting outside the Hale Center were sweating bullets -- and we weren't even wearing pads. The weather is supposed to be just as hot tomorrow when practice starts, and Greg Schiano said that will help make things a little more intense. "It's 100 out there in the parking lot. It's 130 down there in the stadium," he said. "It looks like mother nature is going to cooperate with us and help privide a little extra chaos a little extra test, which is good."

2. Tiquan Underwood said one of the highlights of his summer -- a good portion of which was spent working out with Mike Teel -- was watching a Yankees-Mets game from George Steinbrenner's box at Yankee Stadium, at which the Rutgers football and women's basketball teams were honored and Schiano threw out the first pitch. He said he thinks the Yanks will catch the Indians for the Wild Card, but despite having played some quarterback at Notre Dame High School and posessing a strong arm, he hadn't called Joe Torre and asked if he could help out in the bullpen.

3. One remarkable stat from last year is that Mike Teel was sacked only eight times, tied for the lowest total in the nation. He said that although he expects good things from the offensive line again this year, he tried to build up his strength over the offseason in case he's hurried and/or knocked down more often this year. "I worked over the offseason to try to get a lot
stronger and get ready and able to take those hits if they come," he said. "I probably got hit under 50 times, and for 12, 13 games that's pretty unique. You have to work hard and get your body in the best possible shape."

4. Schiano said one of the things he's looking forward to the most about camp is the competition for starting sports, especially on the offensive line and in the linebacking corps. "Competeition is going be one of the big words of his camp," he said. "It's always been but theres going be really intense competition in practice. You start at the center position on offense and go to the middle linebacker on defense. It starts up the gut and spreads from there."

5. Ray Rice, who wore long black basketball shorts and a whie t-shirt, was asked if he was bigger than he was last fall. "I think I'm stronger. I dont know," he said. "I look bigger. It might be the t shirt."

6. Rice on becoming more of a complete back by working on catching passes out of the backfield: "It's definitely a goal to become a complete back, to put myself in a situatuon to help my team win if i can do different things."

Should be interesting to see how everyone looks tomorrow. I'll have a story and notebook for Saturday's paper, but also more notes and quotes here at the blog late tomorrow night.

Any and all feedback and analysis is more than welcome.

- Ben