|No Rice: Rutgers moves on without all-time rusher|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 19 August 2008 11:42|
The Scarlet Knights' career rushing leader left for the NFL after his junior year and coach Greg Schiano will try to find a way to win without the player who helped resurrect Rutgers' program.
``The neat thing about college football is every year you lose some guys to graduation and you have some new guys come in,'' Schiano said. ``Now when you lose a guy like Ray Rice, who did so much for your program, it's hard. It's not coincidental that things really took off during his time here.''
During Rice's tenure the nation's oldest program was 25-12, went to three postseason games after going to just one in its first 135 years, made the Top 25 and challenged for a Big East Conference title for the first time.
Schiano has recruited enough talent so that Rutgers will not have to rebuild now that he's gone. The question is whether the team can come together.
``We're not having anyone fill in for Ray,'' said quarterback Mike Teel, who has started every game the past two years. ``We're having our running backs be a part of this offense. We've got four guys that can play football and, yes, you lose Ray and stuff like that, but Ray has moved on. I don't mean that in a disrespectful way, but we have the guys we're confident in, the guys who will help us be the best we can be.''
Rice, drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, rushed for 2,012 yards last season and 24 touchdowns, both school records.
With less than two weeks before the season opener against Fresno State on Labor Day, the competition to replace Rice as the starter is between Kordell Young and Mason Robinson.
Young seemed to be the heir apparent until he suffered a major knee injury in the third game last season. Robinson rushed for 202 yards on 36 carries as a true freshman.
``We all want to make names for ourselves,'' Young said. ``We can't live up to what Ray Rice did. We just want to make names for ourselves. If we can go past what Ray did, then so be it, but right now we want to make names for ourselves. We all love the competition; bring the competition on.''
With Rice gone, the focus of the offense probably will shift to Teel. He threw for 3,147 yards and a team-record 20 touchdowns last season as the Scarlet Knights set a record with 426 points.
Teel also will have his two top receivers back in Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood. Both had more than 1,100 yards receiving. Tight end Kevin Brock also has improved after making 23 catches for 241 yards last season.
With the loss of tackles Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah, the offensive line that allowed only 10 sacks last season has been revamped. Center Ryan Blaszczyk is the only starter returning at the same spot. Highly regarded sophomore Anthony Davis has moved to left tackle.
Kevin Haslam, who started early last season at right guard until being replaced by Davis, is the left guard. Caleb Ruch is right guard and senior Mike Gilmartin is the right tackle. True freshman tackle Art Forst has been impressive in camp, so he also should get playing time.
``I think we're going to be good this year,'' Blaszczyk said. ``We're a hard working bunch, we're watching film every day and we're learning the offense.''
The defense lost three key players in tackle Erik Foster, linebacker Brandon Renkart and safety Ron Girault.
Sophomore Art Silvestro will move into the spot on the line, while senior Kevin Malast will replace Renkart and either sophomore Joe Lefeged or junior Zaire Kitchen will be the new safety.
``That's what being a program is about, when you have guys who are going to step in when guys leave,'' safety Courtney Greene said. ``That's when you know you have a program and that's how Rutgers is building right now. We have guys that are gonna step in.''
Jeremy Ito, last year's kicker and punter, was the other major player lost to graduation. Freshman San San Te has shown the same ability that Ito did in his first season and is the new kicker. Sophomore transfer Teddy Dellaganna made strides in the offseason to win the punting job that many felt he would handle last year.
While Schiano is optimistic about the program, he has had to deal with questions surrounding his salary, buyout clauses in his contract and whether the school is spending too much on football and a stadium expansion.
``I've said all along, this place is very special to me but one of the reasons it is special is because we want to be the best,'' Schiano said. ``We're going to do it the right way, but we're doing everything we can to some day be the best football program in the country.''
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