With Schiano gone, the Flood era begins at Rutgers

Before leaving to become coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Greg

Schiano took Rutgers from the basement of the Big East to a program

that played in bowls in six of his final seven seasons.

Thanks to that table setting, the Kyle Flood era will begin in

two weeks with some promise. In fact, this might just be the

Scarlet Knights’ best chance to win the conference crown and

qualify for the Bowl Championship Series for the first time.

While this team doesn’t have a Ray Rice to lead them, Rutgers

returns 16 starters from a team that exceeded expectations with a

9-4 record and a fourth-place conference finish, capped by a win in

the Pinstripe Bowl.

Picked to finish third in the preseason poll behind Louisville

and South Florida, Rutgers is looking for more.

”My freshman year in 2009, I thought we had a very talented

team that underachieved,” senior safety Duron Harmon said. ”This

year, the talent across the board that we have is amazing. You

don’t see this type of talent every day. I think we can compete

with anyone in the country. We know what’s out there for us if we

play to our potential.”

Rutgers showed last year it could play with Louisville and South

Florida. The Knights lost, 16-14, to the Cardinals on the road, and

defeated South Florida, 20-17, at home.

And what’s more intriguing for the Scarlet Knights, is they

don’t have to face nemesis West Virginia anymore. A traditional

thorn in Rutgers’ side, the Mountaineers left for the Big 12, and

were replaced by Temple.

Winning the league next year will be tougher with new teams

coming in, although Syracuse and Pittsburgh will exit for the


Clearly, now’s the time.

”Football coaches, we can only live in reality,” Flood said.

”We can’t live in speculation. We know that the Big East champion,

in 2012, goes to the Orange Bowl. Unless they’re in the BCS

national championship game, which would be great. So for us, that’s

what we’re focused on. Because a year from now, there certainly

could be more changes.

”So we’re not thinking about that. Right now, we are focused on

2012 and everything else gets pushed aside until you’re done with

your bowl game.”

The Scarlet Knights have some obvious questions heading into a

season that opens at Tulane Sept. 1. It starts at quarterback.

Sophomore Gary Nova and junior Chas Dodd split the starting job

last season and they are competing again.

Flood wants to name his starter next week to give the winner a

chance to take control of an offense that is loaded at running back

and wide receiver. The offensive line lost three starters, but the

new group should be as good as last year, if not better.

Dave Brock has been handed the job of running the offense, the

team’s third coordinator in as many seasons. He believes in running

a balanced offense and is keeping the pro-style scheme that was a

fixture in Schiano’s tenure. He also did not change the

terminology. It was easier for him to learn the old one rather than

have 50 or so players learn a new one.

And Brock has no doubts that his starting quarterback will do a

good job.

”Both kids have won,” he said. ”Maybe the most valuable

commodity these kids have is experience now. Everybody wants to

win. Everybody wants to do well every week. But very few people

want to acknowledge how hard it is to play against highly

competitive opponents as a true freshman. It is. What no one talks

about, and it’s hard for me to understand why, is they won nine

games with basically a two-quarterback system where both those

quarterbacks were basically first-year players.

”Find somebody else in the country that did that.”

The running game has Jawan Jamison, Savon Huggins and Jeremy

Deering, while the receiving corps of Brandon Coleman, Mark

Harrison, Quron Pratt and Tim Wright is deep.

The offensive line will benefit having former Maryland starter

R.J. Dill move into the job at right tackle as a graduate student.

Kaleb Johnson will be the other tackle, while Betim Bujari is the

center and Antwan Lowery is the left guard. Andre Civil and Taj

Alexander are battling for the other guard spot. Tight end is

coming down to a battle between D.J. Jefferson and Paul


The question mark on defense is the line, although it has

potential. The back seven are very good, with the secondary

considered one of the best in the league and possibly the


”I’m just looking forward to us playing the best football we’ve

ever played around here and doing some things around here that we

haven’t ever done before on both sides of the ball,” said senior

linebacker Khaseem Greene, the conference’s defensive player of the

year in 2011.

”The offense, they’ve got guys over there who can do a lot of

real good things when they’ve got the ball in their hands. On

defense, we’ve got some very explosive guys.”

Scott Vallone will move over to play a three-gap tackle while

Isaac Holmes moves into the nose tackle spot. Senior Ka’Lial Glaud

will probably play one of the end spots with Jamil Merrell or

Marcus Thompson at the other. Also, expect true freshman Darius

Hamilton, the son of former Giants defensive tackle Keith Hamilton,

to see a lot of action.

The linebackers all return with Greene on the weakside, Steve

Beauharnais, the middle linebacker who is underrated, and Jamal

Merrell on the strongside.

Logan Ryan will start at one corner while Brandon Jones and

Marcus Cooper vie for the other. Harmon will play one safety spot,

while Lorenzo Waters appears to have the other job.

”The sky is the limit for this defense, truly,” Ryan said.

”There is no reason we can’t be the best defense in the country.

We have no excuses and we expect to be. That’s where we want to be.

We will see when the games start coming around, but I know we’re

going to practice every single day like it’s the Big East


Senior Justin Doerner returns as the punter while true freshman

Kyle Federico is being asked to replace San San Te as the