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rutgers scouting report


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Rutgers spring game notebook: Past and present stars, crowd of 20,114 turn game into event

By Tom Luicci/The Star-Ledger

April 25, 2010, 8:30AM

Ed Murray/The Star-LedgerEric LeGrand loses his helmet tackling Jamal Merrell during Rutgers' annual spring football game.There was a time during Greg Schiano’s tenure as Rutgers coach when a regular-season home game – a Big East game at that – drew about half of what Saturday’s spring game did.

Schiano still remembers the mid-November loss to Temple in 2002.

“The rain was so hard it was coming down sideways.†he said.

The announced attendance that day was 10,225.

The actual total of people in the stadium was about 4,000 people less.

But that was then. Even the spring game has become an event at Rutgers now, and not just because this latest one – Schiano’s 10th – drew a record crowd of 20,114. It was as much about the stars of past and present, and maybe future, that turned it into something more than just another meaningless scrimmage.

Mike Teel was there.

Tom Savage, the next good one at the quarterback position, gave another hint of why he will probably eclipse all of Teel’s school passing records.

Savon Huggins was there as well. He’s the five-star running back recruit from St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City.

“It’s great stuff,†Schiano said of the day.

Some of the other highlights:

Despite working behind a patchwork offensive line, tailback Joe Martinek rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, highlighted by a 52-yard run with the offense pinned against its 4 yardline.

Martinek put a move on back-up free safety Duron Harmon that locked him in his tracks, extending the gain another 15 yards.

“I think he’s already hearing about it from some of his guys,†Martinek joked about his shoulder fake that froze Harmon.

Martinek said the move “is something I’ve been working on this spring.â€

Among the former players in attendance were Teel, Jamaal Westerman, Mike Fladell, Jeremy Zuttah, Brandon Renkart and Andrew DePaola.

Teel, a back-up quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, said he can tell immediately why new coach Pete Carroll has a reputation as “a players’ coach.â€

Savage, meanwhile, was hoping to catch up with Teel but wasn’t able to.

“I saw him over that. I wanted to say hi to him but I didn’t get a chance to say hi,†said Savage.

Safety Joe Lefeged, wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and defensive tackle Charlie Noonan were among the starters who did not play. Defensive tackle Justin Francis also sat out due to injury.

Wide receiver Tim Wright earned the Mark Mills Second Effort Award as the most improved offensive player during the spring while safety Khaseem Greene won the Douglas A. Smith Award as the most improved defensive player. Noonan was named the winner of the Frank Burns Award, given to the player “who displays extraordinary mental and physical toughness during spring practice.â€

Here’s what Schiano had to say about the three:

On Greene: “He’s played well for us before, but I think he really played like a starter this spring. There will certainly still be competition come next fall. But I think he carried himself like a first-team and he performed like a first-teamer. That’s great to see because certainly with the graduation of Zaire (Kitchen) we need a guy to step up.â€

On Wright: “Early on in the spring I think I kind of mentioned to you guys that he was doing some really good things. That continued. It kind of clicked for him a little bit. He and (wide receivers coach P.J.) Fleck have a great chemistry, which helps. It’s a cumulative effect of hearing it over and over and over again and getting more comfortable with it. It’s great because he’s really a big, impressive receiver. That’s what you want him to look like.â€

On Noonan: “Basically that award is one of toughness, inspiration – those kind of things. There’s none better on the football team than Charlie. Charlie is our tough guy. He had surgery on Wednesday to repair something. It’s not major. But he went through the whole spring (hurt) because he wanted to work with coach (Randy) Melvin, his new defensive line coach. Any new techniques, he wanted to make sure that he could master them or at least have a real good handle on them so he can perfect them this summer before the season starts. He gutted it out throughout the spring. He could do that, but we wanted to make sure his recovery would get him back in time for the summer program because he is so important to the leadership of this football team.â€

Quron Pratt, looking to step into the role as the new slot receiver, had eight catches for 55 yards in the game.

“Quron had a good spring,†Schiano said. “He’s another guy that could be in that ranking with Tim Wright. It doesn’t surprise me. He’s a kid that has a knack. Some guys can just make plays. Now, he’s slight. He’s got to build himself up. I think he’ll continue (progressing) because he cares, really cares. He’ll continue to get bigger and stronger. But you can’t put that kind of play-making ability in. It’s hard to coach that.â€

Sophomore Steve Beauharnais, making the switch from strongside linebacker to middle linebacker, had 13 tackles, an interception and a TFL in what is becoming a typically active performance.

To the surprise of many, Ryan D’Imperio, a two-year starter at middle linebacker for the Knights, was the only other Rutgers player drafted after first rounders Anthony Davis and Devin McCourty. D’Imperio was taken in the seventh round Saturday (237th overall) by the Minnesota Vikings – as a fullback.

“I played it in high school. I didn’t play it in college, but I played it in high school,†D’Imperio said of fullback. “It’s all about collision, blocking. It’s the same whether you’re on offense or defense, you just don’t have the ball in your hands. That’s all that matters, to just go out there.

“Whatever they tell me to do, I’m going to do it the best I can. As far as learning, it’s the same whether you’re on offense or defense. You have to take stuff from the meeting room and apply it on the field. I feel like I do that very well.â€

Schiano said he was surprised more Rutgers players – George Johnson, Damaso Munoz, Kevin Haslam and Jack Corcoran among them – weren’t drafted.

“A little disappointed more of our guys didn’t get drafted because I think they’re worthy, but I think they’ll prove their worth,†he said. “George Johnson will play in the National Football League. A guy like Damaso (can). I think our guys better than anyone know. You look at an Eric Foster. You look at a Gary Brackett. They’re not afraid.â€

Tom Luicci may be reached at tuicci@starledger.com

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Rutgers spring game notebook: Past and present stars, crowd of 20,114 turn game into event

By Tom Luicci/The Star-Ledger

April 25, 2010, 8:30AM

Ed Murray/The Star-LedgerEric LeGrand loses his helmet tackling Jamal Merrell during Rutgers' annual spring football game.There was a time during Greg Schiano’s tenure as Rutgers coach when a regular-season home game – a Big East game at that – drew about half of what Saturday’s spring game did.

Schiano still remembers the mid-November loss to Temple in 2002.

“The rain was so hard it was coming down sideways.†he said.

The announced attendance that day was 10,225.

The actual total of people in the stadium was about 4,000 people less.

But that was then. Even the spring game has become an event at Rutgers now, and not just because this latest one – Schiano’s 10th – drew a record crowd of 20,114. It was as much about the stars of past and present, and maybe future, that turned it into something more than just another meaningless scrimmage.

Mike Teel was there.

Tom Savage, the next good one at the quarterback position, gave another hint of why he will probably eclipse all of Teel’s school passing records.

Savon Huggins was there as well. He’s the five-star running back recruit from St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City.

“It’s great stuff,†Schiano said of the day.

Some of the other highlights:

Despite working behind a patchwork offensive line, tailback Joe Martinek rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, highlighted by a 52-yard run with the offense pinned against its 4 yardline.

Martinek put a move on back-up free safety Duron Harmon that locked him in his tracks, extending the gain another 15 yards.

“I think he’s already hearing about it from some of his guys,†Martinek joked about his shoulder fake that froze Harmon.

Martinek said the move “is something I’ve been working on this spring.â€

Among the former players in attendance were Teel, Jamaal Westerman, Mike Fladell, Jeremy Zuttah, Brandon Renkart and Andrew DePaola.

Teel, a back-up quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, said he can tell immediately why new coach Pete Carroll has a reputation as “a players’ coach.â€

Savage, meanwhile, was hoping to catch up with Teel but wasn’t able to.

“I saw him over that. I wanted to say hi to him but I didn’t get a chance to say hi,†said Savage.

Safety Joe Lefeged, wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and defensive tackle Charlie Noonan were among the starters who did not play. Defensive tackle Justin Francis also sat out due to injury.

Wide receiver Tim Wright earned the Mark Mills Second Effort Award as the most improved offensive player during the spring while safety Khaseem Greene won the Douglas A. Smith Award as the most improved defensive player. Noonan was named the winner of the Frank Burns Award, given to the player “who displays extraordinary mental and physical toughness during spring practice.â€

Here’s what Schiano had to say about the three:

On Greene: “He’s played well for us before, but I think he really played like a starter this spring. There will certainly still be competition come next fall. But I think he carried himself like a first-team and he performed like a first-teamer. That’s great to see because certainly with the graduation of Zaire (Kitchen) we need a guy to step up.â€

On Wright: “Early on in the spring I think I kind of mentioned to you guys that he was doing some really good things. That continued. It kind of clicked for him a little bit. He and (wide receivers coach P.J.) Fleck have a great chemistry, which helps. It’s a cumulative effect of hearing it over and over and over again and getting more comfortable with it. It’s great because he’s really a big, impressive receiver. That’s what you want him to look like.â€

On Noonan: “Basically that award is one of toughness, inspiration – those kind of things. There’s none better on the football team than Charlie. Charlie is our tough guy. He had surgery on Wednesday to repair something. It’s not major. But he went through the whole spring (hurt) because he wanted to work with coach (Randy) Melvin, his new defensive line coach. Any new techniques, he wanted to make sure that he could master them or at least have a real good handle on them so he can perfect them this summer before the season starts. He gutted it out throughout the spring. He could do that, but we wanted to make sure his recovery would get him back in time for the summer program because he is so important to the leadership of this football team.â€

Quron Pratt, looking to step into the role as the new slot receiver, had eight catches for 55 yards in the game.

“Quron had a good spring,†Schiano said. “He’s another guy that could be in that ranking with Tim Wright. It doesn’t surprise me. He’s a kid that has a knack. Some guys can just make plays. Now, he’s slight. He’s got to build himself up. I think he’ll continue (progressing) because he cares, really cares. He’ll continue to get bigger and stronger. But you can’t put that kind of play-making ability in. It’s hard to coach that.â€

Sophomore Steve Beauharnais, making the switch from strongside linebacker to middle linebacker, had 13 tackles, an interception and a TFL in what is becoming a typically active performance.

To the surprise of many, Ryan D’Imperio, a two-year starter at middle linebacker for the Knights, was the only other Rutgers player drafted after first rounders Anthony Davis and Devin McCourty. D’Imperio was taken in the seventh round Saturday (237th overall) by the Minnesota Vikings – as a fullback.

“I played it in high school. I didn’t play it in college, but I played it in high school,†D’Imperio said of fullback. “It’s all about collision, blocking. It’s the same whether you’re on offense or defense, you just don’t have the ball in your hands. That’s all that matters, to just go out there.

“Whatever they tell me to do, I’m going to do it the best I can. As far as learning, it’s the same whether you’re on offense or defense. You have to take stuff from the meeting room and apply it on the field. I feel like I do that very well.â€

Schiano said he was surprised more Rutgers players – George Johnson, Damaso Munoz, Kevin Haslam and Jack Corcoran among them – weren’t drafted.

“A little disappointed more of our guys didn’t get drafted because I think they’re worthy, but I think they’ll prove their worth,†he said. “George Johnson will play in the National Football League. A guy like Damaso (can). I think our guys better than anyone know. You look at an Eric Foster. You look at a Gary Brackett. They’re not afraid.â€

Tom Luicci may be reached at tuicci@starledger.com

What was the crowds like at the other BE spring games?  I'm pretty sure SU was the smallest, how was everyone else?

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WVU 21,010

Pitt: 6,500

USF: 6,350

Louisville: 5,600

Syracuse: 4,750

Connecticut: 2,500

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What was Cincy spring game attendance?

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What was Cincy spring game attendance?

I didn't see it mentioned.

You probably can find out on one of their boards.

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Politi: If Big Ten comes calling, Rutgers has no choice but to answer

By Steve Politi/Star-Ledger Columnist

April 25, 2010, 9:00AM

Ed Murray/The Star-LedgerJoe Martinek makes his way down the sideline chased by Khaseem Greene during Rutgers' annual spring football game.Finally, after months of speculation, the Big East has revealed its strategy to keep itself from extinction. Its message to the Big Ten: You really want our stinky teams?

Hey, as ideas go, at least this was unique. Paul Tagliabue introduced himself as the new consultant for the league by wondering aloud what the Big Ten would gain from coming east.

“Is Minnesota and Rutgers going to get a big rating on Long Island?†the former NFL commissioner asked The New York Times. “Give me a break. Every game isn’t Michigan and Michigan State.â€

He added that South Florida is a commuter school, people in Louisville talk funny and nobody wants to go to Syracuse in the winter.

Okay, we made the last part up. Tagliabue, asked to clarify his comments in a follow-up interview last week, said he was trying to make the point that the Big Ten is overstretching its reach if it thinks it can attract an audience on the East Coast — an audience the Big East already has.

He might be right. But the issue isn’t why the Big Ten should stay away from Rutgers. It is what Rutgers has to gain from staying out of the Big Ten, should it come calling, and that answer is still the same.

Nothing.

The Big East, with Tagliabue joining the effort last week, is trying to convince people it can reposition itself and remain a major player in college athletics. It plans to “think outside the box,†as commissioner John Marinatto suggested last week, and “look at different ways of doing things.â€

“You are in a situation where the fundamentals are changing very dramatically,†Tagliabue said of the Big East. “You shouldn’t just sit back and try to anticipate a future created by someone else. You are in a position to shape the future. Let’s figure out how to do it.â€

It all sounds good, but it begs the question: Why hasn’t the league done that already?

It’s too late now. The Big East can hire all the consultants it wants, but if the Big Ten decides to grab a few of its teams in the coming months or years and decimate it from a football standpoint, it will.

This is no longer about what is right or wrong for Rutgers or preserving its long-standing relationships. This is about survival. The landscape in college athletics is about to change dramatically, maybe in ways that nobody can predict now. But it will certainly change.

Rutgers has no choice but to change with it.

“Universities act in their self interest,†Donna Shalala said in an e-mail last week. Shalala is the Miami president who was vilified for pulling her school out of the Big East seven years ago.

Virginia Tech and Boston College followed, leaving the conference in the precarious place it finds itself now. Mike Tranghese, the Big East commissioner at the time, called Shalala’s decision “the most disastrous blow to intercollegiate athletics in my lifetime.â€

Shalala looks less like a traitor today and more like a visionary. The Big Ten will add anywhere from one to five schools, and they’ll be jockeying for position as soon as it decides how many.

Big Ten teams each make $22 million in television revenue, four times what their Big East counterparts bring in each year. Tagliabue never had to worry about such a disparity in the NFL, which thrives because Green Bay and Kansas City get the same slice of the revenue pie as Dallas and New York.

The bowl tie-ins are much better in the Big Ten. The exposure is much higher, too. Tagliabue might not “rush home from a tennis game†to see it, but far more people will watch Rutgers play Michigan than ever watched Rutgers-Pittsburgh or Rutgers-West Virginia.

The question is no longer should Rutgers go to the Big Ten, it’s how quickly can it get there.

Not that Tagliabue sees that. The man who helped create the NFL Network said he “doesn’t think the revenue will be that much higher†if the Big East takes advantage of its position in the major TV markets.

“The very reason the Big Ten is looking at expansion,†he said, “is to get into markets that are much more natural Big East markets.â€

But, when asked for a timetable, the former NFL commissioner said, “It’s not something we’re getting ready to negotiate. It’s something we're studying for our long-range planning.â€

That’s the problem. Promises and planning alone can’t keep the Big East intact, not with the Big Ten ready to make its landscape-changing move, maybe next spring or sooner.

When it does, the Big East as we know it is doomed. People on Long Island better get ready for Rutgers-Minnesota.

Steve Politi may be reached at spoliti@starledger.com, or follow him at Twitter.com/NJ_StevePoliti

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