Here is the fifth installment in a series of seven previewing UConn's Big East Conference opponents this season.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Head Coach: Greg Schiano (5th season, 12-34) 2004 season: 4-7 overall, 1-5 Big East, no bowl Basic Offense: Pro-style Basic Defense: 3-4 Starters Returning: 18 (7 offense, 8 defense, 3 specialists) 2004 I-A offensive rankings: Rushing: 113th (83.5 ypg) Passing: 6th (310.5 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 80th (178.2 ypg) Passing: 97th (250.6 ypg) Players to Watch: FB Brian Leonard, WR Tres Moses, DE Ryan Neill, OL John Glass.
Outlook: The media is portraying 2005 as Rutgers' turnaround year because quarterback Ryan Hart is back for a second season along with skill players Leonard, Moses and Clark Harris.
It was supposed to happen last year because of a veteran lineup and a favorable schedule, but after opening the season by beating Michigan State, the Knights stumbled to a 4-7 finish. This season sets up much the same, but Hart will need to show better decision making to take advantage of a roster packed with talent, depth and experience.
Schiano was the defensive coordinator at the University of Miami (Fla.) before coming to Rutgers in 2001, but the fifth-year coach has seen upheaval on his staff for two years.
The majority of his assistants have moved to better situations and that instability has shown on the field. On defense, the Knights allowed 31 points and more than 425 yards per game last season. Schiano needs to get more out of an experienced group that finished 104th in the country in total defense.
UConn Scouting Report
Rutgers' defensive line is led by Val Barnaby Neill, but even though it is a senior-laden group, consistency will be the question.
The linebackers, led by Terry Bynes and Devraun Thompson are talented, but the secondary should be the main strength on defense. Cornerback Joe Porter, who had 55 tackles and five interceptions last season, and safety Ron Girault lead the in the secondary.
UConn should have the ability to run up the middle against Rutgers and the focus will be on stopping Neill coming off the end. Passing will be difficult against the Scarlet Knights secondary, which is talented and hard-hitting, but if quarterback Matt Bonislawski can mix up the run and pass, UConn should have no problem moving the ball.
Rutgers visits Rentschler Field on October 22. Schiano was brought into Rutgers to resurrect the program. This might be his last chance at proving he is the mad to accomplish that task.
Note: The staff at Rutgersfan.com helped compile this preview.
Adam Gorney covers UConn sports for Rivals.com and can be reached at [email protected].