After what most call an over performance last season, after finishing 4-8 in 2010, the Scarlet Knights came back into form, going 9-4 and nearly missed out on a BCS Bowl birth. Rutgers is under new leadership in the form of Kyle Flood, now that Greg Schiano took a job in the NFL (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) but looks to bring back one of the most talented Defenses and underrated Offenses in the Big East. Led by the back 7, and 2 top-100 talents in Khaseem Greene and Steve Beauharnais, and a pair of shut down Corners in Logan Ryan and Brandon Jones, they look to control the passing game, now that their Defensive Line is a miss-mash outside of 3 year starter Scott Vallone. Questions still swirl around their Defensive Ends and if they will be able to produce enough pressure to slow down opposing passing attacks. The Offense will need to see improvement at the Quarterback position, but should see changes, now that it is less predictable, now that Mohamed Sanu is no longer on the team. This will open the doors for both Brandon Coleman and D.C. Jefferson who will be able to spread the defense, which will open up the running game. Gary Nova, the Scarlet Knight starting Quarterback, will be the catalyst and will unfortunately make or break the team.
D.C. Jefferson, TE – D.C. has been named to the All-Big East Fourth Team (Phil Steele) and also named as a watch list candidate for the John Mackey Award (Nation’s best Tight End). D.C. was recruited as a highly touted prep Quarterback, that found his way to the Tight End ranks during the 2009 year, showing good athleticism and size for the position. Jefferson has played in 36 games with 30 starts, having a down year this past season, only catching 12 passes for 118 yards, with the emergence of Mohamed Sanu, who was a third round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals. D.C. offers nothing more than effort and average play in the blocking game and doesn’t appear to have the strength to maintain blocks. He still has upside and potential at this point, but he isn’t further progressed than what he was back in 2009. He offers a slender build but is tall and looks as though he can add girth to his frame (currently 6-6 and 250 and a 4.77 projected 40).
Brandon Coleman, WR** - Brandon was been named Preseason All-Big East Second and Third Team (Athlon and Phil Steele) for his explosive type of work from the Receiver position. Coleman is large, a listed, 6’6 and 220 pounds (while playing in the 4.5 range) with big play capability. While catching only 17 passes (thanks to Sanu), Coleman turned those few opportunities to the tune of 552 yards (32.5 average) and 6 touchdowns. He is big and strong enough to win 50-50 jump balls, could make him a great Red Zone target. Coleman needs to work on developing routes and will need to prove he can stay healthy with the increased number of touches, he is surely about to receive.
R.J. Dill, OT – The 6’7 300 pound Right Tackle is a Maryland transfer for the upcoming season, after graduating with his Economics degree. R.J. was a 33 game starter for the Terripans, with 23 coming as the Right Tackle. He will be called on to anchor the line that doesn’t have a lot of experience. R.J. will need to improve his technique and hand placement if he wants a shot to go drafted in this April’s draft, however, this may become difficult, as he only projects as a Right Tackle.
Scott Vallone, DT – Scott is a 3 year starter at Defensive Tackle for the Scarlet Knights. He is named as Preseason First Team All-Big East according to Athlon and Phil Steele, and is a 3 time Big East All-Academic teamer. Scott is a penetrating UT type of defender, who in his 50 career games (38 starts) has 5.5 sacks and 25 TFL (along with 58 solo and 143 total tackles). He enters the year at 6’3 and 275, with ability to play both in the 43 (natural) and may be able to kick out to the 5 Tech in the 34. This type of flexibility will make him a prime candidate in the mid rounds of the April Draft.
Khaseem Greene, LB – Khaseem enters the season as the Defensive leader for the Scarlet Knight program. His season ended with seconds left, in gruesome fashion in the 27-13 Pinstripe Bowl win over the Iowa State Cyclones. Since breaking his ankle, he was held out of Spring practices and scrimmages, but vows to be ready for the season opener against Tulane. Khaseem, ended the season notching 140 tackles, 14 TFL, and 3.5 sacks and earning The Big East Co-Defensive player of the year award after making the switch from Safety to Outside Linebacker. Standing 6-1 and 230 pounds, with a projected 4.55-4.61 40 time, Khaseem is a bit undersized but makes up for his size with high football IQ and sure tackling. He does a good job of tracking the ball and will make quick, decisive, decisions and attacks the hole. His biggest issue will be coming back to form after such an injury, while missing most of Spring camp. Look for Khaseem to enter the top-100 if he can return back to and build off of last season.
Steve Beauharnais, ILB – Overlooked at times on the very talented Scarlet Knight defense, Steve, boasts the title of “Other Linebacker” taking a backseat to Khaseem Greene. Steve has the ability and skill to play, along with the size (listed at 6-2 and 230 pounds) in both the 34 and 43. He ended the 2012 campaign with 75 tackles, 15 TFL, 5 sacks, and 3 interceptions. Beauharnais has great coverage abilities, but also the toughness and nose to snuff out the run and make a play behind the line. Steve needs to clean up his technique and consistency if he wants to be a top-100 player at the end of the year.
Logan Ryan, CB* - Former top New Jersey prep star (#1 Corner in state) broke out in his second year at Rutgers, netting 67 tackles, 5.5 TFL, and 3 interceptions (but 13 pass deflections). Ryan shows great athleticism on the field and true shutdown corner ability. Logan is 6-0 and 190 pounds, with great hands and initial punch on the receiver, jamming and slowing off of the line. Logan flashes ball hawking attributes and is a risk taker, but can run hot/cold in stretches of quarters and games. He improved every week during the regular season, and took over the Pinstripe Bowl against Iowa State to round off his year. If Logan can show more consistent play throughout the year, he is a top-50 lock. (Doesn’t posses the Special Teams skills the McCourty brothers showed while at Rutgers, may hurt stock initially)
Brandon Jones, CB – Brandon is a 3 year contributor on the very talented Scarlet Knight defense and was named Preseason All-Big East Fourth Teamer according to Phil Steele, while also being a two time Big East All-Academic. He is an opportunist, who makes plays when they are needed, including game winning forced fumbles and blocked kicks. Brandon is 6-1 and a tad underweight at 185 and will need to add muscle/mass to his frame without losing his speed (4.54 projected). Brandon will look to make a name as a Special Teams Ace at the next level, with his Football IQ (on Special Teams, FG/Punt Blocker). Needs to improve his hips and add strength so he isn’t punched off his line, from the line of scrimmage.
Duron Harmon, S – Duron is entering his 4th year as major contributor (2nd year starter) on the Scarlet Knight back 7, he has 14 starts in 37 games. Having a very solid 2011 campaign, Duron will enter the season earning Second Team All-Big East (Athlon and Phil Steele) in part to a 49 tackle, 2.5 TFL, and 5 interception season. Duron plays best in the box, where he can play as an extra linebacker, but also is average in coverage. Will need to make his mark on Special Teams if he wants to be picked in the in April’s draft.