2011 Rutgers football pre-spring presser

Quick recap from my recording of the 12:30 broadcast on SNY (video here). ScarletKnights.com has their official writeup online, including an updated roster (doesn't seem like new HT/WTs though). Don't click that link if you can't bear the emotionally wrenching sight of not seeing #52 listed. Here's a recap of the major points, with some analysis where applicable.

Injury news:

  • Joe Martinek (shoulder), Dave Milewski (knee), and James Kim (knee) will miss the entirety of spring practice.
  • Steve Shimko (shoulder), Rob Horrell (knee), and Isaac Holmes (ankle) will only see limited contact. With Shimko limited, Coach Schiano mentioned Tyler Bellia as a candidate to see reps, although Chas Dodd will see the vast majority in an effort to learn Frank Cignetti's offense.
  • Tim Wright (knee) will work his way back into contact.
  • Edmond Laryea (knee) and Mohamed Sanu (shoulder) will be limited and not see any contact.
  • Everyone else should be ready.

Position changes:

  • Joe Martinek is switching from running back to fullback. Coach Schiano compared Martinek to Brian Leonard, who switched to fullback as a senior. This move helps the thin depth chart at fullback, and gives the team more of a pass-catching option there for when Frank Cignetti wants a horizontal passing game. However, Martinek is more of a running back, and the team would probably be better served with more of a traditional blocker on most 2 RB downs. BTW, is Laryea at LB intentional or an oversight? GS did say Laryea could practice though while awaiting a NCAA eligibility ruling.
  • Jordan Thomas is switching from running back to cornerback. Between this move and Martinek's, it really looks like Rutgers is rolling out the red carpet for Savon Huggins. Thomas should bring a lot of speed to the defensive backfield. Another speedy RB/WR tweener is also switching to CB in Mason Robinson.
  • In one of the few surprises, Marcus Thompson sidesteps the LB or DE debate entirely and will see time at fullback. Everyone will be talking about Martinek's move, but Thompson has a lot of potential if this move is permanent. It hurts the depth on defense however.
  • Jeremy Deering and Aaron Hayward switch from a crowded depth chart at WR to RB. Schiano mentioned that Hayward had considered transferring and sought out this move as a way to see the field. Deering looked impressive in limited snaps out of the Wildcat last fall, and has the skill set to be an effective third down back. Schiano noted that Deering in the back field gives the team some versatility and a few different looks. Jawaun Wynn is also moving to safety. The net effect of these moves screams "we are going to get Brandon Coleman on the field by any means necessary".
  • Junior Solice is moving to yet another position in shoring up the thin depth at tight end.
  • Manny Abreu moves from strong side linebacker to defensive end. Rutgers is losing a lot at DE, making Abreu a likely starter. He played very well in 2010 before getting hurt. With this move he'll be able to continuously attack and not have to worry about coverage. In a perfect world he would play in the weak side. At some point Schiano talked up Marvin Booker, along with DL Shane Meisner.
  • Anthony La Lota is slotted in at DT. He was unlikely to ever see time at defensive end with his frame. This helps fill a depth chart hole. Can't recall this being mentioned, but the roster has Jamal Merrell at DE and Jamil Merrell at DL. Anyone know why Joe Falato isn't on the roster?
  • In another in a series of position changes design to increase team speed on defense, hard-hitting free safety Khaseem Greene is moving to linebacker. Schiano also mentioned that Steve Beauharnais would shift outside with Ka'Lial Glaud taking over in the middle. Beauharnais was probably the best SLB Rutgers had ever seen in 2009.
  • Corners David Rowe and Rashad Knight move out to safety. Rowe has seen some looks there in the past. With no returning starters at CB, there should be a wide-open competition now between the likes of Logan Ryan, Marcus Cooper, Brandon Jones, Jordan Thomas, Mason Robinson, and Gareef Glashen. Safety looks extremely crowded behind likely starters Rowe and Duron Harmon. Wynn, Knight, and Lorenzo Waters all redshirted last fall.

Coaching changes

  • No one asked Schiano about Randy Melvin's status, although Tom Luicci said Melvin left in his recap, and Melvin is no longer listed on the athletic department site. You can pretty much put two and two together though with Phil Galiano switching from TE to DL coach. The team's DL play fell off a cliff in the second half last season, and Melvin was a limited recruiter. He did have an impressive resume however. It is likely that other programs will negatively recruit against Rutgers now, charging that the program does not employ enough African American assistants. Note: that is assuming Tem Lukabu wasn't promoted from GA with another coach sliding into his spot.
  • Galiano is a Schiano loyalist and recruits southern New Jersey. RU's LBs did not play well for the most part under his watch, although the program was still rebuilding at the time. The DEs did play well in '05-'06, with Galiano under the supervision of Cary Godette. FIU's defense substantially improved after he took over as defensive coordinator in 2007, before badly regressing the following season.
  • Bob Fraser, who saw the team's linebacking play improve substantially during his tenure, assumes full defensive coordinator duties with Ed Pinkham's departure. Schiano said special teams coach Robb Smith and Tem Lukabu (GA listed as working with OLBs last season) will coach the linebackers.
  • Schiano will oversee the defense along with Fraser, as well as teaming with Jeff Hafley on the secondary. That will help with the perception that Hafley's secondaries at Pittsburgh struggled in coverage. to be fair, Pitt fans may not have necessarily been correct about that, although they were also the ones calling Hafley a recruiting savant.
  • Schiano said Andrew Janocko is coming aboard as the new offensive GA. Janocko was a former walk-on QB at Pitt who earned a scholarship as a holder. That makes sense considering that Andrew Aurich was just named as Princeton's new RB coach.
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