Gah - I was planning to do a roster projection following the recent National Championship game (it would have been earlier before the Jamison transfer news), but work interfered, and then Tom Luicci beat me to the punch. Oh well. Let's go through, position by position.
Gary Nova should enter the season as the undisputed starter. Chas Dodd conceivably could transfer in search of more playing time, but has not given any indication that he intends to do so. Bimonte should be interesting in the sense that he was a very raw arm coming out of high school who was expected to need a lot of polish before contributing. A lot of fans are pinning their hopes on the dual threat Rankin, but he will be a long shot to contribute as a redshirt freshman. Incoming freshman Chris Laviano should be a certain redshirt. As of now, this looks like the strongest depth chart under center for Rutgers in some time, which is more of an indictment of the team's depth in recent years than anything else.
Jawan Jamison surprisingly declaring for the draft leaves Savon Huggins in the position of being an undisputed starter. Keep an eye out for Peoples, who could emerge as a valuable third down weapon. Incoming freshman Dontae Ayres will enroll early, and the staff might still try to sign another back in this class.
FB: Michael Burton, Sam Bergen.
Burton is a terrific fullback, and was sorely, sorely missed this season following his injury.
The plight of Jeremy Deering is an interesting one, as he didn't see very many touches on offense this year, which was confounding considering how he flashed in the past. You can make a case that he's the team's second most talented receiver on paper. On the other hand, safety definitely needs more depth too, and he had trouble getting on the field this year even if there was a lot of depth. Shuler should play a much bigger role, and we'll start to see Carroo get in the mix too. You kind of want one more big body to go over the middle here, which could lead to more TE usage next season.
At least one freshman will play with the thin depth here, which also would lean towards Larrow sticking with the position switch that he experimented with during bowl practices, even if he was a strong contributor at DE in 2011. Carrezola is more of a blocker who spent time at fullback in 2012 after Burton went down, while Kroft is a receiving threat who should start being ready to contribute.
RT: Andre Civil, Chris Muller.
Another option is to leave Civil at guard, but there looks to be more depth inside. I think Lumpkin projects better at LT, but he could follow the Kevin Haslam path and play RT too. The thinking here is the Wright will move to guard, because he got a look there during bowl practices, and the team is loaded at DT.
RE: Marcus Thompson, Max Issaka, Dave Milewski.
My thinking for a while has been that Merrell would move back outside, and it will be really hard to leave him at DE if Larrow isn't playing here. DT really looks to be in great shape. Max Issaka is a rising player at DE, while JPO drew a lot of praise from Coach Flood during bowl practices.
SLB: Jamal Merrell, Lester Liston.
MLB: Kevin Snyder, Quanzell Lambert.
WLB: Steve Longa, Quentin Gause.
Gah, Skai Moore was in the two deep here until he decommitted. Depth is a little thin when you get into the reserves (which usually seems to be the case), there there's a lot of talent. That's a very good starting three. Honestly, even though Rutgers loses Vallone and Greene, the front seven is going to be strong again.
Corner looks quite thin without Logan Ryan, making it a free for all among the some of the younger players. What makes it even more confusing is some ambiguity about whether a few players will end up at corner or safety. This will be a good secondary in 2014, but early indications point towards growing pains this season. Of course, a lot of people thought that in 2011, and then Logan Ryan turned into a shutdown Logan Island, which Tejay certainly has the physical ability to do.
P: Anthony DiPaula, Dean Crozier.
Federico's injury timing was unfortunate, as no one could really get a good evaluation of him to this point. Borgese was surprisingly impressive this year though. He doesn't have a big leg, but if you have a kicker who is relatively accurate even from the 35 in, that's a pretty good weapon. Punter is a mystery; nothing's really been reported about DiPaula for a while. Rutgers is signing another scholarship punter, who just happens to be a mid-twenties Australian from half way around the world. Is it a fair inference that they wouldn't go to that much trouble absent a compelling reason?
In summary, while this will come as cold comfort to everyone still furious about the bowl game, everything on paper suggests that Gary Nova will improve significantly in 2013, as he similarly did from his freshman to sophomore seasons. As such, the Rutgers offense should improve significantly in 2013 despite the premature loss of Jawan Jamison. It won't improve as much as it should given the available talent unless Rutgers commits to a less-conservative approach, but Nova and Coleman will take things to the next level, Savon Huggins is ready to tote the rock, and four starters return on the offensive line. That's quite a bit, and getting Burton back is going to have a surprisingly big impact.
The early pessimism on defense is even more shocking, to a point. Concerns about the secondary are quite warranted. Angst about the front seven definitely is not. Sure, Rutgers loses Vallone and Greene, along with a good player in Steve Beauharnais, and pass rushers Ka'Lial Glaud and Marvin Booker. There's still a ton of talent stockpiled though, with Darius Hamilton and Kevin Snyder ready and able to start. Ike Holmes returning from injury will be a considerable boost to the run defense, and we're finally going to get a look at touted guys like JPO and Page. IF Rutgers can find an answer at corner, they won't just be fine, this will be a top 40 defense knocking on the door of top 30. If not, well, there's always blitzing and playing more zone schemes.