It's bye week, which means that there isn't all that much to talk about as far as Rutgers football goes. It does however afford RU fans the opportunity to talk RU football in ways that aren't really tied to the 2008 season.
If one was to put together an all-star roster based upon the best individual seasons from Greg Schiano's tenure as head coach, who would be on it? My selections are as follows:
QB: Ryan Hart, 2005. Hart was always a very accurate quarterback, but he had the tendency to try to force balls in at times, which partially explains his high interception totals. His lack of height was a major disadvantage at times, and his arm strength was a major liability when defenders would try to jump any out routes. Still, Hart was usually a very efficient passer. I think Mike Teel was better at times in 2007, but Teel had several poor games down the stretch.
RB: Ray Rice, 2007. Rice was arguably more dominant running the football in 2006, but that mostly owed to having better play on the offensive line. Rice was far better as a receiver and pass blocker in 2007.
FB: Brian Leonard, 2005. The unfortunate fact is that Leonard was underutilized in 2006, despite, or perhaps owing to, his improved blocking. Rice was overused a lot in his career, but at no time was that more evident than in 2006, when Rutgers puzzingly refused to adequately use one of its best weapons in Leonard.
WR: Kenny Britt, 2007. Let's be clear about one thing - there's nothing wrong with the way Kenny Britt has performed in 2008 (besides his one-game suspension against Morgan State). In fact, he's arguably been better than he was in 2007, single-handedly keeping Rutgers in games at times. Britt's numbers have dipped this year because of an inferior supporting cast, and no fault of his own. Kenny Britt 2008 is an absolutely dominant force, one that Rutgers will have to ride hard down the stretch if it wants to make something of this year. Britt is the clear choice over 2003 Shawn Tucker, who looked like a potential star before succumbing to a series of injuries.
WR: Tres Moses, 2004. Moses gets the nod at possession receiver over Tiquan Underwood's 2007. Underwood arguably had better overall stats, but dropped too many critical catches down the stretch (a problem that got completely out of control in 2008). 2004 was a terrific year for Moses, who seemingly never dropped a catch that year, and was always good for a critical first down.
TE: Clark Harris, 2004. Arguably, he was better in 2005, but saw his role in the offense reduced by a returning Tucker and Ray Rice emerging in the backfield. Let's agree to forget about his 2006, shall we? L.J. Smith was the team's best receiving threat during Schiano's first two seasons, but his hands were as unreliable then as they are for the Eagles today. Sam Johnson was always overshadowed by Harris, but Rutgers still has yet to adequately replace Johnson's blocking.
LT: Pedro Sosa, 2006. The only thing wrong with his 2007 was that his effectiveness was limited in the second half of the year owing to a serious leg injury. Sosa still embarassed USF's George Selvie on national television before going down, and still (sorry Jeff Otah) was the Big East's best left tackle during his entire tenure as a starter. Sosa was overwhelmingly dominant in 2006; culminating in making a fool out of Kansas State's Ian Campbell in the Texas Bowl.
LG: John Glass, 2005. I'm cheating a bit here, because Zuttah played LG in 2005, and Glass played RG. Glass was a lot better than Mike Fladell and Brian Duffy, however.
C: Darnell Stapleton, 2006. Stapleton was great in both of his years on the banks, however that 2006 line was just otherworldly. Nothing against Ryan Blaszczyk, but watching him getting pushed off the ball by Pitt's nose tackles on Saturday, I sorely missed Stapleton. One of the best JUCOs in Rutgers history, which is even more incredible considering that he was a relative unknown in recruiting circles.
RG: Cameron Stephenson, 2006. Despite having multiple other future pros on the line, it was telling that Stephenson was the primary puller for Ray Rice's ridiculous 2006 campaign. What Stephenson lacked in technique (and he still has yet to stick in the NFL), he made up with brute force and athleticism, the kind I have only seen matched at guard by Anthony Davis in the second half of 2007. Using Davis at guard was a bit like killing a fly with a nuclear bomb, as he's regarded as a future franchise left tackle with the NFL written all over him. For the two prior years, Stephenson had been an underachiever that bounced between both lines, which just illustrates the incredible job that OL Coach Kyle Flood did with these units.
RT: Jeremy Zuttah, 2007. Or 2006. Or playing a fabulous left guard in 2005 next to Sosa, you can't go wrong. Actually, I sort of liked that 2005 line, with Sosa and Zuttah two of the best athletes you'll ever see on the left side, Stapleton in the middle, and big time power on the right side with Glass and Sameeh MacDonald. Of course, Zuttah was a major upgrade in pass protection the next year at RT, and an even better run blocker, owing to his off-the-charts athleticism and brains.
DE: Ryan Neill, 2005. Flip a coin between him and Orr, as no other recent ends have come close to matching their production (because they're all moved to DT now!) A crime that he's been relegated to long-snapping in the NFL.
DE: Raheem Orr, 2003. Wish he would have stuck around in the pros longer. One of the few all-BE players RU had in the bad old days.
DT: Eric Foster, 2006. Pure, unstoppable, unadultered frenzied madness. Ramel Meekins did the dirty work, but Foster made the plays.
DT: Pete Tverdov, 2008. A little premature to give him the nod over Meekins? Maybe, but Tverdov is having an excellent year, and should garner all-conference honors this year. Let's hope he gets a shot in the pros at DE, where he would be lined up at any other school.
LB: Gary Brackett, 2002. Never received the recognition he deserved playing on a poor roster. Has gotten a lot better in the pros however.
LB: DeVraun Thompson, 2006. Unfortunately, there isn't going to be a good strongside backer here, because Schiano keeps turning them into DEs! It's a shame that Thompson (and Meekins) didn't have the measurables to get a real chance in the NFL, because he was probably one of the headiest players to ever roam the sidelines at Rutgers. His goal line stand against North Carolina still ranks as one of the best plays in Rutgers history.
LB: Ryan D'Imperio, 2008. It was tough to flip a coin between him and Malast, as both are having very good seasons. However, Malast did struggle a bit in 2007, even if it was partially to cover for the overmatched Damaso Munoz in the middle. What's scary (for opposing teams, that is) is that D'Imperio has another year to get even better. I only wish he had been redshirted last year. His presence on this list partially owes to how well he's playing, but partially is due to the fact that this has been a trouble spot during the past few seasons. Quntero Frierson and Chenry Lewis played well in 2006, and Papa Beckford had a good half-season in 2003 when he was just relying on his instincts, but linebacker has been one of the thinnest positions on the team recently.
CB: Nate Jones, 2003. Probably the last really good Knight CB, even though there have been a few decent ones since then.
CB: Joe Porter, 2004. There still hasn't been anything concrete as to why he barely played in 2005 and 2006 beyond internet message board rumors. Andres Morales says hi.
FS: Courtney Greene, 2006. Truth be told, I'd ideally put him at strong safety, and slot in Shawn Seabrooks here.
SS: Jarvis Johnson, 2003. What happened to him in 2004? It was as if his media day suit was so awesome that it tapped all of his energy for the season.
K: Jeremy Ito, 2006. If I had been running this blog last year, Ito would have been my designated goat, ala Underwood this year. His FG% always led a lot to be desired, even if he was a big upgrade over Ryan Sands or Mike Cortese.
P Joe Radigan, 2006. Very strange, how he suddenly turned into a major weapon during his senior year. Of course, Mike Barr would get the nod if the criteria for inclusion was best overall career.
KR: Willie Foster, 2005. Between Timmy Brown, Dennis Campbell, Mason Robinson, et. al, I'm sort of at a loss as to how Rutgers hasn't had a major return threat in the past three seasons. It probably has a lot to do with the coverage units.