Here are some early, brief thoughts on at next year's roster. I have not taken any potential transfers into account, and will only consider recruits that are currently committed.This is sure to look wildly inaccurate by the time spring practice rolls around. An asterisk (*) indicates projected starters.
QB: *Tom Savage, (Mohamed Sanu), Steve Shimko, Chas Dodd
Rutgers is in deep, deep trouble if Tom Savage is injured or is at any point limited. Sanu actually looked pretty good in limited reps as a passer here. There is no doubt that D.C. Jefferson the second or third best quarterback on the team, but that ship has undoubtedly sailed now that Shamar Graves is not returning.
RB: *Joe Martinek, Jourdan Brooks, De'Antwan Williams, Kordell Young, Casey Turner, Tyrone Putman
It's hard to fathom why anyone thinks that Martinek is going to switch positions to fullback. Not only does the staff love him, but he deserves a chance to prove what he can do behind even an average line. Corcoran and Leonard were in the 230 lb range, and still not fantastic blockers; how is a 215-lb player going to be an option for taking out opposing defenders?
Unfortunately, that all doesn't bode so well for Brooks or Williams. Coach Schiano has shown a willingness to use different backs for sub-packages (i.e., goal line, third down, wildcat), but hasn't been keen on putting in an alternate for a series or two. Both backups have talent, but need an opportunity to see the field or they'll stagnate. As much as the staff likes Young too, he has a long rehab ahead of him, and will probably be jumped permanently by Williams if the latter can improve his blocking.
FB: *Edmond Laryea, Robert Joseph, Junior Solice
Truthfully, I have little idea what to expect here, beyond thinking that the position will be further de-emphasized in favor of 2 TE and multi-WR sets. Morales leaving further muddles this group, although he was jumped by Edmond Laryea soon after Laryea switched back to FB. Solice did get a look here in camp, although no one said much about him during the season. I think that Rutgers will use an H-Back a lot in 2010, reducing the need for a true fullback. If any RB switches to fullback, it would be Brooks.
Outside WR: *Mohamed Sanu, *Mark Harrison, Tim Wright, Keith Stroud, Julian Hayes, Eddie Poole, Marcus Cooper, Quron Pratt
Outside of Sanu, this position is mainly a series of question marks, although Harrison gained a little separation as the third receiver throughout 2009, and is the most athletically gifted player on the list. Wright's next, even ahead of Sanu, but he's yet to put it all together. I'm listing him third solely based on upside. Stroud's game would fill a needed role for the offense, although he's been a disappointment after showing early promise. The clock is rapidly ticking for Hayes to be any sort of contributor, and Poole and Cooper remain two of the biggest mysteries on the entire team, outside of Pratt. Any freshmen here will likely redshirt.
Slot WR: *Mason Robinson, Aaron Hayward, Tejay Johnson, J.T. Tartacoff
Simply as a numbers game, you'd figure that one of the freshmen (including the other commits) will move to defense. Tartacoff was a pretty good recruit, but Johnson is even better, even though both would do well to redshirt. I already expounded on my thoughts on Robinson several weeks back. I'm very high on Hayward, and he has a good chance to play significant minutes, especially if Robinson's injury lingers on.
TE: *D.C. Jefferson, Tony Trahan, Paul Carrezola, Malcolm Bush, Evan Lampert
Carrezola was a favorite to see early playing time last fall as a blocking TE, before a camp injury eventually led to a redshirt. He was usurped in that role by Trahan and Lampert, and Trahan's role was reduced later on in the season. Jefferson offers absolutely limitlless potential, but is still incredibly raw. Didn't hear much about Fabian Ruiz after he started getting a look at DE.
LT: *Art Forst, Devon Watkis
LG: *Howard Barbieri*, Mo Lange, Betim Bujari
C: *Caleb Ruch, Marlon Romulus, Matt Hardison, David Osei
RG: *Des Wynn, Matt McBride, Frank Quartucci
RT: *Des Stapleton, Richard Muldrow, Jamal Wilson
The depth here looks very thin. A position switch from the DL wouldn't be a surprise at all, especially with Wynn out for the spring. There were nice rumblings about Watkis last year out of camp, but depending on those can always be tricky. Bujari is the best incoming freshman lineman. I'm interested to see if Hardison or Muldrow can show anything, because upperclassmen depth is badly, badly needed. On the plus side, Ruch and (hopefully) Wynn return from injuries, and the new year does offer all the underclassmen here a chance to break out. Everything's very much in flux for now with regards to who will play what position. There is raw talent here, really depends on whether or not 2009's problems were an aberration that's correctable.
DE: *Alex Silvestro, *Justin Francis, Jonathan Freeny, Andre Civil, Mike Larrow, Jamil Merrell, Sorie Bayoh, Marcus Witherspoon, Fabian Ruiz
This is tough one, and should be a good competition. I'd give Francis the edge over Freeny, as he's more suited to be an every down player, and has the size to play on the strong side, freeing Silvestro to be a pass rusher. It'll be an terrific competition between three redshirt freshmen. Civil and Larrow are more all-around players, while Merrell brings speed on the edge. Bayoh was the fifth end in '09, but he could have issues holding off the more-talented freshmen. Marcus Weatherspoon and Fabian Ruiz both moved here last year and subsequently didn't play. Both could always move back to other positions, especially with all the players in the mix at DE.
DT: *Scott Vallone, *Eric LeGrand, Charlie Noonan, Isaac Holmes, Antwan Lowery
It's irrelevant because Schiano rotates his line so much anyway, but Noonan was nominally the starter for most of the year. Give all the credit in the world to him and his motor, but LeGrand is far more talented, and can't be kept out of the starting lineup any longer. As excited as a lot of people are for Lowery and Holmes, I still see both as long term projects who might not be ready until 2011. Might make sense to move a DE like Bayoh here, or slot in someone like Lampert or Solice if just for depth.
SLB: *Steve Beauharnais, Morgan Carter, Al-Ghaffar Lane
MLB: *Manny Abreu, Ka'Lial Glaud, Jim Dumont
WLB: *Antonio Lowery, Marvin Booker, Jamal Merrell
The exact grouping of the backups will be a question mark. If a Lane could contribute, that'd help somewhat. As would moving Weatherspoon back here, although I can't think of any precedent for moving a DE back to LB. Speaking of which, Abreu. It would be a bad move to make him a DE considering the plethora of young players there, although you have to concede that hasn't stopped Schiano in the past (*cough*, Chenry Lewis). I haven't seen any evidence yet that Abreu did anything wrong besides be slightly worse than Lowery, and not be as good as Beauharnais in coverage. There's a good reason to be high on Glaud for the future, but I say give Abreu a look at MLB in the spring, and see how that goes.
CB: *David Rowe, *Brandon Bing, Brandon Jones, Logan Ryan, Darrell Givens
Projecting Bing as a starter won't make many people happy considering how he bombed against Cincinnati, but '09 playing time suggests that's the most likely scenario. I want Jones or a redshirt freshman too, but as many good things as we heard about Jones in the spring and fall, he didn't receive that many reps. As far as the redshirted freshmen go, who's to say why exactly they didn't see the field? Maybe they needed more time, or maybe they were better options than last year's fourth and fifth options, and the staff didn't waste them in limited minutes. You should be more excitd about Ryan and Givens than Lowery and Holmes at DT, as there's a much better chances that the corners actually contribute. Abdul Smith could very well end up here, although the need is bigger at safety. Pratt could always move back if Smith ends up a safety.
S: *Joe Lefeged, *Khaseem Greene, Duron Harmon, Pat Kivlehan, Abdul Smith, Wayne Warren
Kivlehan and Greene both garnered raves in last year's camps, although Kivlehan struggled in his brief playing time before getting hurt. Greene made his share at plays, and will get first crack to start, although he'll surely get pushed by the young guns here.
As for special teams, you'd think that Kyle Sullivan will get a look at kicker. The jury's still out on San San Te though; the offense hasn't been prolific enough to give him that many chances, and he's battled some assorted injuries too. Can't write him off just yet, but he'll need to show some improvement.
For an early verdict, the team should be very young in several areas, and depth at QB and offensive line is a concern. The front seven should be very good once again. Almost everyone on offense returns for 2011, which could be the team that finally wins the Big East if they can replace three good senior starters who'll help to bring in the newer guys this fall. The pressure will be on to have a very good season in '10, and bring some positive momentum in for a year where excuses aren't going to cut it any longer. With the draft declaration deadline today, I'll look around the returning conference rosters over the weekend and make some early predictions there next week.