In Monday’s game week press conference, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano spoke about a number of topics including the two deep for the season opener. In addition, he was asked about preparing for Temple, a team that has had a lot of roster turnover since last season.
Schiano began discussing the most important position on the field on the same day that Temple announced that Georgia transfer D’Wan Mathis will start at quarterback on Thursday.
“Let me jump to the quarterback first because he touches the ball every play. He’s a very good player,” said Schiano. “I’m very familiar with him. He was actually committed to us at Ohio State at one point. I’m not sure if he was committed, but we were very much in contact. I can’t really remember the details, but I know him as a high school player. I’ve seen him in Georgia tape. I’ve seen him. I think he’s a really good player, I know he’s a really good player. He’s athletic, he’s tall, he can throw the ball, he can run. He definitely gives you a lot of challenges.”
Being that it is the season opener, there are challenges in preparing for an opponent with so many roster changes. Schiano continued to discuss the position by going into detail on backup signal caller Justin Lynch.
“It was announced today that the backup quarterback is, is the freshman [Justin] Lynch, and we all remember his brother (Jordan) from Northern Illinois. And when you do your research, his brother actually coached him in high school, running the same system. So what a great advantage right? To have a couple years of experience in the system. So I think they have good depth at the quarterback position.”
Whether Temple uses both quarterbacks on Thursday remains to be seen, but the defense will likely be prepared for both.
As for how to plan for the rest of the roster, Schiano explained, “There’s so many transfers on defense and on offense, that you just have to do some research on each guy, and then try to see how they will use those people in their scheme. Will they change their scheme or be the same?”
One known strength of Temple entering this season is their offensive line. They allowed just 1.7 sacks per game last season, which was the best in the AAC.
“I think the consistent thing, you look at their o-line,” said Schiano. “Their o-line is an experienced group, and that’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
Another experienced position group on offense for the Owls is with wide receivers. Jadan Blue had 41 catches for 381 yards and 5 touchdowns, earning All-AAC honorable mention honors last season. Randle Jones has big play capability after having 31 catches for 370 yards and 2 touchdowns last fall.
“Five (Jadan Blue) and zero (Randle Jones) are big time guys,” said Schiano. “We’re gonna have to know where they are and be able to defend them. So, I think they really have a potent offensive football team. Certainly, with talent they do.
Temple’s leading rusher from last season, Re’Man Davis, transferred to Vanderbilt so there is more uncertainty coming out of the backfield.
“Running back will probably be by committee, which sounds that way,” stated Schiano. “I don’t know but you just read between the lines, sounds like they’re going to play more than one running back.”
The Owls list four running backs on their two deep for the Rutgers game. They include last season’s second leading rusher Tayvon Ruley, who returns after totaling 306 yards on 73 carries last season. Kyle Dobbins and Edward Saydee are as well after seeing limited action last fall.
On the defensive side, Temple suffered a lot of roster turnover including losing all-conference defensive end Arnold Ebiketie, who transferred to Penn State. They have added transfer Will Rodgers from Washington State and former Rutgers commit Nicky Bags is listed as a starter on the two deep as well. Linebacker William Kwenkeu led Temple with 48 tackles last season and anchors the defensive unit. Another linebacker, George Reid, and safety Amir Tyler are back as well.
“Defensively, they have some linebackers that I think really get after you. They have the transfer from Washington State at one defensive end,” pointed out Schiano.
As for all the unpredictability of playing a team in the first game of the season with so many changes from the previous year, Schiano was realistic.
“It’s gonna be interesting for sure. We’re gonna all be feeling our way through,” he said. “I’m sure they’re going to be feeling their way through it as well. But we have to come out ready to go. That’s all I can concern myself with. At the end of the day, we need to know who we’re playing against for sure. But first games, especially, more games are lost than won. We got to make sure we take care of business, avoid the mistakes and play really, really hard in our home stadium. That’s what we need to do.”
Rutgers last faced Temple in 2013, winning by the final score of 23-20. The two programs are scheduled to play the next two seasons as well. Although the games were scheduled by former head coach Chris Ash, Schiano appeared happy about facing the former Big East foe.
“I like it. I think we’ve had some great games over the years, going back to a long time ago. And it just seems like a natural fit, an easy one for both of us to get back and forth to.” Schiano continued, “Bring fans to each other stadiums. I think it’s a great game to have. And I think it’s great for New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the local football. What divides us, an hour? It’s pretty good.”
As for the challenge on Thursday, Schiano explained, “I know they’re a good football team. I know the coach [Rod] Carey is a tremendous football coach. So, I think it’s a great challenge for us to open the season with them because they’re a good football team.”
With the expectation that Rutgers can build on last season’s surprise 3-6 campaign with even more progress this fall, getting off to a good start with a win over Temple is paramount. Having a veteran coaching staff led by Schiano certainly gives Rutgers the confidence of being able to handle whatever unexpected looks Temple throws at them on Thursday.
For all of our preseason coverage on Rutgers football, click here.