The Wolverine

2014 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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THE WOLVERINE 2014 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 187 6 RUTGERS • OCT. 4 BY RYAN TICE Rutgers will join the Big Ten in 2014, but conference affiliation is not the only new thing for the Scarlet Knights this fall. The coaching staff under third-year head coach Kyle Flood has been re-organized and also features a few new faces, including former Maryland head man Ralph Friedgen as the offensive coordinator. The offense returns nine starters, but it was not very potent last fall. The Scarlet Knights ranked 95th nationally with an av- erage of 365.2 total yards and 77th with 26.5 points per game. They'll also be taking a major step up in competition in moving from the American Athletic Conference to the Big Ten. Inconsistent senior quarterback Gary Nova, who was benched for the final three games of 2013, is back after throwing for 2,159 yards with 18 touchdowns against 14 interceptions, but he'll have to hold off competition. The Knights landed Minnesota transfer Philip Nelson and he was expected to join the mix, but then was dismissed from the team this spring. Nova — or whoever wins the quarterback competition — will be aided by the presence of a strong one-two punch at running back in redshirt junior Paul James and sophomore Justin Goodwin. James was limited to nine games yet still rushed for 881 yards and nine touchdowns, while Goodwin played in 11 contests and compiled 521 yards and five scores. Senior Savon Huggins also returns to the backfield, and the former highly touted recruit rushed for 286 yards last year and has totaled 842 yards in his career. All five starters along the offensive line return, and all but right guard Chris Muller, a redshirt sophomore who opened the last 12 games of 2013, are upperclassmen. All told, the group of blockers boasts 99 career starts. Both starting receivers must be replaced, but Rutgers does return junior Leonte Car- roo, who started three times and hauled in nine touchdowns before his season ended after 10 games. He logged 478 receiving yards on 28 catches, best among all returning wideouts, but redshirt junior tight end Tyler Kroft is the top returning pass catcher. The 6-6, 240-pounder paced the team with 43 catches and 573 receiving yards last season, while he scored four touchdowns. The defense, which was terrible against the pass but ranked fourth nationally against the run (100.8 yards surrendered per game) and allowed more total yards than any other team in program history (5,366), also has a new boss — Joe Rossi, who was promoted from special teams coordinator. The philosophy and alignment remain the same, but he did switch freshman All-Amer- ican linebacker Steve Longa, who played in the middle last year, and former weakside linebacker Kevin Snyder. The duo ranked one-two in tackles last year, with Longa pac- ing the squad with 123 stops (7.5 for loss). Junior Quentin Gause played in every game at linebacker last year, but started just once despite ranking fourth on the squad with 53 stops, including 8.5 for loss. Junior defensive tackle Darius Hamilton led the way with 11.5 tackles for loss in 2013 and leads all returners with 4.5 sacks. Fellow junior starter Djwany Mera also is back. In the secondary, senior safety Lorenzo Waters is the lone returning starter, and he finished third with 62 tackles while tying for the team lead with four passes broken up. He is also one of five returning players with an interception, though Rutgers totaled just eight last season. The rest of the defensive backfield should be better after seven dif- ferent players, including several youngsters, started games at cornerback a year ago. The pass defense should be improved, but the beating it took at the hands of the AAC is not a promising sign with the team moving to the Big Ten. The offense will also have to be better when Rutgers faces its tough- est schedule in program history, despite a less-than-imposing non-conference slate. It would be a surprise if the Scarlet Knights can finish anywhere besides the cellar of the Big Ten East. Notes Rutgers did not play a single opponent on its 2014 slate last season … The 4,056 passing yards given up last year were the most in school his- tory … Junior kicker Kyle Federico is back after he went 12 of 18 on field goals … Sophomore Janarion Grant is an outstanding returner — he took both a punt and a kickoff to the house last year, while totaling 673 yards on returns. ❑ 2014 SCHEDULE Date Opponent 2013 Result Aug. 28 at Washington State — Sept. 6 Howard — Sept. 13 Penn State — Sept. 20 at Navy — Sept. 27 Tulane — Oct. 4 Michigan — Oct. 18 at Ohio State — Oct. 25 at Nebraska — Nov. 1 Wisconsin — Nov. 15 Indiana — Nov. 22 at Michigan State — Nov. 29 at Maryland — QUICK FACTS All-Time Series: First meeting Head Coach: Kyle Flood, 15-11 at Rutgers and overall (3rd year) Off./Def. Systems: Pro style/4-3 2013 in Review: 6-7 overall, 3-5 American (6th AAC) Final 2013 Ranking: Unranked Returning Starters: 16 (9 offense, 7 defense, 1 specialist) Last Bowl Appearance: 2013 (New Era Pinstripe, vs. Notre Dame, L 29-16) Big Ten Conference Championships (last): 0 (4 in school history; shared Big East in 2012) RETURNING LEADERS Passing: Gary Nova (2,159 yards, 18 TD, 14 INT) Rushing: Paul James (881 yards, 9 TD) Receiving: Tyler Kroft (573 yards, 4 TD) Tackles: Steve Longa (123) Sacks: Darius Hamilton (4.5) Interceptions: 5 players tied with 1 PLAYERS TO WATCH Offense: Leonte Carroo, Jr., WR — Tallied nine touchdown catches and a team-best 17.1 yards per catch before his season ended with an injury after 10 games … All but one touchdown came in the fourth quarter or overtime … Did not make a catch in 2012, but played in 13 games. Defense: Steve Longa, R-So., LB — Started all 13 games at middle linebacker and was named a first- team Freshman All-American by Sporting News … Led the squad with 123 tackles, and recorded 7.5 tackles for loss, four passes broken up, three sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Numerous Changes In Store For Scarlet Knights In 2014 Redshirt junior running back Paul James was limited to nine games last year, but still rushed for 881 yards and nine touchdowns. PHOTO COURTESY RUTGERS 182-193.Opponents.indd 187 6/19/14 1:11 PM

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