The Big Ten Network made its annual visit to Rutgers training camp on Wednesday. Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith are on their preseason bus tour of all fourteen Big Ten programs once again.
BTN pointed out from the start that Rutgers has 70% of last season’s production returning, which is the third most in the Big Ten.
In terms of what the crew thought the program was improved in, DiNardo said, “we see progress in the depth. Defense is strong, which is what we expected. Defense is the strength, the offense has to come along.”
Howard Griffith stated, “Offensively, you can’t turn the ball over. I’ve had former coaches say, the offense is going to kick it. You’re either going to punt, kick an extra point or kick a field goal. That’s kind of where you see this offense. There is room to grow.”
He did add that Wimsatt can be a weapon in the run game out of the RPO. As for the offensive line, Griffith said the key was “being physical at the point of attack and control the line of scrimmage.”
DiNardo praised Schiano for how practice was run. He said, “As position coaches and group work, they’re really an outstanding staff.”
Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano was interviewed by anchor Dave Revsine. He spoke about a number of topics. Schiano emphasized that the defense was the strength of the team and that he “loves the depth” on that side of the ball. Schiano stressed that he has a lot of confidence in Kirk Ciarrocca leading the offense and he is optimistic about Gavin Wimsatt’s development at quarterback.
When asked about his recruiting philsophy, Schiano said “I still think, we have a great location for high school recruiting, that to me is the backbone of our program. We’ll use the (transfer) portal to fill in places where maybe we aren’t quite where we want to be. Fill a gap.”
At wide receiver, Schiano spoke about the young talent on the roster but also the need in adding more experienced players. He said both transfers, JaQuae Jackson and Nasiem Brantley, have “really impressed.” As for Chris Long, Schiano said “if we keep him healthy, he’s a Big Ten receiver.”
In regard to Big Ten expansion, Schiano said, “Anything that is good for the Big Ten is good for Rutgers.”
The BTN crew also interviewed offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, defensive coordinator Joe Harasymiak, linebacker Deion Jennings and quarterback Gavin Wimsatt.
As for Wimsatt’s development, Ciarrocca said, “He’s getting better every day.” Ciarrocca indicted his ceiling is gradually rising and the key is being consistent.
DiNardo was able to articulate the key to the season for Rutgers.
“The other thing we have to think about is the matchup opponents. I’d start with the first game,” said DiNardo. “(Rutgers) and Northwestern, we’ve seen both the teams practice now. It’s a matchup game for both teams. When you are in this program like Greg Schiano is, you have to win the matchup games to continue to make progress. That’s the only way to prove progress is when you have equal talent, you win the game.”
When asked what Rutgers needs to do in order to make a bowl game, both DiNardo and Griffith focused on the defense excelling and protecting the football.
Griffith said, “The turnover margin needs to be positive. The defense needs to be able to take the football away. Offensively, they need to be able to run and as they talk about throughout practice, they need to strain. It’s the little things that’s going to get them over the top. They cannot afford to beat themselves. If they can do that, there’s no reason they can’t be in a bowl game.”
DiNardo said, “I see at least five matchup opponents on the schedule. You need six (wins) obviously to go to a bowl. You continue to lean on your defense. You possess the ball. You don’t turn it over. Those are the big keys to get this team to six. I don’t know how much they can throw the ball. I think if they don’t have a really good run game, they won’t get to six. If they try to be balanced, I’m not sure that’s what they can do. The strength is their defense, I think you play to your defense totally.”
Schiano has stated many times his desire is to play complementary football. Control the clock, limit mistakes and win with defense and special teams. However, you have to have balance in order to achieve that.
While the BTN crew was fair and positive in certain areas, they showed concern over the offense. Granted it’s just one practice but they raised doubts on whether the passing game can take a step forward this fall. It’s no secret that Rutgers needs to show major progress offensively in order to take advantage of the schedule. There are four winnable games in September. If a bowl game is going to happen, the odds are that RU needs to win those matchups. There is still three plus weeks until the season opener against Northwestern. The offense can still improve and Rutgers needs all the reps they can get.
Watch the complete coverage of BTN at Wednesday’s practice for Rutgers below.
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