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09 Homer Preview: The Scarlet Knights Edition

homer previewIn an effort to provide coverage of teams outside of the OTP Preseason Top 25, we’ve asked some of our friends and fellow college football aficionados to follow our preview format for their team or go outside the box. This edition of The Homer Preview is courtesy of Kevin Lawrence Pitts, a proud Rutgers alumni, who now resides in College Park. Kevin also follows the advice of Greg Schiano, and keeps chopping wood… proverbially speaking.

Homer Preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

rutgers logo

Resting Upon & Creating a Football Legacy

The moment you arrive on the banks of the old Raritan River as a wide-eyed freshman at Rutgers University you can feel the university’s history creaking under every step you take. The ghosts of Rutgers’ past are omnipresent on campus; at freshman convocation myself and a few hundred of my fellow freshman were marched past ivy coated buildings and rustic memorials of Rutgers legends past and reminded constantly that Rutgers rests on the shoulders of giants long gone. Rutgers is a curious mix of tradition and grandeur mixed with a hint of Northeastern athletic cynicism and apathy.

While pride certainly exists and strong alumni connections certainly remain, the history that weighs heavy on Rutgers’ campus is exactly that, “history.” And that disconnect between past and present is no clearer than with Rutgers football. From the moment you arrive on Rutgers’ campus you are reminded, again and again, you are a student on the hollowed grounds of the birthplace of college football, and Rutgers’ 8 to 6 historic victory over Princeton in 1869. But as a freshman entering Rutgers Stadium in 1998 for the very first time this disconnect between history and present was very real in so many ways.

The grandeur and pomp and circumstance was painfully absent as I sat in silent anguish through dismal seasons such as the infamous 1-10 1999. But with the acquisition of Coach Greg Schiano in 2000, Rutgers football has been re-branded, remixed and reformed into a respectable name in college football and a force to be reckoned with in the Big East and the Scarlet Knights seem to finally be building a legacy that seems separate and unique from the hollowed legacy that relied to heavily on Rutgers’ ancient history and not enough upon winning football games.

The 2008 season began disappointingly with three loses to unranked Fresno State, North Carolina and Navy but Coach Schiano, with the help of Mike Teel’s 60% accuracy in the quarterback position, was able to readjust and salvage the season with six straight strong wins, earning a trip to Birmingham, Alabama for the Papajohns.com bowl. While most loyal diehard Rutgers fans were pleased with Schiano’s cool temperament tempered with passionate leadership that motivated the team to pull the season from the ashes, many were disappointed that the Scarlet Knights weren’t able to replicate the success seen in 2006 when Rutgers ended the season at an unprecedented 11-2. Rutgers has lost some talented players including some of former quarterback Teel’s favorite targets in wide receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood who combined, had almost 5,000 career receiving yards and 33 career touchdowns. Rutgers has also lost some defensive muscle with the loss of 6’3” 265 pound Jamall Westerman who had over 140 career tackles while at Rutgers.

Though Rutgers has experienced some dramatic talent transitions this offseason the Rutgers coaching staff has made some significant and tangible adjustments in both offense and defense for the 2009 season. With the loss of Mike Teel, the quarterback position is in flux with a multitude of great options for Coach Schiano to choose from. These names include: Tom Savage, who seems to be the heir apparent, Jabulani Lovelace who’s potential was hindered because of injuries, and D.C. Jefferson who stands at 6-6 and weighs in at a solid 240 pounds. Other names to look for this year include Art Frost, who at right guard is certain to make some noise this season. Frost is a perfect addition to an already very powerful, talented and explosive offensive line that will certainly be giving more than enough time to make quick and wise decisions in the pocket, whichever QB ends up residing there.

This highly anticipated offensive line will also be making holes for running backs De’antwan Williams and Joe Martinek who many hope can live up to Ray Rice type expectations. Rutgers defense seems to be rotating upon a powerful center of gravity also known as Manny Abreu who is nothing less than amazing and hypnotizing force of nature to watch and will certainly be an integral element of Rutgers’ defensive machine this season.

Being an alumnus of both Rutgers and the University of Maryland, I am naturally anticipating the rematch between these two teams this season. In 2007 Maryland shocked the prognosticators and left Rutgers Stadium with a win. This year it will be exciting and intriguing to see Rutgers fast paced passing offense and hard hitting defense against Maryland’s traditional heavy reliance on putting the football on the ground will certainly be one of the more entertaining match-up’s of the year.

Thinking back to those less glamorous and glowing seasons of the late 90’s and early 2000’s it certainly gives me a much deeper appreciation for how far Rutgers has come, as well as, a richer perspective and appreciation on my alma mater’s contribution to the game of college football. It is certainly time for Rutgers to write a new history and my only wish for this season is that Rutgers can continue to build upon a legacy rooted in victories of today and tomorrow and not a legacy only seen in black and white photos buried in the archives of college football’s past.

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2 Responses

  1. Great writeup Kevin. I know I have high hopes for Rutgers this year, and I look for them to be quite successful despite the changes they’ve had to make this year.

  2. I’m not sure OTP is ready for this quality. I mean, I would hate to see the dick and fart jokes get pushed under a rising tide of journalistic skill. *gasp*

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