Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, February 26, 2015

The Big Ten debut for Rutgers was a success, as Kyle Flood led the Scarlet Knights to a bowl and a fourth-place finish in the rugged Big Ten East. It was RU?s fourth postseason appearance in succession, as the Scarlet Knights finished with three wins in their last four games.

Now, Flood will try to move Rutgers up the food chain in the East. And he?ll have lots of key players back to help that cause. But work must be done.

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Here are three key areas Rutgers must focus on this spring.

1. Sort the quarterbacks. Gary Nova is gone, leaving a big void. He finished his RU career ranked first in school history in touchdowns (73), second in passing yards (9,258) and second in completions (689). The only quarterback on the roster with experience is Chris Laviano, playing in five games with 28 pass attempts last season. LSU transfer Hayden Rettig is now eligible after sitting out in 2014. The Los Angeles native was one of the nation?s top prep signal-callers in 2012. And don?t forget about freshman Giovanni Rescigno, who showed promise in bowl prep last season. An added dimension to watch is the presence of new offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels, who was promoted from receivers coach after Ralph Friedgen stepped aside. The Fridge will remain as a consultant. McDaniels is RU?s sixth offensive coordinator in six years.

2. Development of the offensive line. Line coach Mitch Browning has his work cut out for him, trying to mold a unit that is going to need more depth. The Scarlet Knights graduated three multi-year starters from a unit that started same front in all 13 games in 2014. Massive tackle Keith Lumpkin is a good building block.

3. Audition the running backs. The staff has a lot of options. Does someone emerge? Josh Hicks, Robert Martin, Desmon Peoples, Justin Goodwin all are in the mix. Plus Paul James-who started the first four games of 2014-will return in the summer from injury that ended his 2014 early after just 363 yards rushing. Peoples led the team with 447 yards rushing; Hicks (440) and Martin (434) also eclipsed the 400-yard rushing mark. Goodwin had 328 yards. Many good choices. It will be key for the o-line to develop, as well as the passing game, so these guys have room to work.


Record: 8-5 overall; 3-5 Big Ten (beat North Carolina in Quick Lane Bowl)
Spring ball starts: March 30
Spring ball ends: April 24
Key players lost: OT Taj Alexander; C Betim Bujari; FB Michael Burton; CB Gareef Glashen; G Kaleb Johnson; TE Tyler Kroft; DE David Milewski; QB Gary Nova; LB Kevin Snyder; WR Andrew Turzilli; S Lorenzo Waters
Key players back: CB Nadir Barnwell; WR Leonte Carroo; CB Anthony Cioffi; K Kyle Federico; LB Quentin Gause; P Tim Gleeson; WR Janarion Grant; RB Justin Goodwin; DT Darius Hamilton; RB Josh Hicks; RB Paul James; S Davon Jacobs; DT Kenneth Kirksey; LB Steve Longa; OT Keith Lumpkin; RB Robert Martin; WR Andre Patton; RB Desmon Peoples; S Delon Stephenson; WR John Tsimis; DE Kemoko Turay.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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