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New staff needs to rebuild Rutgers' offense

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After 11 seasons and six bowl appearances, Greg Schiano decided it was time to leave Rutgers and seek new challenges with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

New coach Kyle Flood had been Schiano's offensive line coach, and he and his staff take over a program in flux. While the Big Eats looks to be wide open this season, Rutgers won't be a contender unless the offense undergoes a makeover.

The Scarlet Knights were horrible running the ball last season, and while sophomore TB Jawan Jamison looks as if he has 1,000-yard potential, he will be running behind a line with three new starters, including an all-new interior.

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Mark Harrison will try to bounce back into form during his final season.
(US Presswire)
Rutgers at-a-glance
Coach: Kyle Flood (1st season)
Last season: 9-4 overall, 4-3 in Big East
Spring practice dates: March 27-April 28
Returning starters (minimum 7 starts last season):
Offense (5): T Andre Civil, QB Chas Dodd, TB Jawan Jamison, TE D.C. Jefferson, T Kaleb Johnson
Defense (7): LB Steve Beauharnais, LB Khaseem Greene, SS Duron Harmon, CB Brandon Jones, LB Jamal Merrell, CB Logan Ryan, T Scott Vallone
Special teams (1): P Justin Doerner

The Scarlet Knights also need a new go-to receiver after Muhammad Sanu, who had 83 more catches than anyone else on the team last season, left a season early for the NFL.

Defensively, the back seven looks OK, and Rutgers should have one of the best linebacker groups in the Big East. The line is a question, though, with just one returning starter. It's important for the staff to identify someone who can rush the passer off the edge. The leading sack man last season was T Scott Vallone, who is the returning starter up front.

John Otterstedt of ScarletNation.com – a Rivals.com website that covers Rutgers – provides a more in-depth look at spring practice.

The biggest problem: The offense. Every offensive position has question marks entering spring practice. There are no clear-cut starters at quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver or along the offensive line. While there are plenty of candidates, some of those guys need to step up this spring. Gary Nova looks to be the leader at quarterback, while Jawan Jamison has the early edge at running back. Brandon Coleman is in line to be RU's next big-time wide receiver, and T Kaleb Johnson looks to be the next Rutgers offensive lineman headed for a future in the NFL. But spring practice needs to bring more closure to quite a few position battles on offense.

On the spot: WR Mark Harrison. In his final season, he will be looking to bounce back after a forgettable 2011 campaign. Harrison appeared to have a breakout season in 2010 on his way to earning All-Big East honors, but he had just 14 receptions last season. There is plenty of competition at the position and taking another step back could have Harrison watching from the sideline. On the other hand, with Mohamed Sanu gone to the NFL, Harrison should get the opportunity to show he can be the go-to receiver.

On the verge: LB Kevin Snyder. His playing time increased over the course of last season as he split time at strongside linebacker with Jamal Merrell. Snyder, now a sophomore, looks to be next in line as RU's top linebacker, and his first start could come this fall. The ceiling is high for Snyder.

General overview: With the coaching overhaul, the spring will be an acclimation period for the players and coaches. Rutgers has been treading water in the middle of the Big East for quite a while, and if the Scarlet Knights are to indeed take that next step toward a Big East title, the team will need to have a solid spring all around. If position battles continue deep into the summer, it will not be a good sign for 2012. The team needs players to step up now. A shaky spring could mean another middle-of-the-pack finish for Rutgers in this fall.

For in-depth coverage of Rutgers athletics, go to ScarletNation.com

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