The Scarlet Knights of Rutgers, coming off a transition year on offense that resulted in a 4-8 record (1-6 Big East), head right smack into another transition year. The defense returns only five starters from last season, and some of those five will be seeing time at new positions. On the other side of the ball, the offense returns 10 starters, but they’re a young group who must adapt to new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti and his pro-style offense.
Players to watch for (Offense):
MARK HARRISON (WR): Harrison, a junior coming off a breakout 9-TD, 18.8 YPC season, leads a talented receiver corps that is easily the deepest unit on the team. Look for a lot of balls to go in the Biletnikoff watch-lister’s direction as the passing game looks to make up for an inexperienced defense.
JEREMY DEERING (RB): After a freshman season at wide receiver in which most of his action came as a Wildcat QB, Deering transitions to the backfield, where he looks to be the primary option. Orange fans may remember the career day he posted in last year’s game, when he rushed 29 times for 166 yards and a score.
Players to watch for (Defense):
SCOTT VALONE (DT): Valone is the only returning starter on the defensive line. A solid run-stuffer with 44 tackles and 6.5 tackles-for-loss last season. His move to nose tackle this year should play to his strengths and help the defense around him.
STEVE BEAUHARNAIS (LB): The Knights’ leading returning tackler with 78 in 2010, Beauharnais will be shifting from middle to strong-side linebacker in 2011. Look for him to be more active in what was a fairly anemic pass rush last season.
Fearless Prediction: Last year’s 13-10 Syracuse victory was a defensive struggle, and given the inexperience of both teams’ units this year, we shouldn’t expect the same. The Orange has the advantage of more experience in their offense, and with Rutgers playing only their second road game, look for Syracuse to come out on top in the turnover battle, and in a high-scoring game.