Rutgers ready for stopover in AAC

Connecticut Huskies defensive tackle Kendall Reyes (99) wraps up Rutgers Scarlet Knights running back Joe Martinek (38) during a game in 2010. Credit: Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2010; Piscataway, NJ, USA;  Connecticut Huskies defensive tackle Kendall Reyes (99) wraps up Rutgers Scarlet Knights running back Joe Martinek (38) during the first half at Rutgers Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2010; Piscataway, NJ, USA; Connecticut Huskies defensive tackle Kendall Reyes (99) wraps up Rutgers Scarlet Knights running back Joe Martinek (38) during the first half at Rutgers Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O’Connor-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a year of transition at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights will spend 2013 in the American Athletic Conference before departing next fall for the Big Ten and coach Kyle Flood and his troops would like to make a memorable exit.

Last year Rutgers finished 9-4 and grabbed a share of the Big East title, but there were some stumbles in the stretch; the Scarlet Knights started out 7-0 before going just 2-4 the rest of the way. They lost their last three starts including the Russell Athletic Bowl to Virginia Tech.

Rutgers will spend one year in the new AAC before leaving for a big payday in the Big Ten.
Rutgers will spend one year in the new AAC before leaving for a big payday in the Big Ten.

“2012 was a great year for our program,” Flood says. “It gave us an opportunity to do something that we had never done in the history of our program, and win a share of a conference title. But there were some things left on the table that we’re anxious to compete for again.”

Flood has an experienced quarterback at his disposal. Junior Gary Nova started every game in 2012, throwing for 2,695 yards and 22 touchdowns while hitting on 57 percent of his throws.

“I think anytime your quarterback starts an entire season and has an opportunity not to just go through the winter program or spring practice, or your summer program, but all of those things in a calendar year, on the back end of that he has a chance to come out of it a significantly higher level player,” Flood said. “I think Gary has taken advantage of all those things. He’s as anxious as are to see him out on the field and see him perform.”

Junior wideout Brandon Coleman also returns after catching 43 balls for 718 yards and 10 scores in 2012.

“A guy like Brandon Coleman who some of you got an opportunity to meet today. As a wide receiver, [Coleman] is somebody who I think will be one of the premier players but not just in our conference but in the nation,” Flood said.”

There is some work to do on defense where the Scarlet Knights lost linebacker Khaseem Greene, a two-time Big East Player of the Year. It won’t take Flood long to find out just what he has on that side of the ball; Rutgers opens up on the road August 29th against Fresno State, one of the top offensive teams in the country, and the Bulldogs’ quarterback Derek Carr. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

“We’re going to go on the road on a Thursday night at an extremely hostile environment,” Flood says, “I have not ever coached in that stadium, but I’ve heard a number of things about it, against one of the premier players, their quarterback ‑‑ and they’ve got a very talented wide receiver group. “It’s going to be a great challenge for us as a football program to prepare… for that game. And I think that game will give us a very good benchmark of where we’re at and where we need to go for the rest of the season.”

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