Less than a year ago, it sure looked like Tom Savage was destined for greatness at Rutgers, and that he would take the Scarlet Knights to new heights.
But after everything went wrong for Savage and the team in 2010, the sophomore quarterback's era has ended unceremoniously. The school announced Saturday that Savage will transfer.
Savage was once seen as perhaps the most important recruit in program history, an All-American prep quarterback who served as a pied piper for other high school stars to follow him to Piscataway. As a true freshman, he took over the reins of the offense in the 2009 season opener against Cincinnati and wound up starting 10 games. He threw for 2,211 yards and 14 touchdowns and had an excellent bowl performance. Big things were expected this year.
But Savage struggled early, got hurt and eventually was replaced in the fourth game by true freshman Chas Dodd. Savage played in only six games in 2010, completed only 51.8 percent of his passes and had just two touchdown throws with three interceptions. Stuck behind an awful offensive line that gave up a nation's-worst 61 sacks, he looked gun-shy and had trouble keeping his eyes upfield. Dodd, a smaller, more mobile quarterback, found some success because he could run away from trouble, though the Rutgers offense never really got on track.
Savage, at 6-foot-4, seemed tailor-made for Greg Schiano's pro-style attack. But the Scarlet Knights tried implementing some spread principles to poor results, and the quarterbacks were constantly shuffled off the field for the Wildcat formation. There was little doubt that Savage was highly frustrated by that turn of events.
But Rutgers just hired former Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti as part of Schiano's desire to get back to a true pro-style offense. On Friday, Schiano said that Cignetti's offense would perfectly suit Savage's skills.
But Savage has apparently had enough, and now it will be interesting to see where he lands. Rutgers said he had been granted a "conditional" release, which likely means he will not be allowed to transfer to any team on the Scarlet Knights schedule. Does he go to an FCS school where he can play right away, or does he move to an FBS team where he'll have to sit out a year before suiting up?
Freshman running back Casey Turner has also transferred. Turner redshirted this year after suffering a groin injury, while fellow freshman Jordan Thomas established himself as the possible tailback of the future. He will head to Florida A&M.
Turner's loss has far less of an impact than Savage's departure. Dodd now will go into 2011 as the surefire starter and will have to continue to improve. Though Dodd showed much promise as a freshman, Savage's case illustrates how quickly things can change for both a player and a program.