Schiano optimistic for future

The 2009 season wasn't always easy for Rutgers. There was the opening blowout loss to Cincinnati, the surprising upset defeat at Syracuse and the inability to beat West Virginia again, among other disappointments.

But what coach Greg Schiano liked was how his team dealt with those problems, including the way it wrapped up a nine-win season with a St. Petersburg Bowl victory over Central Florida.

"We fought back every time things seemed to go against us," he said.

The hope is that things go even smoother next season, but the Scarlet Knights have some significant holes to fill.

They will lose a senior class full of standout players like Devin McCourty, Ryan D'Imperio and George Johnson. Star left tackle Anthony Davis is expected to announce his decision to leave for the NFL at noon on Tuesday. Schiano will be looking for team leaders to emerge and replace them.

He'll also need a new linebackers coach, as Brian Jenkins took the head coaching job at Bethune-Cookman.

But Schiano is happy with the number of players he was able to redshirt this season, including star defensive line recruits Antwan Lowery and Isaac Holmes. He said he thinks the program has depth now to where it can reload, though a priority will be upgrading the talent at running back.

"I think we were steady in the running game, but I don't know how many times we created yardage that wasn't blocked," he said. "We got spoiled around here with Ray [Rice]. I'm not downplaying what our backs did because they ran hard. But I think we need to take the next step there, and part of that is always recruiting."

The offense also needs an upgrade at receiver, especially with its top playmaker, Tim Brown, graduating. Players like Mark Harrison and Keith Stroud got some experience this year but must improve.

"We had some young guys in there who probably weren't quite ready to play," Schiano said. "Now they'll go into spring practice knowing how hard it is to play major college football, and that will help them in their winter work."

Rutgers already has some freshmen who proved their worth this season, none more so than quarterback Tom Savage and receiver/all-purpose threat Mohamed Sanu.

"That's a really good place to start," Schiano said. "I'm definitely excited about the guys who are coming back."