More big plays in Piscataway?

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers won nine games in 2009, but you can credit a lot of that to the defense and a manageable schedule.

For the Scarlet Knights to take a step forward this year, the offense is going to have to find more playmakers.

"We need to be more explosive," head coach Greg Schiano said. "I don't think we were very good on offense last year."

Rutgers averaged 28.8 points per game, but many of its big scoring days came against the likes of Howard, Texas Southern and Central Florida. The Scarlet Knights ranked last in the Big East in total offense at 326.3 yards per game, and they were seventh in the league in passing and sixth in rushing. They averaged a pedestrian 22.7 points per game in league play.

The good news is, this offense looks like it can get a lot better. And that's mostly because of the receiving group.

Last spring, the receivers as a whole performed well under expectations. Other than Tim Brown, Schiano had no one he felt he could rely on. That's why Mohamed Sanu was switched from safety to wideout late in the spring, a move that paid great dividends.

It's a different story this spring. Sanu is now the veteran, but there are plenty of candidates to join him in catching passes from quarterback Tom Savage.

Mark Harrison, who showed flashes of his potential last season as a freshman, is healthy and having a big spring. At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, he definitely passes the eyeball test.

"I saw a shot of him walking off the field the other day, and he looked like T.O. [Terrell Owens]," Schiano said. "He's jacked up. I'm not ready to say he's that kind of player, but he looks that way.

"The thing I'm most impressed with Mark is, he's working at a whole different level now than he was last fall. The technical things he struggled with last year, but he just worked at it until he started to get better."

Tim Wright has opened eyes during spring camp, and at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, he's another tall target. Redshirt freshman Quron Pratt gives the Scarlet Knights a burner in the slot position.

And don't forget D.C. Jefferson, a gifted 6-foot-6, 245-pound sophomore tight end. He learned the position on the fly last summer, and Schiano says Jefferson can be as good as any tight end in the country when he gets his technique down.

"Those guys are all big, physical, strong and they catch everything," Savage said of his receivers. "That's what every quarterback wants out there."

The offense still has a long way to go, as evidenced in Saturday's scrimmage when it failed to score a touchdown. The key will be whether the offensive line comes together and protects Savage, and the running game needs more big plays with Joe Martinek and perhaps an incoming freshman like Jeremy Deering.

But unlike this time a year ago, at least this Scarlet Knights' offense has lots of options and a lot more potential to be explosive in the fall.