PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Just wrapped up a fun day at Rutgers. I'll have plenty to say about the Scarlet Knights next week, but here are some observations from today's practice:
It was more like a first practice of the spring than an eighth one. The team went in shoulder pads and shorts and had a shorter-than-normal workout with the spring's first full-scale scrimmage planned for Saturday. The Scarlet Knights are hosting a coaches' clinic today, and a couple hundred high school coaches dotted the sidelines to watch. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was scheduled to address the coaches after practice.
Without any real hitting, it was tough to judge too much from today's practice. But the guy who really stood out to me, and who by all accounts is having a terrific spring, is wide receiver Tim Wright. The sophomore caught just about everything thrown his way, especially in the two-minute drill situations at the end of practice. He made a nice adjustment on one deep ball, grabbed a third-down conversion in traffic and later snatched a reception while being double covered.Wright didn't do much last year, but he's 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds and has all the tools. Greg Schiano told me that he's gotten Wright and Mohamed Sanu confused on tape a couple of times since Wright wears No. 5 and Sanu No. 6. And if Wright looks like Sanu on film, that's saying a lot.
The receiving group overall looks encouraging. Mark Harrison is a physical specimen and Quron Pratt is a shifty guy in the slot. One bit of bad news for the group was that freshman Phil Lewis suffered what appeared to be a serious arm injury during the practice. Schiano said Lewis was in a lot of pain.
The defensive line is deep and experienced, and whenever the second D-line went against the No. 2 offensive line, it was a total mismatch. The first string O-line is still being mixed and matched, with former defensive line super recruit Antwan Lowery running with the ones at guard. Desmond Stapleton has had a great spring and could be the starting left tackle or right tackle, depending on how Desmond Wynn plays when he's fully healthy. Depth is an issue, especially with Howard Barbieri out for the rest of spring with a knee injury.
Tom Savage had two passes intercepted during the two-minute drills. The first was a deflection that linebacker Steve Beauharnais grabbed in the end zone. The second was worse, as the offense just needed to get a field goal to win the drill, but Savage floated a throw for Sanu too low and got picked off by Logan Ryan inside the 10. Savage got an earful from Schiano and threw his helmet to the ground on the sidelines. Still, the sophomore quarterback threw some impressive balls during practice. As long as he gets protection from the O-line, he should have a big year. Ryan, by the way, has had a good spring and looks like a potential starter at cornerback.
I always enjoy the different weird things coaches do to simulate game situations. At one point in 7-on-7 drills, managers held brooms up in the air that Savage and Steve Shimko had to pass through. If Rutgers plays a team of witches or chimney sweeps, it should be ready.
The running backs didn't have much to do today, but Schiano told me that Joe Martinek has worked hard on trying to be more elusive instead of running through defenders. Martinek is solid but not spectacular, and he may have to hold off some incoming freshmen as Rutgers seeks a real home run threat at tailback.
The most animated guy on the field is new receivers coach P.J. Fleck. He's a boisterous young coach prone to leaping in the air or bowing, depending on what his players do. They seem to respond well to his energy.
Knee-jerk reaction of questionable merit: This is a very young team, and the offensive line remains a concern. But it's a talented bunch that should be better on offense than last year. Rutgers is probably a year away from serious Big East contention, but if the kids come around quickly, watch out.