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Monday, July 22, 2013

TOP 20: Proving it in Piscataway (No. 7)

Head coach Kyle Flood entered his first offensive coordinator search without regard for a conventional gameplan. He wanted to center it around playmakers, and Miles Shuler is one of them. (AP Photo)

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: Tyler_Barto

Less than three weeks remain until the start of Rutgers training camp. This top-20 countdown will run infrequently, documenting who's got the most to prove in 2013.

No. 7 — junior wide receiver Miles Shuler (5-foot-10, 175 pounds)

Why Shuler's on the list: Shuler's presence here is less about a wideout-heavy past in Piscataway and more about his potential impact in 2013.

Sure, people outside the program had lofty expectations for the former four-star recruit, but the high school quarterback faced a daunting task at a position with reps at a premium.

That isn't the case in Year 3. 

(Courtesy of
Shuler emerged as an option late last season, and a 25-yard run against Virginia Tech in the Russell Athletic Bowl served as a point of optimism. As a shifty slot, run-pass option, Shuler is the type of playmaker head coach Kyle Flood hinted at building around.

But reservation remains. Shuler will work with his third position coach in as many seasons. Despite the lack of front-end experience, depth at wideout lingers. 

Coordinator Ron Prince's offense should center around junior Gary Nova making quick decisions. That process — new reads, pass-game philosophy, personnel — will take time.

During training camp, keep an eye on: How Prince schemes to get Shuler the ball.

Rutgers tried to find creative ways to do so in Shuler's first two seasons, mostly on the ground, which was the easiest given Shuler's inexperience at wide receiver.

While that philosophy won't change, Shuler's usage might. Reading between the lines, Shuler could be a reliable underneath receiver, with a high percentage of looks near the line of scrimmage.

It had always been difficult to get looks for Shuler since he was a niche player with lower receiver IQ. Should he earn more snaps, don't be surprised if he's employed on bubble screens or quick double moves designed to get him in space near the line.

2013 season outlook: Shuler makes modest gains in looks, but a numbers game at the position could prevent him from becoming more than a larger role player.

Prince schemes for several run-pass combinations for the versatile slot option, a centerpiece of Prince's quick-read offense. Given a number of certainties — Brandon Coleman's presence, revamped run game, Prince's tight end penchant — Shuler will have to earn his production.

More from the countdown: No. 6 — Tejay Johnson
No. 8 — Kyle Federico 

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