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Monday, October 21, 2013

Knowledge in new system keys Tyler Kroft, Rutgers' mutually beneficial relationship

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

Rutgers' Tyler Kroft has 13 receptions for 215 yards and three touchdowns in the Scarlet Knights' last three games. For context, those numbers are nearly better than any equivalent stat by a Rutgers tight end in the last four seasons.

Only one — D.C. Jefferson's 20 catches a year ago — are an upgrade over Kroft's three-game span.

Kroft, a sophomore, credits an improved understanding of offensive scheme in his development.

"Seeing how each part works with each other. If I run my route at the right depth, how it'll open up Leonte (Carroo) on a seam or it'll open up one of the other players," Kroft said Monday at the team's Hale Center facility. "If they run their route, it'll open up me underneath. There's a lot of give and take."

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Here's an example (the first play from scrimmage Sept. 21 against Arkansas): 

— Kroft lines up along the near hash on a play-action pass. Two receivers — Quron Pratt in the slot and Carroo on the outside — line up on the far side of the field.
Gary Nova will roll out that way to allow the play to develop.
Arkansas, meanwhile, has nine players in the box. 

— Arkansas bites Nova's run fake.
Pratt runs an out route while Kroft streaks across the field as a middle target.
Running back Paul James serves as a check-down receiver in case Nova can't get to one of his primary reads.
That won't be necessary on this one.

— Kroft is Nova's second read, after Pratt. Carroo's fly route opens up room underneath for Kroft because he occupied the deep portion of the field. 
Kroft picks up about 20 yards after the catch.

"It all started with (offensive coordinator Ron) Prince," Nova said Monday. "I think that's how his offense was run. I think we have guys that we can use in mismatches with linebackers. I think coach Prince is doing a good job of getting those guys involved. Like I said, their confidence is building every game, and it's showing."

The past four seasons featured Jefferson's incremental development at tight end after arriving as a quarterback. Fifth-year senior Paul Carrezola fits more of Rutgers' traditional mold of a block-first tight end.

Kroft, meanwhile, had played exclusively as a detached tight end at Downingtown East (Pa.) High School and figures prominently as a receiving target.

More on Kroft from Kyle Flood's American conference call Oct. 14 (from 1:45 to 3:40):

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