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Friday, January 2, 2015

Five burning questions for Rutgers football's Big Ten encore

By Tyler Barto

While Rutgers' dominant Quick Lane Bowl victory Dec. 26 offered a proper sendoff to the Scarlet Knights' first season in the Big Ten, their coaching staff is already looking forward to 2015 — even if their players have a few weeks off.

With that in mind, here are five burning questions for Rutgers' offense entering the spring:

5. How will Leonte Carroo's usage change?

Before announcing he would return to school for his final season, Rutgers' star receiver thought fondly of Mohamed Sanu's role in 2011, when he was positioned all over the field.

With a broken-in quarterback taking the reins, could offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen find unique ways to get the ball in Carroo's hands?
The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder has yet to record a rush and often lined up at the X position in Rutgers' offense. Putting Carroo in the slot and finding new ways to use him could enhance his pro value.

RELATED: Position-by-position breakdown of Rutgers' returners

4. Who will replace departed tight end Tyler Kroft?

Five eligible players — three redshirted — could succeed Kroft, who announced he will enter the NFL Draft last week, combined for two receptions for 17 yards this season.

The most likely replacement, Nick Arcidiacono missed the first four games of the season and has yet to prove he's a competent receiving threat. Two walk-ons and two redshirt freshmen follow.

Though Rutgers' pass targets are based on progressions and reads, head coach Kyle Flood says, the tight end wasn't featured much under Friedgen. Will that change in year two?

3. How will Rutgers string together the interior of its offensive line?

Three departing seniors take 113 combined starts with them, and little proven quality rests behind them, Flood lamented in his postseason teleconference.

"That one is one we're still going to be maybe a year away from feeling comfortable with the amount of depth we have," Flood said.

Right guard Chris Muller could shift to center, as was a contingency plan this season, while backups Derrick Nelson and Dorian Miller and a handful of redshirt freshmen could campaign for playing time.

2. What will become of Rutgers' deepest group of running backs in years?

Not much, judging from Flood's postseason comments. Flood saw Paul James suffer a significant injury for the second year in a row before four others lobbied for playing time.

Flood will likely keep the position intact and let the group naturally erode.

Sophomores-to-be Josh Hicks and Robert Martin proved capable of every-down-back status, while Desmon Peoples showed promise in bursts. Justin Goodwin's playing time waned late.

1. Who will get the nod to replace longtime starter Gary Nova at quarterback?

On the surface it looks like a two-man race between Chris Laviano, whom Flood pointed to early given his backup status, and LSU transfer Hayden Rettig.

The latter has worked minimally in Rutgers' pro-style system, which will be his top priority in the offseason. Nova said he has one of the strongest arms he's seen.

Given Flood's history with quarterback competitions, this one should stretch into summer.

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