Spring Football: One foot out the door, Rutgers prepares for final Big East season

First Practice: March 26
Spring Game: April 27

This time next year, Rutgers will be doing its best to get ready for the transition to the Big Ten.

Since the Scarlet Knights have been a below-average Big East team for years, the move to the much tougher conference could result in some tough times for Kyle Flood’s football program.

Of course, that’s next year and Rutgers has a shot at winning a championship in whatever remains of the Conference Formerly Known as the Big East. There are a few familiar foes on the schedule (Cincinnati, South Florida, Louisville and Connecticut), but there are some strange opponents as well (SMU, Houston, Fresno State, etc.).

Welcome to that transition season.

Stability Factor (1=chaos, 5=rock solid): 2.0

Rutgers was hit hard by graduation and early departures, but Flood also brought in new coordinators as well — one of those is former Kansas State coach Ron Prince on offense.

Maybe the timing was perfect to have two new faces running the offense and defense. With the Knights schedule, which also includes a non-conference game with Arkansas, Rutgers could actually win 10 or 11 games.

Right now, though, there are too many question marks surrounding this program to not think things are a bit shaky in New Brunswick.

Under the Microscope: Running Game

Rutgers averaged 121 yards per game in 2012 and that was with Jawan Jamison leading the attack. He’s bolted for the NFL and now former five-star recruit Savon Huggins is the leading candidate to get the bulk of the carries.

Jamison was a productive back who rushed for 1,075 yards on 255 carries. Huggins chipped in with 410 yards on 119 carries.

Most of the offensive line returns, including All-Big East standouts Kaleb Johnson (tackle) and Antwan Lowery (guard).

Locked and Loaded: Kevin Snyder, LB

Kevin Snyder doesn’t have a highlight reel of accomplishments, but in limited opportunities he has shown flashes of what’s to come.

Playing behind Khaseem Green and Steve Beauharnais, Snyder learned how to play the position and Rutgers is counting on him to step up and do the job.

According to Andrea Adelson at ESPN, Snyder has also put on 15 pounds and is now 237. With his bulked up physique, Snyder has been moved from outside to inside linebacker.

gary-novaJockeying for Position: Quarterbacks

Laugh if you want, but this is the year that Gary Nova becomes a consistent starter and delivers for Rutgers in the clutch.

If he doesn’t then it could be an excruciatingly long season for the Scarlet Knights, or maybe Chas Dodd becomes the go-to guy.

Nova did complete 57 percent of his passes for 2695 yards and 22 touchdowns last season. He also threw 16 interceptions.

Like it or not, the rising junior is entrenched at quarterback.

Name to Know: Nadir Barnwell, DB

Barnwell was a three-year starter at quarterback and defensive back for Piscataway High School and he chose the hometown school over some SEC offers.

He’s one of the best recruits in the Big East, is already on campus and is ready to start playing for the Knights.

He’s considered a lock-down corner who isn’t afraid to make a hit. He should fit in well in the Big Ten in 2014.

Spring Will Be a Success If …: the offense finds an identity

Rutgers ranked a pitiful 104th in the nation in total offense last year, and this is a big reason why the Scarlet Knights lost their final three games and gave away the Big East title.

That’s why Ron Prince is now on board as the offensive coordinator, but he needs to find some consistency at quarterback and get the most out of Savon Huggins running the ball.