“[W]e feel that we have the people in the program right now and the time is right not only to win bowl championships but Big East championships and BCS championships.”—Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood [as quoted by Keith Sargeant on APP.com]
If those words—spoken by Kyle Flood at this year's Big East media day—caused the blood of Rutgers' fans to run cold, there may be good reason. Eerily, they are almost identical to the bold declaration of Flood's predecessor, Greg Schiano, when he was hired as head coach a dozen years ago.
"We are going to win championships at Rutgers," Schiano had said when taking over the team in 2000. "And we are going to do it the right way."
All the speculation, the planning and the preparation is now over, and all the questions about the final order of the depth chart have now been answered. With the 2012 season opener at Tulane upon them, Kyle Flood and the Scarlet Knights can now take the first legitimate step to fulfilling all their lofty preseason goals and moving towards their first-ever Big East title.
To his credit, the players appear to have bought into Flood's enthusiasm.
"This year I'm going to fill the shoes that Mohamed Sanu left," said senior wide receiver Tim Wright during fall camp [as reported by The Star-Ledger's Tom Luicci on NJ.com]. I'm going to be a big-time athlete. No more role player.''
Throwing those passes to the receivers to begin the season will be sophomore quarterback Gary Nova, who was named the starter on August 20. According to Flood, Nova was just slightly better through camp.
"We are fortunate to have two talented quarterbacks who have won big games for us," declared Flood as he named his starter. "This has been an excellent competition but Gary's body of work ultimately earned him the job."
Questionable, however, will be if any of Nova's passes are thrown the way of Paul Carrezola, whose lower body injury has made the starting tight end questionable for Saturday's game.
Other injuries which may limit the on-field time of players include those to FB Mike Burton and OL Devon Watkis. Third-string RB Paul James will miss Saturday's game due to a high ankle sprain [which was revealed by Coach Flood during his August 27 press conference via BoxScoreNews.com].
Defensive players questionable for the season opener include DL Issac Holmes, LB Jamal Merrell, DL Daryl Stephenson, DB Wayne Warren and DB Lorenzo Waters. Flood also revealed during his press conference [as reported by BoxScoreNews.com] that DL Kenny Kirksey and LB Quanzell Lambert will miss Saturday's game and will be "week to week as we go forward."
Tulane, which has won the last two contests against Rutgers, will unleash several talented offensive players against the Scarlet Knights, including receivers Justyn Shackleford (31 receptions), Wilson Van Hooser (36 receptions), running back Orleans Darkwa (924 yards and 13 touchdowns) and quarterback Ryan Griffin (2,502 yards passing with 13 touchdowns).
"I think they've got weapons in the air," noted Flood in his press conference [via BoxScoreNews.com]. "They've got a weapon at tailback, and they've got a head football coach who was part of one of the more prolific offenses in NFL history, so he'll know how to use those weapons."
The Green Wave returns 16 starters this season, but one important addition to Tulane's offense this year is the return of receiver Ryan Grant, who missed almost all of 2011 with a sports hernia injury.
Rutgers' defense, which ranked 14th nationally last season, will also be without defensive lineman Michael Larrow, who was suspended for four games due to his violation of team rules following an arrest in late July.
“You can tell everyone knows it’s game time now,” said senior safety Duron Harmon [reported by Tom Luicci of The Star-Ledger on NJ.com], as the team turned its attention to Tulane. "[W]hen you start game-planning for another team like we started doing it really hits you that the season is here.”
Rutgers leads the all-time series against Tulane with a 3-2 advantage. The Scarlet Knights are 72-61-9 in season openers.
Game Time: 8:03pm (EDT) 7:03pm local time (CDT); television broadcast on CBS Sports Network.