After a 9-4 record in the Big East last season, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights figure to have some work to do on the defensive side of the football after losing Steve Beauharnais and Khaseem Greene for the 2013 season.
Fans will get their first real look at the Rutgers squad on Saturday, when the Scarlet Knights host their 2013 spring game.
The fate of Rutgers' season will rest squarely on the right shoulder of junior quarterback Gary Nova.
Does Nova have what it takes to lead Rutgers into the Big Ten?
Here's your preview for the Scarlet Knights' 2013 spring game.
When: Saturday, Apr. 27 at 3 p.m. ET
Where: High Point Solutions Stadium, New Brunswick, NJ
Offensive Player to Watch: QB Gary Nova
The biggest issue for the Rutgers offense is its quarterback, who submitted a less-than-favorable season in 2012.
Nova completed just 57 percent of his passes and threw 22 touchdowns to 16 interceptions for a total of 2,695 yards. Losses against Louisville for the Big East championship and Virginia Tech in the Russell Athletic Bowl proved Nova's inability to get the job done for Rutgers.
In each of those losses, Nova completed less than 47 percent of his passes and threw at least one interception, highlighted by two picks against the Cardinals in the final regular-season game.
As you can see from the video above, Nova still has a lot to work on, including touch passes to his running backs in the backfield.
Nova and the Scarlet Knights will get eaten alive in the Big Ten if the junior quarterback doesn't improve his accuracy and decision-making in 2013.
Defensive Player to Watch: LB Jamal Merrell
With the departures of Beauharnais and Greene, senior linebacker Jamal Merrell will be looked to as the defensive leader for the Scarlet Knights in 2013, as he told ESPN's Andrea Adelson:
I feel like the torch has been passed to me...It’s a big role, but I’ve been here a long time, I’ve been through adversity. I’m the one player on defense with the most starts, so I’ve got the time under my belt. As far as leading the young guys, I’ve been showing them what it takes to get on the field.
Merrell was a tackling machine in 2012, racking up 83 total tackles, highlighted by three double-digit tackle games. He was especially brilliant against Arkansas on Sept. 22, recording 10 tackles in a 35-26 win for the Scarlet Knights.
With a decent defensive recruiting class coming in—including MLB Justin Nelson and CB Saquan Hampton—Merrill looks to be the leader of the Rutgers defense entering the 2013 campaign.
The Scarlet Knights will open their season on the road at Fresno State on Aug. 29.
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