By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 5, 2014) – There was just enough give-and-take, just enough big plays on both sides of the line, to leave Rutgers coach Kyle Flood – pre-film review, of course – feeling satisfied today with what he saw from his team’s first half-scrimmage of preseason camp.
Under a blazing sun, and with temperatures on the field turf hitting 99 degrees, Flood saw initial dominance by the defense and a 99-yard drive by the starting offense to finish off the half-scrimmage – the Scarlet Knights’ first day of full pads and hitting.
“I thought it was a very productive day for the program. It was good,” he said. “(There was) a lot of back and forth in that half-scrimmage. I thought the defense dominated early. The offense was able to put a couple of drives together, a 99-yard drive to finish practice that I thought was excellent by the first-team offense.”
From a defensive standpoint, middle linebacker Kevin Snyder called it a solid start for a long summer grind leading up to the Aug. 28 opener against Washington State in Seattle.
“I thought we did some things well,” Snyder said. “Obviously, there are some things we need to work on. A couple of runs got out here and there, a couple of run fits that we can tighten up. What we saw today was toughness and that’s what you want, especially from a front seven. We’ll go back and look at it. But I think we played hard.”
Quarterback Gary Nova, the presumptive starter at the position, said he thought the offense responded well late to the control the defense asserted early – no small thing considering the hot conditions.
“I think we started out a little flat,” he said of the offense. “We made some mistakes we shouldn’t be making but I think we picked it up at the end. The defense did a great job. They came out with a lot of energy, put the pressure on us and we responded well at the end with that drive.”
And the return to live hitting was embraced by everyone.
“They were eager to play real football,” Flood said. “The guys on offense and defense, they both like it because any time you’re not tackling there’s always that gray area of `would he have gotten the first down? Would he have not gotten the first down?’ It removes all of the gray area from all of the locker room conversation after practice.”
INJURY UPDATE: Wide receiver Ruhann Peele “is going to be out indefinitely,” Flood said.
“It’s an upper body injury,” he added. “It’s going to take some time. He’s doubtful for the first game. Anything after that we’ll update you as we go.”
Flood said he expects running back Desmon Peoples (lower body) to return in the next day or two and cornerback Anthony Cioffi (undisclosed injury) back on Monday.
Sophomore running back Justin Goodwin had another solid day of practice, with the 6-0, 200-pounder appearing as quick as he was last year when he was 20 pounds lighter.
“I’m very pleased with the camp Justin is having,” Flood said. “I think it’s just decisiveness. Another year in the offense, another year in the system, although it’s a new coordinator and it’s not exactly the same, the concepts are the same. I think you can see that. He’s a little bigger. He’s a little stronger. Is he faster? I don’t know. He was pretty fast last year.
“One of the interesting things today was the young running backs (true freshmen Josh Hicks and Robert Martin have both been getting reps) got exposed a little bit. The holes open and close a lot quicker at this level than they do in high school and a little bit of that dancing in the hole today caught up with some of those freshmen. Then you see Justin Goodwin and Paul James go in there and that one step burst through the line of scrimmage is what makes those runs go. It was clear who the upperclassmen were and who the freshmen were in the backfield today.”
An official announcement on the starting quarterback could be made shortly, although there doesn’t appear to be much suspense about it since Nova – the only player with experience at the position -- has had a good start to camp.
“I think we’re at the point where we have to have the conversation,” Flood said. “Now that we’ve got five practices in, (offensive coordinator) Ralph (Friedgen) and I will sit down and we’ll talk about today and see how that went.
“I think it’s always a little bit different when they don’t know what’s coming and Ralph is calling the plays off the sideline and they’ve got to go through the signals and the mechanics. I think we’ve got a nice little body of work right now and we’ll see how far we can get to making some decisions.”