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MnB Opponent Q's: Rutgers Edition

Michigan's loss to Rutgers last season proved The Scarlet Knights can compete in the Big Ten. Can they avoid the sophomore slump without a proven quarterback?

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The most exciting thing I've seen out of Rutgers lately was Carli Lloyd's world cup hat trick, so get me excited about Rutgers football. What is this coaching staff excited for in 2015?

The success the team had last year in its first year in the B1G gives them confidence and momentum going into 2015. Rutgers is loaded at the skill positions, led by running back Paul James, who missed most of last season with an injury, and wide receiver Leonte Carroo, who is arguably the top receiver in the B1G. And although quarterback Gary Nova graduated, sophomores Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig both look like worthy replacements.

You've got a post up looking back on year one in the B1G for Rutgers. 7-5 including a bowl win and a win over Michigan. How do they improve this year?

For Rutgers to improve, the defense will have to be better and a talented, disruptive defensive line is a great place to start. Defensive tackle Darius Hamilton was recently named to the Outland Trophy Watch List and defensive end Kemoko Turay, who blocked the potential game-winning field goal vs. Michigan last year, will look to build on his team-high 7.5 sacks from a year ago. The biggest question mark is the secondary. Quarterback play, whether it's Laviano, Rettig or both, will also be key to RU's success in 2015. With the talent at running back and receiver, the quarterback may end up just needing to be a game manager.

Which thing out of all that good fortune last year was your personal favorite?

Our staff put together a compilation of all of our favorite moments in Rutgers' first year in the B1G and most of them were football. I talked about the bowl win over North Carolina and how it was the perfect ending to the season and may have been the best all-around game RU played all year. But, the win over Michigan was certainly the greatest highlight.

Coach Flood was on a not-quite-scalding seat not too long ago (even according to you guys) but it appears the jump to the B1G has bolstered his recruiting and motivational prowess, agree?

The move to the B1G and the success in year one has Flood in a safe position for now. If Rutgers had struggled in 2014, like most people thought they would, then Flood may be in a bit of hot water. However, Flood and the Scarlet Knights defied all expectations and the success has certainly paid dividends. Flood and the staff have done a great job of retaining talent in NJ and the surrounding area, while also grabbing some talent from across the country.

Did any guys explode out of the spring game to get some buzz for becoming a starter in the fall? Anybody regress to make you worry?

As far as the quarterback position goes, Chris Laviano had the better day, completing 8-of-10 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Both of those scores were to 6-6 receiver Carlton Agudosi, who had another fine spring for the second year in a row. Last year, Agudosi's spring success didn't translate to the fall, but with year's deep threat Andrew Turzilli now in the NFL, the opportunity is there for Agudosi to blossom into a dangerous receiver. Also, the offensive line was hit hard by graduation, but right tackle J.J. Denman had a great spring, giving Rutgers two stalwarts at the tackle position with him and left tackle Keith Lumpkin.

How does Rutgers view Jim Harbaugh being in the Big Ten and adjust to that presence without even seeing him coach a game yet?

Harbaugh to Michigan poses a big threat to the other B1G schools, especially after seeing the immediate success Urban Meyer had at Ohio State both on-the-field and in recruiting. Harbaugh has already shown he's a great recruiter, at Stanford and already at Michigan. The only thing keeping Harbaugh from long-term success at Michigan is his intense style of coaching, which appeared to rub some players the wrong way with the 49ers.

Beer question: what Jersey brew is getting you through the long summer to make it to the opening of the season?

I just spent a year in Dallas for an internship, and there is no Yuengling in Texas. So, I've certainly had a few of those since my return to NJ.

Many thanks, Tim!