Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 135 of 163

134 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY RYAN TICE Consistency has eluded Rutgers under fourth-year head coach Kyle Flood. The team's revolving door at offensive coordi- nator predates the mentor, but the Scarlet Knights have played under six different of- fensive leaders in as many years. On the defensive side, former special teams coordinator Joe Rossi takes the lead role after Dave Cohen was fired. The results have also varied in Pisca- taway, N.J. — after a 9-4 debut under Flood, the team stum- bled to 6-7 in 2013. The squad rebounded to 8-5 last fall, but it can thank a soft non- conference schedule for that. The Scarlet Knights went 3-5 in their first year of Big Ten membership and were outscored by an average of 14 points per league game. The Knights return five starters on each side of the ball, and have some serious award candidates among those 10. Senior wideout Leontee Carroo leads the offense after be- coming a full-time starter for the first time last fall. He finished with 1,086 receiving yards and tied a school record with 10 touch- down catches. The 6-1, 205-pounder has averaged 18.8 yards on his 83 career grabs and has scored 19 touchdowns over the past two seasons. However, former prep teammate and starting quarterback Gary Nova — who started since his freshman year — has finally exhausted his eligibility, so Carroo will have to develop chemistry with a new passer. Redshirt sophomore Chris Laviano served as the backup last year and will compete with classmate and LSU transfer Hayden Rettig for starting duties. All five running backs that received sig- nificant carries last year return. Fifth-year senior Paul James led the nation with six touchdowns in the first two weeks of the sea- son and totaled 374 yards on just 63 carries (5.8-yard average), but suffered a season- ending injury in week four. That led to a pair of true freshmen split- ting time with redshirt junior Desmon Peo- ples, who started four times and played in 10 games but also had his season come to an early close due to injury. Peoples finished with a team-best 447 rushing yards, while junior Justin Goodwin was eventually moved from cornerback, where he started once, to running back. The quartet combined for 2,012 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on the year. None started more than four games or gained more than 450 yards on the ground, although the youngsters had emerged by the end of the year. Sophomore Josh Hicks was named the MVP of the Quick Lane Bowl after rushing for 202 yards and he averaged 6.4 yards per carry on the year, w h i l e c l a s s m a t e Robert Martin led the squad with seven rushing touchdowns. The experience in the backfield should help make up for a line that loses three starters. Carroo is the only returning receiver who posted more than 312 receiving yards last fall, although ju- nior Janarion Grant finished second on the squad with 25 catches. Fellow part- time starter Andre Patton is also back after posting three touchdowns, and provides a big target at 6-4 and 200 pounds. Redshirt junior linebacker Steve Longa, who has totaled 225 tackles with 12 for loss and three forced fumbles in his career, leads the defense, along with second-leading tack- ler Quentin Gause, a fifth-year senior who tallied 127 tackles and 15.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage in the last two years. Redshirt sophomore defensive end Ke- moko Turay burst onto the scene with 7.5 sacks, while last year's defensive MVP, senior tackle Darius Hamilton, paced the squad with 11.5 tackles for loss. Ham- ilton, the heart and soul of the unit, has started 25 games over the past two years and racked up 10.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for loss. The returners among the front seven should help improve last year's run defense, which ranked 106th nationally (212.3 yards allowed per game), but Rutgers might take a step back in aerial defense due to a lack of experience. Junior cornerbacks Nadir Barnwell and Anthony Cioffi combined to start 11 games last year, but are the only returners. Senior kicker Kyle Federico has started and improved every year on campus, while both senior punters who logged attempts last year also return. There are some impressive individuals on the Rutgers' roster, but it is tough seeing the Scarlet Knights improve their league record given the glaring holes. Notes Rutgers leads the nation with 41 blocked kicks since 2009, and a late blocked field goal was the difference against U-M last year … The three quarterbacks on the roster this spring have combined for 28 pass attempts in college. ❑ Up-And-Down Scarlet Knights Aiming To Stay On Right Path GAME 9 • RUTGERS • NOV. 7 2015 SCHEDULE Date Opponent 2014 Result Sept. 5 Norfolk State — Sept. 12 Washington State W, 41-38 Sept. 19 at Penn State L, 13-10 Sept. 26 Kansas — Oct. 10 Michigan State L, 45-3 Oct. 17 at Indiana W, 45-23 Oct. 24 Ohio State L, 56-17 Oct. 31 at Wisconsin L, 37-0 Nov. 7 at Michigan W, 26-24 Nov. 14 Nebraska L, 42-24 Nov. 21 at Army — Nov. 28 Maryland W, 41-38 QUICK FACTS All-Time Series: Rutgers leads 1-0 First Meeting: Rutgers 26, U-M 24 (Oct. 4, 2014, at Piscataway, N.J.) Head Coach: Kyle Flood, 23-16 at Rutgers and overall (4th year) Off./Def. Systems: Pro style/4-3 2014 In Review: 8-5 overall, 3-5 Big Ten (T-4th East) Final 2014 Ranking: Received votes in USA Today coaches Returning Starters: 12 (5 offense, 5 defense, 2 specialists) Last Bowl Appearance: 2014 (Quick Lane, vs. North Carolina, W 40-21) Big Ten Conference Championships (last): 0 (4 in school history, shared Big East in 2012) RETURNING LEADERS Passing: Chris Laviano (107 yards, 1 INT) Rushing: Desmon Peoples (447 yards, 3 TD) Receiving: Leonte Carroo (1,086 yards, 10 TD) Tackles: Steve Longa (102) Sacks: Kemoko Turay (7.5) Interceptions: Anthony Cioffi (2) PLAYERS TO WATCH Offense: Leonte Carroo, Sr., WR — Ranked second in the Big Ten with 1,086 receiving yards … His average of 19.7 yards per catch was the best of any receiver in na- tion with at least 51 receptions … Boasts 19 career touchdown grabs. Defense: Kemoko Turay, R-So., DE — The 6-6, 235-pounder led team and tied for seventh in league with 7.5 sacks … Tied for national lead with three blocked kicks, one of which was a potential go-ahead field goal that sealed win over U-M. Redshirt junior linebacker Steve Longa has totaled 225 tackles, including 12 for loss, and forced three fumbles in his career. PHOTO BY BEN SOLOMON/ RUTGERS ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

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