Rutgers

Rutgers to name starting QB… at halftime?

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By default we already know who the starting quarterback will be for Rutgers in the season opener against Norfolk State. Hayden Rettig has already been reported to be the starting quarterback for the Scarlet Knights in the first game of the season while Chris Laviano sits out the first half of the game. Laviano was suspended by the program for a violation of team rules in late August, but he — along with wide receiver Leonte Carroo — will be eligible to return to the game in the second half.

This is when Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood is expected to announce his quarterback decision for the 2015 season.

“Hayden Rettig is the starting quarterback,” Flood said, according to NJ.com. “We’re going to evaluate the first half and we’ll make a decision at halftime as to how we’re going to proceed.”

Rettig and Laviano had been competing for the starting job as Rutgers looks to replace Gary Nova. There had been no real separation in the competition out of the spring and over the course of the summer, and it would seem the first-half suspension has not put much jeopardy in Laviano’s chances to claim the starting job. Opening against an FCS program is always a good opportunity to play multiple quarterbacks if there is still a question to be answered at the position, and Rutgers has some time to work through the situation before entering Big Ten play.

It might be good for Flood if he can get it figured out a little bit earlier though as Washington State is scheduled to pay a visit in Week 2. The Cougars are known to move the ball through the air with Mike Leach at the helm, and Washington State is looking to avenge last season’s wild season-opening loss at home to Rutgers. Rutgers visits Penn State in Week 3 to open the Big Ten schedule.

Rutgers suspends QB Laviano and WR Carroo and 3 others for first half of opener

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You have to love half-game suspensions against FCS opponents. That is what Rutgers has handed to quarterback Chris Laviano and star wide receiver Leonte Carroo. Laviano and Carroo will each serve a half-game suspension when Rutgers takes the field next week in the season opener against Norfolk State. Both will be eligible to return in the second half, and Rutgers hopes to avoid needing either to have an impact in the second half when they do. A curfew violation reportedly is what led to the mild suspensions.

In addition to the suspensions of Laviano and Carroo, linebacker Kevin Marquez, punter Tim Gleeson and cornerback Ruhann Peele will also serve half-game suspensions.

The loss of Carroo is the most notable, as he is one of the best wide receivers in the Big Ten. He believes he is the best. Fortunately, the half-game suspension will be served against the weakest opponent on the schedule for Rutgers, so the impact of his loss will be minimal given the circumstances.

With Laviano now out of the quarterback mix at Rutgers, for a half at least, Joe Schad of EPSN.com reports Hayden Rettig will assume command of the offense. The two had been competing for the right to replace Gary Nova. Rettig is a transfer from LSU who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.

In the meantime, Rutgers could have other problems on its hands with head coach Kyle Flood reportedly under investigation for allegedly contacting an academic instructor directly using his personal email account.

Illinois defensive end packs his bags and leaves Illini

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It may not have a tremendous impact on this upcoming season for the Illinois Fighting Illini, but losing depth on the defensive line is never a good thing. Such is the case for the Illini this week as Paul James III has packed up his things and left the program and university. The exact reason for the sudden departure is unknown at this point in time, but what we do know is this is not good news for head coach Tim Beckman and the hot seat he sits upon.

As noted by The Champaign Room, the loss of James means Illinois has no projected starter at defensive end in 2016, unless you count an incoming freshman in the Illini Class of 2016. Right now the Illini have a two-star prospect in Joshua Black heading their way, but that is hardly enough to fill the void of talent.

James was a three-star recruit in the Illini Class of 2013 out of Miami, Florida. According to his Rivals ranking, he was the 20th-best strong side defensive end in the country and it was likely he would be filling a starting job in 2016, if not sooner. Not only will his loss have a negative impact on the 2016 defensive line, but it also cuts into the depth on the roster this season, and there was not much depth to begin with.

Rutgers wide receiver Leonte Carroo says he’s the best in the Big Ten

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This season the Big Ten will have some pretty talented wide receivers, but none will be better than Leonte Carroo of Rutgers. At least, that’s what he says.

“I’m the best receiver in the Big Ten,” Carroo said at Big Ten media day, per Asbury Park Press. “I say that confidently. I say that proudly.”

Carroo has every reason to talk a big game. Last season Carroo was named to the Big Ten’s First Team offense by the voting media. Carroo finished second in the Big Ten with 1,086 receiving yards and third in the conference with 10 touchdown receptions. One of the two players with more touchdown catches in the Big Ten was Ohio State’s Devin Smith, who had the benefit of playing in 15 games during Ohio State’s postseason run to record his 12 touchdowns. Michigan State’s Tony Lippett had 11 touchdown catches last season. Both Smith and Lippett were seniors, making Carroo the Big Ten’s leading receiver back in 2015 in the touchdown department. Carroo was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list this preseason.

Carroo contemplated leaving Rutgers after last season to enter the NFL Draft, but he returns to the Scarlet Knights with no regret on his decision.

“I was sitting there and I was stuck on the TV knowing I could’ve been in the draft,” Carroo said. “Receiver after receiver after receiver was getting drafted and I was just like, ‘I wonder where I would’ve fell in this draft.’ It didn’t make me think I should’ve went. It just motivated me to be hungry to get there next year.”

Opposing Big Ten defenses will have their hands full trying to contain the 6′-1″ wide receiver from Rutgers, but he is just one of three starters returning to the Rutgers offense this season. There should be times when he Carroo will have to carry the offense early on as everything settles into place for the program.

Two glaring omissions headline Biletnikoff watch list

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It’s not often that who’s not on what’s essentially a meaningless preseason watch list is the main storyline, but that’s the case when it comes to the Biletnikoff Award this year.

First, who is on the watch list for the award handed out annually to the nation’s top wide receivers: a total of 48 players at the position, which is actually a rather subdued number compared to other watch lists that come out this time of the year.

Headlining the four dozen receivers actually listed is Colorado State’s Rashard Higgins, who was a finalist for last year’s award that went to Alabama’s Amari Cooper.  Joining Higgins are 2014 semifinalists Sterling Shepard of Oklahoma and Nelson Spruce of Colorado.

Now, the players who was inexplicably excluded from the initial watch list? Auburn’s D’haquille Williams, first and foremost. The senior wideout was already named to the Maxwell Award watch list earlier this month. He’s considered by many to be the best receiver in the SEC — Mel Kiper has Williams as his No. 1 player at that position — yet four receivers from that conference are included.  The only receiver on the Biletnikoff watch list to also make Maxwell’s is South Carolina’s Pharoh Cooper.

Williams missed three of the last four games last season because of an injury, yet still totaled 45 receptions for 730 yards and five touchdowns. Kiper may have him a bit overrated on his Big Board, but Williams certainly deserves one of the 48 spots allotted — or the award should at least make room for a 49th.  Or a 49th and 50th.

That said, Williams can, and probably will, be added to an in-season update from the folks at the Biletnikoff.  The same could be said for Player. No. 2: Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell.

Despite missing the last four games of the year because of a gruesome leg injury, Williams still led the Rebels in receptions with 48 and was second in yardage with 632.  Like Williams, Treadwell made the cut for the Maxwell, which is awarded annually to the best player in college football regardless of position.

Anyway, below is the complete Biletnikoff Award preseason watch list.

Victor Bolden, Oregon State
Devonte Boyd, UNLV
Daniel Braverman, Western Michigan
Ryan Burbrink, Bowling Green
KD Cannon, Baylor
Leonte Carroo, Rutgers
Rashon Ceaser, ULM
Corey Coleman, Baylor
Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
River Cracraft, Washington State
Jared Dangerfield, Western Kentucky
Corey Davis, Western Michigan
Josh Doctson, TCU
Travin Dural, LSU
Alex Erickson, Wisconsin
William Fuller, Notre Dame
Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State
Donovan Harden, Georgia State
Carlos Harris, North Texas
Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
Ajalen Holley, ULM
Cayleb Jones, Arizona
Corey Jones, Toledo
Isaiah Jones, East Carolina
Marcus Kemp, Hawaii
Roger Lewis, Bowling Green
Keevan Lucas, Tulsa
Byron Marshall, Oregon
Mitch Mathews, BYU
Teldrick Morgan, New Mexico State
Jordan Payton, UCLA
Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
Jalen Robinette, Air Force
Demarcus Robinson, Florida
Alonzo Russell, Toledo
Artavis Scott, Clemson
Hunter Sharp, Utah State
Tajae Sharpe, Massachusetts
Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
Thomas Sperbeck, Boise State
Nelson Spruce, Colorado
Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky
Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
Michael Thomas, Ohio State
Shaq Washington, Cincinnati
Mike Williams, Clemson
Ron Willoughby, Buffalo