By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 24, 2014) – A new season means new names and new faces in key roles. That might not have been head coach Kyle Flood’s original plan on offense for Rutgers’ season opener against Washington State on Thursday in Seattle, but it’s the reality of the situation now.
And Flood insists he has no concerns that the young wide receivers and young tight ends that will be called upon to produce will be up to the task.
The Scarlet Knights will be short two key wide receivers due to injuries for the opener, with Flood announcing today after practice that promising sophomore Andre Patton will miss the game. He announced earlier this summer that Ruhann Peele is out indefinitely, starting with the Washington State game.
After Leonte Carroo, one of the Big Ten’s most dangerous wide receivers, Flood will be asking a handful of young players to pick up the slack created by the absences of Peele and Patton.
That group consists of Janarion Grant (three career catches), John Tsimis (four career catches), Carlton Agudosi (five career catches), Vance Matthews, who has never appeared in a game, and fifth-year graduate transfer Andrew Turzilli.
“I think it’s going to be a combination of Agudosi, Turzilli, you’re going to see Tsimis in the game, I think you’ll see Vance Matthews in the game,” Flood said. “I’m really pleased with those guys with how they’ve come on. They’re catching the ball consistently, they’re in the right places, they’re working hard. So I’ve got a lot of confidence in them.”
Quarterback Gary Nova echoed that sentiment.
“They’ve worked really hard this offseason. Guys like John Tsimis (and) Janarion Grant have gotten so much better, a guy like Carlton Agudosi (has as well),” Nova said. “Obviously we’ve had some injuries but I’m excited to see what these guys do and how they react and I think it’s going to be real good.”
Carroo knows exactly what the younger wide outs will be going through. His starting debut was last year’s opener against Fresno State, a game in which he had five catches for 135 yards and three touchdowns.
He views this as opportunity knocking for the group, just as it was for him.
“I look at them to step up and seize the opportunity, seize the moment,” Carroo said. “I know they’re very excited and they can’t wait to get out there and play.”
Tight end is another position that will look a little different because of an injury situation, with Flood announcing that backup Nick Arcidiacono will be sidelined against the Cougars.
That means Tyler Kroft, a preseason All-America selection by USA Today, will be backed up by redshirt freshman Matt Flanagan and true freshman Charles Scarff.
“Matt Flanagan would be the next tight end in the game. And I think Matt is going to play,” Flood said. “We’re going to play a certain percentage of the game in 12 personnel every week, so we’ll play the game with two tight ends and sometimes three and that (the third tight end) would be Charles Scarff. So that would be the depth right now.
“I think the first time those guys go out there you want to make sure you’re giving them things that they’re very comfortable with and give them a chance to be successful. They’re performed well in practice. They’re earned the opportunity to go out there and the right to go out there so we have confidence in them.”
Flood also said that fifth-year offensive lineman Bryan Leoni, a key reserve, will miss the Washington State game because of an injury.
Backup strong side linebacker Myles Nash is suspended for the Washington State game “for violation of team policy,” Flood said. The suspension is for one game.
Starting defensive tackle Darius Hamilton was back practicing full go, and Flood liked what he saw of the junior.
“I think he looks good,” Flood said. “Darius was back at practice full swing today, just like we expected him to be. I thought he looked good out there.”
Rutgers is preparing for a variety of approaches on kickoffs as opposing teams try to avoid kicking to Grant, who excelled as a punt and kick returner as a true freshman last year. He returned both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in 2013.
“Janarion is a weapon and because of that, and because of what he’s done in games, I think every week we’re going to have to be ready for an assortment of kickoffs,” Flood said. “I don’t think we’re just going to go back there and they’re going to kick it to him. It’s certainly what we would like them to do but I think we have to be ready for the counter punches as well.”
Following is the official injury report for the Washington State game:
Player Injury Status
WR Carlton Agudosi Lower body Probable
PK Nick Borgese Lower body Probable
RB Josh Hicks Lower body Probable
OL Derrick Nelson Upper body Probable
WR Andrew Turzilli Lower body Probable
DB Talib Abdur-Ra’oof Upper body Out
TE Nick Arcidiacono Upper body Out
RB Savon Huggins Upper body Out
OL Bryan Leoni Lower body Out
TE Logan Lister Lower body Out
WR Andre Patton Upper body Out
WR Ruhann Peele Upper body Out
OL Jacquis Webb Lower body Out