PISCATAWAY, NJ – While the heat index reached 99 degrees during the Rutgers football team's final practice, the mercury wasn't the only thing rising. Just eight days away from its season opener vs. Buffalo, the Scarlet Knights also turned up the intensity, execution and spirit during the session, to the pleasure of head coach Greg Schiano.
As Schiano walked off the field, there was a sense of accomplishment in his voice as he assessed his team's effort since camp opened on Aug.
"This was the best of our three camps," said Schiano. "The biggest thing is that I see us starting to become a team. There is some maturity in the leadership role and guys reactions to situations are clearly different than they were a year ago. They are much more mature. They are being a great example to the younger guys, which we haven't had around here. In the past, we haven't had tough situations handled the right way. That's how young kids learn."
The biggest news of the day, personnel-wise, was the arrival of freshman Quintero Frierson. Although in camp, Frierson was unable to practice because of the NCAA acclimatization rules. He will be unable to practice in full pads until the fifth day.
"We will try to get him up to speed on the play book, although it is hard," said Schiano. "He is at a position (LB) where we have some depth, so we'll see how he does and whether he can fit into the plans this year. He didn't get to see how camp is handled and how situations are handled in camp. The first time he will go through it is next year as a sophomore."
Frierson spent the majority of practice working on his conditioning and observing the team at work.
"I am the underdog right now," said Frierson. "All that means is that I have to work at 120% to catch up to where the rest of the guys are. I know I can do it, it's just a matter of getting started."
One of the most pleasant developments of camp was the play of the offensive line. Schiano cited the play of John Glass and the return to health of Marty Pyszczymuka and Brian Duffy as the main reasons for the improvement.
"I think the big thing we are going to have to see is what kind of production our tackles give us," said Schiano. "That will be paramount to the job they do as a unit."
The team is off from practice for the next two days, returning to the field on Monday. Starting Monday, Rutgers will practice for four-straight days leading up to its season opener vs. Buffalo on August 30 at 7:00 p.m. at Rutgers Stadium.