Guest Spot: On The Banks

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Previewing tomorrow's contest at Rutgers with Kevin Recio, the managing editor at SB Nation's Rutgers site On The Banks. You can check out my return engagement here.

Me: So, Gary Nova. Is he more or less the guy he was a year ago, or has he improved. To my eye it seemed that he regressed a little bit of late after a strong start to the year. What can we expect from him?

Kevin Recio: Regressed is a bit of an understatement. Seven interceptions in a key two game span effective ended any hopes for Rutgers competing for the conference championship. He bounced back with a great against Temple, but the Owls are not exactly elite competition. He's still the best option compared to Chas Dodd, but few believe he will be any good in the Big Ten.

Me: A year after being among the nations elite on the defensive side of the ball Rutgers pushed the reset button. How is reset progressing?

KR: We're still waiting for the reset to actually happen. The 2013 Rutgers defense has a chance to be the worst historically, mainly due to three factors: loss of veteran personnel, injuries to an already green secondary, and an incompetent defensive coordinator. It doesn't help that RU has played several pass-happy teams, inflating the terrible pass defense statistics, but there is no doubt the defense is a far cry from the unit from a year ago.

Me: How crucial will it be to have Paul James back and healthy for Saturday's contest.

KR: A healthy Paul James will definitely help. The former walk-on is bruiser running the ball and was leading the nation in rushing yards early in the season. The question is how healthy he will actually be. His loss was tempered somewhat with the emergence of true freshman Justin Goodwin, who runs with a similar physicality. Kyle Flood loves the ball control offense to keep possession and limit opponents' snaps, so a strong running game is key for the Scarlet Knights.

Me: What on earth is going on with Brandon Coleman. He seems to be dead set on playing his way out of the draft.

KR: Questions have arisen regarding the health status of Coleman. He had offseason knee surgery and was also held out of contact drills for the majority of training camp, so it's possible he hasn't fully recovered. His speed seems to be limited this year, and he also has been covered by top corners each game. However, this has been a benefit to Rutgers' other receivers like Leonte Carroo, who is becoming a clutch fourth quarter pass-catcher.

Me: Give us an under rated Knight to watch on both sides of the ball

KR: On offense, Tyler Kroft has developed as a favorite target for Gary Nova. The 6'6" tight end is a big target and has a knack for finding open space. Defensively, keep an eye on Ruhann Peele. the converted cornerback played receiver up until the Temple game, but was called upon to shore up the secondary after Lew Toler was injured for the year, Ian Thomas left to play baseball, and Nadir Barnwell was suspended for DUI.

Me: Prediction?

KR: The talent is there and the Knights are coming off a dramatic win, but the body of work thus far suggests that RU is fighting an uphill battle. The Bearcats survive a late rally, 24-20.

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