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January 2, 2013
With the 2012 season in the rearview mirror, Scarlet Nation took a look back at the campaign and handed out honors and distinctions for those who the Scarlet Knights who had the biggest impact on the year. Here's a look at the offensive season superlatives:
Bobby Deren: Jawan Jamison. When the Rutgers offense clicked, it was mainly because Jamison was running on all cylinders. He became RU's first 1,000-yard rusher since Ray Rice and went over 100 yards in RU's first six of seven games. It was no coincidence that the Scarlet Knights were 7-0 during that stretch. It was also no coincidence that Rutgers lost its last three games with a less than 100 percent healthy Jamison.
Matt Hladik: Jamison. He became just the third 1,000-yard rusher for Rutgers since 1975 and Rutgers was at its best with a balanced offensive attack centered around Jamison. His ability to make players miss in tight space and the open field was a boon for the offense all season, and Rutgers went 0-3 to end the season with Jamison slowed by injury and inadequate run blocking.
Comeback player of the year
Bobby Deren: Antwan Lowery. He went from not playing in the last half of the 2011 season to being arguably Rutgers' best offensive lineman in 2012. Lowery started every game at left guard and benefited from a lack of weight restrictions levied upon him. Playing at 324 pounds suited him well as he became a force on the RU offensive line and was a key contributor to Jawan Jamison breaking the 1,000-yard rushing plateau.
Matt Hladik: Mark Harrison. After being plagued by drops and phased out of the offense somewhat in 2011, Harrison responded with a solid senior season, leading the team in receptions while finishing second to Brandon Coleman in yards and touchdowns. In order to have a shot to play at the next level, Harrison needed some type of bounce-back season, which he delivered.
Most improved player of the year
Bobby Deren: Brandon Coleman. In 2011, Coleman only had three catches through the first half of the season. He finished with 17, the bulk of which came in the final game against UConn when the game was already out of reach. In 2012, Coleman was RU's go-to-guy from game No.1. He made some big plays throughout the season and wound up second on the team with 39 catches and first in touchdowns with 10.
Matt Hladik: Antwan Lowery. After being benched early last season, Lowery entered the spring as a third-stringer and it was clear he was working with his last chance. However, rejuvenated by not having to adhere to weight restrictions, Lowery had a breakout year along the trenches as his size and strength made him a mainstay.
Bobby Deren: R.J. Dill. The fifth-year senior came in and was very good as Rutgers' starting right tackle. Only eight FBS teams allowed fewer sacks than Rutgers and Dill was a big reason Rutgers only let up 11 sacks on the season. Dill managed to stay healthy all year and finished his college career with an impressive 46 starts.
Matt Hladik: As it stands now, it is Dill, whose experience and savvy were key components to Rutgers' line play this season. However, if Jawan Jamison follows through and enters the NFL Draft, he becomes the biggest loss as Savon Huggins has never been a full-time starter, Paul James and Ben Martin have limited carries under their belts, and Desmon Peoples and Dontea Ayres have yet to see game action.
Biggest question mark heading into 2013
Bobby Deren: The quarterback position. Gary Nova seemed to regress by the season's end, which was capped off with his worst performance in his two years as a Scarlet Knight. The big question remains, 'How far can Rutgers go with Nova leading the offense?' The RU defense loses seven starters, which means the offense will have to pull more weight this season. The alternative to Nova is Chas Dodd, who is 8-8 as a career starter, or two quarterbacks with no college experience in Mike Bimonte and Blake Rankin.
Matt Hladik: Through the Temple game, it really looked like Gary Nova had turned a corner and was becoming the type of reliable quarterback Rutgers needed. But he struggled the final five games, culminating in an awful Russell Athletic Bowl. Kyle Flood was staunch in his commitment to Nova after the game, and if he maintains that loyalty, how Nova improves and plays during 2013 will go a long way in determining if Rutgers can win the Big East's BCS bid or compete in the Big Ten if they enter early.
Offensive assistant coach of the year
Bobby Deren: Damian Wroblewski. The RU offensive line surrendered 91 sacks in the two years prior to Wrobo's arrival. This year, RU only allowed 11 sacks and those numbers speak for themselves. There was also not an ongoing game of musical chairs among the linemen as was the case throughout the last two seasons. Wrobo found a unit that worked and stuck with it for the season.
Matt Hladik: Wroblewski mentored a unit that allowed less than one sack per game and produced a 1,000-yard rusher. With five of the group's top six players returning and a host of talented underclassmen in the fold, Wrobo has the tools necessary to mold an even better line next year.