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December 2, 2013

The Monday Morning Kickoff

It was another tough weekend on the gridiron for the Scarlet Knights with one more regular season game on the agenda. The Monday Morning Kickoff catches you up on the latest football, recruiting and basketball news as a new week begins in the Scarlet Nation.

The inside scoop (Rutgers recruiting
Friday marks the beginning of the first of several key recruiting weekends over the next two months as Rutgers hosts a substantial group of official visitors. Included in the mix are uncommitted prospects North Potomac (Md.) Quince Orchard ATH Elliott Davis, Weeki Wachee (Fla.) offensive lineman Marcus Applefield and Delray Beach (Fla.) Village Academy defensive lineman Kevin Bronson.

Applefield's trip to Rutgers is his final official visit. He's already been to Virginia, Maryland and Purdue, and is aiming to make his commitment on December 13. Applefield did not make his scheduled visit to Vanderbilt over the weekend and said he will not re-schedule it. He is on track to enroll early at whichever college he chooses.

The Scarlet Knights, led by his main recruiter Jim Panagos, have been in on Applefield from the beginning and remain in good position for his services.

"I've been there [Rutgers] once this summer and I had a blast," Applefield said. "I met a couple of the players and I really want to get to know a lot of the players this time. Last time I was up there, I felt the environment, the family environment. It felt so good. We'll see this weekend if that happens again, which I doubt it won't."

Bronson, a fellow Floridian, will visit Arkansas next week before seeing USF and Virginia Tech in the month of January. He is another prospect Rutgers has recruited for some time.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the campus, the game day atmosphere, the coaches and players," Bronson said. "Also, can I say to myself that this is the place I want to attend for the next four years?"

Davis earned an offer from Rutgers after his performance at June's Skills Camp, but Rutgers slowed its contact later in the summer. However, with the recent openings in the class at wide receiver, Davis has been brought back in play. He also plays defensive back.

Davis has double-digit offers, including ones from Wake Forest, Maryland, and N.C. State. The Scarlet Knights have some ground to make up in his recruitment, but this weekend could be a good start.

Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage ATH Isaiah McKenzie was originally scheduled to visit this weekend, but told Scarlet Nation he has re-scheduled his visit for some time in January.

McKenzie committed to Notre Dame several weeks ago, but academic concerns could leave him out of the Irish's plans. McKenzie has always held Rutgers high on his list, and if he indeed makes it to campus, how his official visit and academic issues play out could dictate if he ends up in Piscataway.

McKenzie is also likely to visit Notre Dame and Cincinnati in January.

Rutgers' group of official visitors is expected to stay on campus through the end of the weekend, so stay tuned to Scarlet Nation next Monday for the recap on how the visits unfolded.

A view from the gridiron (Rutgers football)
Rutgers' woes continued on Saturday with a bitter 28-17 loss to UConn at Rentschler Field. Senior quarterback Chas Dodd earned the start and completed 16-of-35 passes for 286 yards to go along with a pair of interceptions. Dodd will start again this Saturday when Rutgers (5-6) closes out its regular season against USF (2-9) Saturday night at home.

"It's just a matter of fighting back and executing and doing what we have to do to stay in the game and make big plays," Dodd said following Saturday's loss. "We've just got to do that."

In the loss, starting tailback Paul James went down with another leg injury and his status for Saturday is still up in the air.

"I am going to put him right now at 50/50 but I'm personally probably more optimistic than that that he will be able to go this week," head coach Kyle Flood said of James on his Sunday teleconference.

A win for Rutgers next weekend would mean bowl eligibility, although the Scarlet Knights may be running into USF at the wrong time of the season. The Bulls are a lowly 2-9 and have lost five straight but are coming off arguably their best performance of the season in a 23-20 loss to 10-1 UCF, who thrashed Rutgers 41-14 less than two weeks ago.

"You have to get your focus on South Florida because they are a football team that is playing better," Flood said. "They played a very competitive game against the No. 1 team in our conference right now just a couple nights ago."

Rutgers opened up as 7-point favorites against South Florida and routinely handled the Bulls in recent years, winning six of the last seven in the annual series. In the event Rutgers does defeat USF, its bowl fate will be determined sometime on Sunday with the likelihood of the Pinstripe Bowl or the BBVA Compass Bowl looming large.

Flood will hold his weekly press conference this morning at 10:30 a.m. Stay logged onto The Round Table for updates from inside the Hale Center.

The take from center court (Rutgers basketball)
One day after routing Division II Stillman 116-89, Rutgers suffered a stunning 73-72 home loss to in-state program Fairleigh Dickinson in the consolation round of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

The loss dropped the Scarlet Knights to 5-4 on the season.

"I have to look in the mirror and see if there are other ways to play, have to see if there are other buttons to push," said head coach Eddie Jordan.. "My personality is the way it is. I'm not changing my beliefs in the principles of basketball, not changing that. I just have to see if there's another way we have to play to be more effective."

Jordan and his team will have two chances this week to bounce back, first when they take on George Washington on the road on Wednesday evening and finally at home Sunday night when they host in-state rival Seton Hall (who lost to FDU yesterday) in a non-conference tilt.

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