NEWPORT, R.I. -- With a head coach taking the reins of a program for the first time in his career, and a quarterback competition heading into training camp, it's no surprise Rutgers was picked to finish third in the Big East preseason rankings.
If Greg Schiano had not bolted for the NFL after 11 years on the banks, and if a starting quarterback was in place, Rutgers likely would have been picked to win the Big East.
"That's probably what it was, to be honest," defensive tackle Scott Vallone said. "I don't think there's anything else you could say besides, 'They think first-year head coach (Kyle Flood), unsettled quarterback position.'"
What Rutgers does have is a defense that has the talent to be the best in the Big East -- and one of the best in the country.
On offense, they're stacked at the skill positions. They have a deep and talented wide receiving corps and what can be a dynamic duo at tailback with Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins. As long as the offensive line comes together, the offense has the potential to be prolific.
"We know what we have," Vallone said. "We love our head coach. And whoever wins the quarterback battle, we're going to put our stock into them, and they're going to lead this team."
As will Vallone and the rest of the seniors. And as a team top-heavy with upperclassmen, it's been the players holding each other accountable.
"That's not to discredit any of the coaches, but on any great team it starts with the players," fifth-year senior Khaseem Greene said. "When you have to police your team as a coach, you have a bad team. That's what we believe here.
"There's a whole bunch of guys that can step up into those leadership roles, and that really takes pressure off Coach Flood and his staff, because they know that the players will handle things."
But it's not just about leadership, or making sure everyone is spending some extra time watching film.
It's about making plays on Saturdays. Which is why the team feels like the onus to win is more on the players than the head coach.
"At the end of the day, I truly believe it's the players that make the team," safety Duron Harmon said. "Yeah, the coaches, they call the plays and draw the schemes, but the players are the ones that have to go out there and execute."
And even though he's never been in the position before, Flood didn't give the impression of a first-time head coach.
He was confident and comfortable. He made the same proclamation that he did the day he took over the program: That Rutgers' time is now. That it's time for the Scarlet Knights to capture that elusive Big East title for the first time in school history.
"Now the time is right for Rutgers to win championships," Flood said. "We feel that we have the people in the program now, and we feel that the time is right to not only win bowl championships, but Big East championships and BCS championships."
Matt Sugam is a contributor to SNY.tv. Follow him on Twitter @MattSugam.