Coming off a 4-8 season and welcoming in a new offensive coordinator, the Rutgers University football team elected to make a big personnel change.
Rutgers has exchanged a record-setting runner, talented quarterback and one of the most versatile players in the school's history for what it hopes will be a dominant full-time wide receiver.
If that move concerns anyone, don't worry. This is one move Rutgers can undo any time it wants.
South Brunswick High School graduate Mohamed Sanu ran for a 91-yard touchdown last season against Tulane, the longest in Rutgers history. While alternating between his role as starting wide receiver and playing quarterback/tailback in the "Wildcat" formation for the Scarlet Knights, Sanu also threw for three touchdowns during the season. Not too bad for a guy that also punted in high school for SBHS and entered college as one of the top ranked safety recruits in the country.
"If football can be played with only one person on the field, he (Sanu) can probably play every position that is out there," noted PJ Fleck, Rutgers wide receivers coach. "We really can do anything with him. He can play any position for us. He kind of already has (laughs)."
Well, not anymore.
"It's my job as offensive coordinator to put our playmakers in the best position to make plays," Frank Cignetti said. "We want to create the best matchups. (Sanu) is a wide receiver."
Which is just fine with him.
"It's a blessing to be able to do many things," Sanu said. "Right now, I'm pretty happy to be able to just focus on doing one thing. I get to see how good I can be at one thing."
The NFL is certainly a possibility. NFLDraftScout.com currently ranks Sanu as the fourth best college wide receiver in the 2013 draft class. Sanu is 6' 2" and 215 pounds. He's fast. He's strong. He has the football intellect to run an offense as a quarterback.
"Being just a wide receiver should also help him health-wise," Fleck said. "As a halfback, he got hit about twenty more times a game than he would as a receiver."
During the 2007 football season at South Brunswick High School, Sanu totaled 900 yards passing and 700 yards rushing, while earning All-Middlesex County honors in leading SBHS to its first playoff appearance in 30 years.
During the 2010 season for Rutgers, Sanu ended up carrying the ball 59 times for 309 yards and four touchdowns out of the "Wildcat" formation. In the 2009 season, he carried the ball 62 times for 346 yards and five touchdowns. During the 2009 season, Sanu also returned punts and kicks.
"We really can do anything with him," Fleck noted. "From a selfish standpoint as the wide receivers coach, I'm glad I have him the whole time. There were times when we were working on things when he had to go be the quarterback or do the run game."
Sanu has thrown touchdowns passes in both his seasons at Rutgers. As a wide receiver, he had 51 receptions for 639 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman. Honors for Sanu included Honorable Mention Freshman All-America by CollegeFootballNews.com and a Third Team All-Big East selection by Phil Steele. In his sophomore season at Rutgers in 2010, he had 44 receptions for 418 yards and two touchdowns, while fighting injuries.
"I think he'll be even better this year," Fleck said. "You have to rep technique. You have to do it over and over and over. He can take all of the mental capacity he has and focus it on being a receiver, with the routes and the concepts. I think he'll be able to respond quicker, think faster."
Fleck isn't the only one that thinks that way.
Sophomore Chas Dodd, who is slated to be Rutgers starting quarterback this season, loves the idea of Sanu as a full-time receiver. After all, the two were already well on the way to developing a special quarterback/wide receiver relationship last season.
"First of all, he's bigger than most receivers," Dodd noted. "He's very strong. He's very fast. He's able to catch the ball and make plays with it. His yards after the catch is one thing that really elevates his game.
"He catches the ball well and is a big target for me. I love throwing to a guy like that. The more reps we get, the more comfortable we'll feel in the timing of the routes."
Obviously, there are a lot of great reasons to have Sanu specialize as just a wide receiver. Then again . . .
"At this point, I can't say anything is set," Cignetti said. "As an offense, you always want to do what is best for us to represent problems for the defense we're playing."
Including trading your dominant wide receiver for a record-setting runner, a talented quarterback and one of the most versatile players in Rutgers history.
"If coach decides to go in that direction, we know we have him," Fleck noted. "He gives us the ability to create mismatches across the board."
Either way is fine with Sanu.
"I never really thought of myself as being this or that position," Sanu said. "I'm a football player."
A very, very good football player.
Check back with South Brunswick Patch tomorrow for the second article in a two-part series on Rutgers University wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, a top NFL prospect and one of the greatest athletes in the history of South Brunswick High School.
Tomorrow: Sanu's South Brunswick years.