2017 RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
HEAD COACH: Chris Ash (2 – 10 at Rutgers)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Jerry Kill
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Jay Niemann
2016 RECORD: 2 – 10, 0 – 9 Big Ten
HIGH POINT SOLUTIONS STADIUM: (54,454)
RETURNING STARTERS OFFENSE: 5
RETURNING STARTERS DEFENSE: 8
LAST LEAGUE TITLE: None
LAST BOWL GAME: 2014, Quick Lane
TOP NEWCOMER: QB Kyle Bolin. Bolin transferred from Louisville and has one season of eligibility at Rutgers. He started six games at Louisville, five in 2015 before Lemar Jackson took over the starting job. He completed 141 – 242 for 2,104 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He will battle with Giovanni Rescigno and Jonathan Lewis for the starting spot.
TOP 10 RECRUITS:
Micah Clark, OL Cliffwood, New Jersey
Bo Melton, WR Egg Harbor City, New Jersey
Tyshon Fogg, LB Baltimore
Eddie Lewis, WR Middletown, New Jersey
Jonathan Lewis, QB Jersey City, New Jersey
Samuel Vretman, OL Sweden
Olakunle Fatukasi, LB Far Rockaway, New York
Tim Barrow, DB Stanton Island, New York
Brenden Bordner, DL Columbus, Ohio
Shameen Jones, WR Bronx, New York
L Washington 40 – 13
W Howard 52 – 14
W New Mexico 37 – 28
L Iowa 14 – 7
L Ohio State 58 – 0
L Michigan 78 – 0
L Illinois 24 – 7
L Minnesota 34 – 32
L Indiana 33 – 27
L Michigan State 49 – 0
L Penn State 39 – 0
L Maryland 31 – 13
September 1 Washington
September 9 Eastern Michigan
September 16 Morgan State
September 23 at Nebraska
September 30 Ohio State
October 14 at Illinois
October 21 Purdue
October 28 at Michigan
November 4 Maryland – at Yankee Stadium
November 11 at Penn State
November 18 at Indiana
November 25 Michigan State
2016 TEAM STATS
Rushing Offense: 144.9 (103rd in nation, 12th in conference)
Passing Offense: 138.3 (122, 14)
Total Offense: 283.2 (128, 14)
Scoring Offense: 15.7 (127, 14)
Rushing Defense: 264.2 (126, 14)
Pass Defense: 186.5 (18, 4)
Total Defense: 450.7 (97, 14)
Scoring Defense: 37.5 (116, 13)
Turnover Margin: -0.42 (98, 10)
Sacks: 1.75 (91, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 2.83 (109, 12)
PASSING: Giovanni Rescigno, 86 – 163 – 889 – 5TD – 5INT
RUSHING: Robert Martin, 121 – 625 – 2TD
RECEIVING: Juwan Harris, 39 – 481 – 3TD
TACKLES: Trevor Morris, 102
SACKS: Darrell Davis, Kemoko Turay, 2.0
INTERCEPTIONS, Six players tied with 1
OTHER KEY RETURNERS: RB Josh Hicks, WR Janarion Grant, OL Triq Cole, LB Deonte Roberts, CB Saquan Hampton.
KEY LOSSES: RB Justin Goodwin, QB Chris Laviano, WR Andre Patton, DL Julian Pinnix-Odrick, DL Darius Hamilton, DB Anthony Cioffi
There are some big changes coming for Rutgers with new OC Jerry Kill looking to work his magic on the worst offense in the Big Ten and the worst offense in the country. Kill is the former head coach at Minnesota who was named coach of the year in 2014.
Kill will have returning starter Giovanni Rescigno under center after showing signs of promise in the final five games of 2016. Rescigno will battle for the starting spot against former Louisville quarterback Kyle Bolin and promising freshman Jonathan Lewis. Zach Allen and Tylin Oden will also get a look in the fall. Whoever ends up as the starter will have some playmakers to work with. Running back’s Robert Martin and Josh Hicks will give Rutgers a proven one – two punch at that position. Martin rushed for a team leading 625 yards last season. Miami graduate transfer Gus Edwards will provide depth while handling the new H-Back role.
There is plenty of skill at wide receiver with the return of Janarion Grant, Juwan Harris, Damon Mitchell and Ahmir Mitchell. Damon is a transfer from Arkansas, Ahmir transferred in from Michigan. Harris had a breakout season in 2016 leading the team in receptions (39) and receiving yards (481).
Coach Kill must repair and offensive line that returns only three players with experience and no starters. LT Tariq Cole, LG Dorian Miller and RT Kamaal Seymour will be the anchors. Marcus Applefield is expected to start at RG, and Jonah Jackson at C. The staff is excited about freshmen Micah Clark and Sam Vretman.
Even with a defense in front that featured three 5th – year starters in 2016, the Rutgers defense was horrible. They ranked 116th in scoring, 126th in rush defense and 97th overall in the country. Now the coaching staff must rebuild a unit with eight starters returning. Fifth – year Senior NT Sebastian Joseph will anchor the line, but the success may rely on fifth – year Senior DE Kemoko Turay. Turay is a disruptive force when playing at a high level. Darnell Davis returns at DE.
The linebacking corps struggled a year ago with three new starters. Tyreek Mattox – Williams gives Rutgers a rising star on the outside. Mattox– Williams was thrown into the fire as a freshman last season. The unit must be better against the run and account for more tackles for loss. As a team Rutgers had only 66 tackles for loss in 12 games.
The Scarlet Knights have a nice collection of defensive backs including safeties Saquan Hampton, KJ Gray, Kiy Hester and corners Blessuan Austin, Isaiah Wharton and Damon Hayes. The corners must play the man – to – man coverage better than they did in 2016. Hester and Hampton battled through injuries as starters last season. They will be counted on to fill bigger roles this season.
PREVIEW SPECIAL TEAMS:
Janarion Grant is one of the nation’s top returners having already tied the NCAA career record for touchdown returns. He is back from a broken ankle. Punter Michael Cintron set a Big 10 record with 95 punts, but averaged only 37.9 per kick. The coaching staff brought in graduate transfer Ryan Anderson, the nation’s top Division III punter to challenge Cintron for the starting job. Anderson averaged 46.2 yards per punt at Olivet College. Kicker David Bonagura was 10 – 14 on field goals but must improve his range with a long of only 41 yards.
Improving on two wins from a year ago won’t be easy. Rutgers opens against Washington, plays at Nebraska, at Michigan, at Penn State and has home dates against Ohio State and Michigan State. They do get crossover games against Purdue and Illinois. Having Coach Kill should have a huge impact on their defense. They will have more playmakers on offense, but they must build more depth early in the season. Getting to a bowl game isn’t in the cards, but being shut out by a combined 224 – 0 by Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State is the improbable as was the case in 2016. Several true freshman must play key roles for Rutgers to improve.