2018 RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
HEAD COACH: Chris Ash
RECORD AT SCHOOL: 6 – 18
CAREER RECORD: 6 – 18
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: John McNulty
DEFENSIVE COORDINATORS: Noah Joseph, Jay Niemann
STADIUM: High Point Solutions Stadium (52,454)
September 1 Texas State
September 8 at Ohio State
September 15 at Kansas
September 22 Buffalo
September 29 Indiana
October 6 Illinois
October 13 at Maryland a
October 20 Northwestern
November 3 at Wisconsin
November 10 Michigan
November 17 Penn State
November 24 at Michigan State
Washington 14 – 31
Eastern Michigan 13 – 16
Morgan State 65 – 0
Nebraska 17 – 27
Ohio State 0 – 56
Illinois 35 – 24
Purdue 14 – 12
Michigan 14 – 35
Maryland 31 – 24
Penn State 6 – 35
Indiana 0 – 41
Michigan State 7 – 40
2017 OFFENSIVE STATS
TOTAL OFFENSE: 262.7
2017 DEFENSIVE STATS
TOTAL DEFENSE: 398.6
FIVE YEAR WINNING TREND
2013: 5 – 7
2014: 4 – 8
2015: 6 – 7
2016: 6 – 7
2017: 5 – 7
RETURNING STARTERS OFFENSE: 6
RETURNING STARTERS DEFENSE: 8
PASSING: Giovanni Rescigno, 47 – 100 – 517 – 2TD – 1INT
RUSHING: Raheem Blackshear, 39 – 238 – 3TD
RECEIVING: Jerome Washington, 28 – 282 – 1TD
TACKLES: Trevor Morris, 118
SACKS: 3 players tied with 1.5
INTERCEPTIONS: Juwan Parris 3
2018 TOP 10 RECRUITS
Artur Sitkowski, QB Old Bridge, New Jersey
Daevon Robinson, WR Medford, New Jersey
Zihir Lacewell, WR Staten Island, New York
Jalen Jordan, WR Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Isaih Pachero, RB Vineland, New Jersey
Eddie Lewis, WR New York, New York
Raiqwon O’Neal, OT Conway, South Carolina
Malik Dixon, S Tampa, Florida
Paul Woods, WR Buffalo, New York
Matt Thomas, DE Brooklyn, New York
It didn’t take long for head coach Chris Ash to make a difference in the progress of this football program. The Scarlet Knights are in much better position than they were just two years ago. Rutgers still finished fifth in the very tough Eastern division, but things are looking up for Ash and their ability to move up in the Big Ten standings.
Rutgers will have a new OC in John McNulty and his biggest hurdle could be at quarterback. Will he stay with experience or will he go with a true freshman? Senior Gio Rescgno has been inconsistent in his first 12 starts and threw for just 517 yards a year ago. Four-star recruit Artur Sitkowski is a strong – armed 6’5” and 215 pounds. He is good enough right now to be the starting quarterback in the opener September 1 against Texas State.
The running game should be in good shape with graduate transfer Jonathan Hilliman (638 rushing yards for Boston College last season) and Raheem Blackshear sharing the duties. Blackshear displayed big – play ability as a true freshman.
The line returns three starters including left tackle Tariq Cole, center Mike Maietti and right tackle Kemaal Seymour.
Rutgers will have talented tight end Jerome Washington returning, but there is uncertainty in the rest of the receiving corps. Hunter Hayek had just eight receptions last year and fellow sophomore Bo Melton appears to be ready for a breakout season. Rutgers recruited five receivers to help add depth at this position.
The Scarlet Knights gave up over 28 points per game last season, ranking 11th in the conference. They also gave up nearly 400 yards per game, that to ranked 11th in the Big Ten. If this defense is to help Rutgers get to a bowl game it will depend on the back seven. Linebacker Trevor Morris led the team with 118 tackles, his third straight 100 – tackle season. Morris will be joined by Deonte Roberts who is coming off a 104 – tackle junior campaign. Returning from injury (ACL) will be Tyreek Mattox-Williams and rising star Tyshon Fogg to form a very formidable linebacking corps.
The secondary is deep and talented led by three all – conference potential players including Isaiah Wharton, Blessuan Austin (returning from it ACL injury) and Damon Hayes. Free safety Saquan Hampton and backup KJ Gray make that position as strong as anyone in the conference.
Losing a three – year starting nose tackle won’t help upfront, but Kevin Wilkins returns along with sophomore Elorm Lumor, Julius Turner and Jon Bateky. Turner is set to start at nose tackle. The key upfront is staying healthy since there is a lack of depth at this position.
Punter Adam Korsak appears to be the answer for departed All-Big 10 selection Ryan Anderson, with sophomore Justin Davidovucz handling the kicking duties as well as kickoffs. The return game needs more consistency and they are hoping to answer those questions this fall.
Chris Ash is hoping his third season will be a bowl season, but achieving that goal won’t be easy. Six of the first seven opponents will be the key for Rutgers this season. Texas State, Kansas, Buffalo, Indiana, Illinois and Maryland are all winnable games. After that Rutgers will face Northwestern, at Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State and at Michigan State. Those teams were a combined 52 – 14 last season. When it is all said and done Rutgers must have improvement on offense and they need consistent play at quarterback.
PROJECTED RECORD: 4 – 8, 1 – 8 Big Ten
COACH ASH’S COMMENTS AT BIG 10 MEDIA DAYS:
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Rutgers head Coach Chris Ash.
CHRIS ASH: Good afternoon. Welcome back, everybody. Hopefully you had a fun and relaxing summer and everybody’s recharged and ready to go for another football season. I know I am. And most of the coaches are.
I’d like to just mention to you guys that we really appreciate all that you do. Thank you for your coverage. I know coaches and media often do not see eye to eye on a lot of issues, but because of the job that you do and the coverage that you give our sport, it’s one of the most popular sports in our country.
So, again, I’d like to say thank you for everything that you guys do for college football and specifically for our program, Rutgers University.
My third year here, and I’m still honored and very humbled to be able to represent Rutgers and the state of New Jersey at such a huge event. It’s an unbelievable event and an honor to be part of it to be one of the 14 head football coaches in one of the best conferences in America.
It is year three, and it’s amazing how fast time flies. After we got to Rutgers in year one, kind of got the lay of the land, developed a three-year plan. In year one we just wanted to be able to make the changes that we need to implement the things we wanted to do in the program to get it going and to build it the way we wanted to build it.
Year two was about being more competitive, winning more games, which we did. We went from two wins to four wins, zero wins in the Big Ten to three wins in the Big Ten. Had opportunities to get some others.
It didn’t happen. But we made progress. And in year three, it’s about trying to build your team and have an opportunity to go to postseason play, and right now I feel like we’re right on track to get that done.
A lot of things we have to still do to get to that point and reach that goal. But right now, going into year three, some of the things that I’m excited about. One is our coaching staff. We’ve had some changes in our staff. I feel like we have the best staff we’ve had at Rutgers in my time there. We’ve got great coaches, great teachers, guys that really care about our players and do a great job of developing those guys.
You need to have a great senior class. We don’t have a big senior class. We have 13 seniors, but the quality is outstanding. We have three of them with us today — Tariq Cole, Deonte Roberts, and Blessuan Austin, great representatives of our program.
But we have an outstanding senior class. We’ve had the best offseason and the best summer that we’ve had. Our leadership on our football team, the standards that we have with our behavior and our performance and just overall work ethic has been outstanding, and very excited about that.
We continue to move our program forward in a lot of areas. Recruiting is very important. And we’re having more interest in recruiting than we’ve had in the previous few years. And it’s because of how we’re doing business and the progress we’re making in our program.
We continue to move our program forward from a facilities standpoint. Year one we built a new weight room. Year two we built a new practice complex. Year three we’re going to build a new locker room and also start construction on a brand-new academic center to continue to provide a first-class experience for our student-athletes.
As we continue to move forward, there are a lot of things that we’ve got to do to continue to reach our goals of going to postseason play. Offensively, we’ve got to score points. It’s an area we haven’t been very good at, and we have to score points and protect the football.
Defensively we’ve got to stop the run and we’ve got to create more takeaways if we’re going to win the games we need to to be able to go to a bowl game when the season is over.
I can’t be more excited about the start of training camp. And the opening game, where the foot hits the ball and we kick it off, it’s an opportunity for us measure the progress that we’ve made against the teams in our league that we’re going to play. And I’m very excited about the players, the culture and the direction that we’re going in our program, and 2018 is going to be a very fun season.
Q. You mentioned the staff and offense scoring more points. How much of an impact do you feel John McNulty has made so far? Obviously you haven’t played a game yet, but just going through spring ball into now?
CHRIS ASH: Yeah, we haven’t played a game yet, so that will be the truest measure. But I think he’s had a huge impact on our offense so far. Especially our quarterbacks. He’s a true quarterback coach. He’s done a great job developing the quarterbacks in his room.
We still have not settled on a quarterback for this year. I feel great about the room that we have. We just need to find an individual that we can trust and can do the things we want him to do.
John’s had a huge impact on our offense. His vision and my vision of our offense is aligned. He’s got knowledge and history with Rutgers, so he knows the area, knows the university, knows the program, knows a lot of former players.
But he’s got a great football mind. Very excited to watch him continue to work with our quarterbacks and our players and develop our offense and go score points, because that’s what it’s about.
But John’s been a great hire. He’s been a great person to have on staff for the other staff members, and he’s been a great person for our players to talk to.
He’s got 15 years of NFL experience. Every player goes into college, major college football with a dream and goal of going to the NFL, and he can talk to them about that and what it’s like and what it takes to make that happen. I’m happy that John’s with us.
Q. You mentioned the quarterbacks. That’s been a position of flux over your first couple of years. How important is it to get a stable player coming in at that position, and when do you expect to make that decision?
CHRIS ASH: It’s really everything. We have several position battles that we have to settle when we go to training camp, but none more important than the quarterback.
If you look at the NFL, high school, college football, doesn’t matter, if you don’t have a quarterback that is productive and takes care of the ball and can distribute to the other players, you don’t have a chance to win. So it’s everything for our program right now to be able to get that done.
We don’t have a timetable set on it, sooner than later. We’re not going to take all of training camp, but we’re not going to do it after a few days either. It’s when we feel it’s the right decision, we’re comfortable with it, the other players believe in it, then we’ll make that decision.
We obviously want to do it sooner than later, but there is no set date that we’ll do it by X and X date. It is an important decision, and we’ll let it play out for a little bit in training camp.
Q. How have you addressed the new gambling situation, legalized gambling situation, with your players and stuff? What do you think would be the toughest problem there as you look at it?
CHRIS ASH: Well, it’s just continued education, one, about the whole gambling being legalized situation and talking to them about that. It’s not only the players, but it’s your coaches, your support staff and everybody involved in the program. You have to continue to educate what are the potential pitfalls and issues that could come up surrounding it, and make sure that they make the right decisions.
In the state of New Jersey, obviously gambling is a big deal, and people are constantly trying to find information about your football team and injuries.
But it’s just constant education and communication about the issues that could come up, how to handle them, how to report them and make sure that you avoid them.
Q. Rutgers last season, obviously, I think three Big Ten wins on the cusp, the thought of maybe getting to a postseason bowl, just what were the big steps you took from that year to that season, and then what are the things you’ve got to do obviously to get it to that next step?
CHRIS ASH: It started with just teaching the guys how to compete more, compete a little harder, a little bit longer, fight for each other a little bit more. And that’s really what allowed us to win some games and be close in some other games to move forward to continue to even improve on that and get the number of victories that we all want to go to a bowl game.
We’re going to have to keep improving that process. We have to compete. Stay healthy. We’ve got to make some plays and stop doing things that make you lose games — errors, poor effort, penalties. Especially in critical situations we have to stop doing those things, because those things killed us in critical games last year.
But there’s no magic formula. We just have to continue to compete, learn how to win. And that’s really at the core of our program, is competition. Everything that we do, whether it’s a meeting, practice, in the weight room, it’s compete. Our players have embraced that. They expect that.
And I think right now they’re learning how to win, and they’ve got a lot of confidence as we go into this season that we can win and compete in this league.
Q. There’s charitable progress, the kind of objective measures, you talk about win totals and the other things you’re talking about, in building a program, getting that buy-in, that belief from your guys. Are there leaders emerging, guys you can lean on more maybe this year as opposed to last year, coaches on the field and in the locker room, so to speak?
CHRIS ASH: Yeah, absolutely. I feel really good about the leadership that we have on our program right now, both from the coaching standpoint but more importantly from the players.
We have tremendous love in our program. We’ve got great relationships. We’ve got great leadership. We’ve got a good senior class. Like I mentioned, it’s not big in numbers but it’s very good in quality, and they provided some outstanding leadership for our football team here this offseason.
I’m excited to see where that takes us as we go into the fall. We just have to continue to improve our player-to-player accountability.
We’ve got love, great relationships, great leadership. We have to continue to improve the accountability we have from player to player, but I really like where we’re at from that standpoint.
2018 Football Roster
# FULL NAME POS. ACADEMIC YEAR HT. WT. HOMETOWN / HIGH SCHOOL PREVIOUS SCHOOL
32 Rani Abdulaziz DB R-Fr. 5-10 176 Roseland, N.J. / West Essex
7 Kessawn Abraham DB Fr. 5-10 170 Brooklyn, N.Y. / Erasmus Hall
44 Max Anthony RB R-Jr. 6-0 240 Albany, N.Y. / Christian Brothers Academy Phillips Academy
1 Blessuan Austin DB Sr. 6-1 195 Queens, N.Y. / Campus Magnet Milford Academy
4 Tre Avery DB R-So. 5-10 170 Baltimore, Md. / Franklin Toledo
20 Elijah Barnwell RB R-Fr. 5-11 205 Piscataway, N.J. / Piscataway
33 Tim Barrow DB R-Fr. 5-11 185 Staten Island, N.Y. / Tottenville
95 Jon Bateky DL Sr. 6-3 300 Boyds, Md. / Poolesville
56 Rashawn Battle LB R-So. 6-1 235 Grentown, Pa. / Wallenpaupack
51 Jamaal Beaty OL R-Fr. 6-2 291 Cliffwood, N.J. / St. John Vianney
25 Raheem Blackshear RB So. 5-9 185 Warminster, Pa. / Archbishop Wood Catholic
53 Brendan Bordner DL R-Fr. 6-4 280 Columbus, Ohio / Hilliard Bradley
50 Owen Bowles OL R-Fr. 6-4 291 Galloway, N.J. / Cedar Creek
42 Izaia Bullock LB R-Jr. 5-11 220 Linden, N.J. / Linden
48 Ryan Cassidy LS R-Fr. 6-2 215 Mt. Laurel, N.J. / Lenape
2 Jalen Chatman QB Fr. 6-1 180 Inglewood, Calif. / Narbonne
56 Micah Clark OL So. 6-4 289 Cliffwood, N.J. / St. John Vianney
65 Tariq Cole OL R-Sr. 6-6 320 Long Beach, N.Y. / Long Beach
95 Justin Davidovicz PK So. 5-9 177 Bridgewater, N.J. / Bridgewater-Raritan
34 Parker Day DB R-Fr. 5-8 187 Toms River, N.J. / Toms River North
40 Brendan DeVera LB So. 6-1 242 Monticello, N.Y. / Wayne Hills (N.J.)
2 Malik Dixon DB R-Jr. 6-3 215 Tampa, Fla. / Port Charlotte Eastern Arizona CC
57 Jaohne Duggan DL R-Fr. 6-1 292 Bethlehem, Pa. / Liberty
3 Olakunle Fatukasi LB So. 6-1 230 Far Rockaway, N.Y. / Grand Street Campus
19 Tom Flacco QB R-Jr. 6-1 185 Voorhees, N.J. / Eastern Western Michigan
8 Tyshon Fogg LB So. 6-1 240 Baltimore, Md. / Calvert Hall
16 Jelani Garvin DB Jr. 5-8 175 Allendale, N.J. / Northern Highlands
17 K.J. Gray DB Jr. 6-1 205 Newark, N.J. / St. Peter’s Prep
86 Nakia Griffin-Stewart TE R-Jr. 6-5 255 Tenafly, N.J. / Tenafly
93 Jason Griggs DL R-So. 6-1 282 Highland Park, N.J. / Highland Park Wesley College
99 Gavin Haggerty PK R-Jr. 5-8 180 Montvale, N.J. / St. Joseph’s (Montvale)
9 Saquan Hampton DB R-Sr. 6-1 207 Hamilton, N.J. / Nottingham
3 Jawuan Harris WR/DB R-Jr. 5-9 190 Pembroke Pines, Fla. / St. Thomas Aquinas
82 Hunter Hayek WR So. 5-9 170 Wayne, N.J. / Wayne Hills
81 Tyler Hayek WR R-Fr. 6-3 190 Wayne, N.J. / Wayne Hills
22 Damon Hayes DB Jr. 6-1 198 Upper Marlboro, Md. / Dr. Henry A. Wise
79 Zack Heeman OL R-Sr. 6-7 308 Budd Lake, N.J. / Mount Olive
32 Jonathan Hilliman RB Gr. 6-0 220 Plainfield, N.J. / St. Peter’s Prep Boston College
74 Sam Howson OL R-So. 6-4 292 Sparta, N.J. / Pope John XXIII
6 Mohamed Jabbie WR R-So. 5-11 197 Monmouth Junction, N.J. / South Brunswick
73 Jonah Jackson OL R-Jr. 6-4 299 Media, Pa. / Penncrest
24 Naijee Jones DB R-Fr. 5-11 195 Erial, N.J. / Timber Creek
15 Shameen Jones WR R-Fr. 6-1 175 Bronx, N.Y. / Cardinal Hayes
83 Jalen Jordan TE Fr. 6-5 210 Philadelphia, Pa. / IMG Academy
94 Adam Korsak P So. 6-2 190 Melbourne, Australia / Maribyrnong College Victoria University
66 Nick Krimin OL R-So. 6-5 308 South Amboy, N.J. / St. Joseph’s (Metuchen)
21 Eddie Lewis WR Fr. 6-0 185 New York, N.Y. / Mater Dei Milford Academy
11 Johnathan Lewis QB So. 6-3 240 East Orange, N.J. / St. Peter’s Prep
61 Mike Lonsdorf OL R-So. 6-6 300 Bound Brook, N.J. / Immaculata
31 Edwin Lopez DB R-Fr. 5-11 175 Camden, N.J. / Woodrow Wilson
7 Elorm Lumor DL R-So. 6-3 245 Piscataway, N.J. / Piscataway Milford Academy
44 Tyreek Maddox-Williams LB R-So. 6-0 232 Erial, N.J. / Timber Creek
55 Michael Maietti OL R-So. 6-1 292 West Orange, N.J. / Don Bosco Prep
27 Kobe Marfo DB Sr. 5-10 190 Alexandria, Va. / Hayfield Reedley College
91 Tijaun Mason DL R-Fr. 6-5 225 Memphis, Tenn. / Trezevant
18 Bo Melton WR So. 5-11 185 Mays Landing, N.J. / Cedar Creek
57 Zach Miseo OL So. 6-3 285 Bridgewater, N.J. / Bridgewater-Raritan
5 Trevor Morris LB Sr. 6-1 232 King of Prussia, Pa. / Malvern Prep
84 Cole Murphy WR R-Jr. 6-1 201 Olathe, Kan. / Olathe North Coffeyville CC
14 Rob Nittolo QB R-Sr. 6-1 216 Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. / Hillsborough (N.J.) S. Conn. State
71 Raiqwon O’Neal OL Fr. 6-5 297 Conway, S.C. / Conway
63 Jim Onulak OL R-So. 6-2 282 Belmar, N.J. / Trinity Pawling School
26 CJ Onyechi DL So. 6-0 231 West Orange, N.J. / West Orange
10 Isaih Pacheco RB Fr. 5-11 190 Vineland, N.J. / Vineland South
96 Willington Previlon DL R-Jr. 6-5 290 Orange, N.J. / Orange
28 Aslan Pugh RB R-So. 6-0 215 Wilmington, Del. / Wilmington Charter
64 Skiy Pyrame OL R-Jr. 6-1 270 Queens, N.Y. / Christ the King
17 Giovanni Rescigno QB R-Sr. 6-3 228 Macomb Twp., Mich. / De La Salle
6 Deonte Roberts LB Sr. 6-1 235 Brooklyn, N.Y. / Erasmus Hall
55 Austin Rosa LB R-Jr. 5-10 220 Reading, Pa. / Wilson West Lawn
54 Kamaal Seymour OL R-Jr. 6-6 312 Brooklyn, N.Y. / Grand Street Campus
25 Syhiem Simmons LB R-Fr. 5-11 214 Jersey City, N.J. / George Washington Carver (Ala.)
8 Artur Sitkowski QB Fr. 6-5 215 Old Bridge, N.J. / IMG Academy
4 Trey Sneed RB R-So. 5-10 214 Orange Park, Fla. / Fleming Island
24 Charles Snorweah RB R-Jr. 5-10 178 Levittown, Pa. / Pennsbury
62 Matthew Sportelli LS R-So. 6-1 253 Wayne, N.J. / Wayne Hills
29 Lawrence Stevens DB R-So. 5-8 190 Lawrenceville, N.J. / Don Bosco Prep
47 Billy Taylor LS So. 6-1 221 Parsippany, N.J. / Parsippany Hills
72 Manny Taylor DL R-Jr. 6-5 300 Philadelphia, Pa. / Roman Catholic
87 Prince Taylor WR R-So. 5-10 195 Hackensack, N.J. / Hackensack
50 Julius Turner DL R-So. 6-0 282 Meridian, Miss. / Meridian
97 Mike Tverdov DL R-Fr. 6-4 252 Union, N.J. / Union
75 Zach Venesky OL R-Jr. 6-3 300 Peckville, Pa. / Valley View
89 Travis Vokolek TE So. 6-6 235 Springfield, Mo. / Kickapoo
77 Sam Vretman OL So. 6-6 305 Upplands Vasby, Sweden / Cheshire Academy (Conn.) Conn.
88 Jerome Washington TE Sr. 6-4 258 Elizabeth, N.J. / Stony Brook School (N.Y.) Miami (Fla.)
11 Isaiah Wharton DB R-Sr. 6-1 205 Kissimmee, Fla. / Gateway
99 Kevin Wilkins DL R-Sr. 6-2 306 Mahwah, N.J. / St. Joseph’s (Montvale)
38 Nyhsere Woodson WR R-Fr. 5-10 201 Trenton, N.J. / Pennington School
14 Everett Wormley WR So. 6-0 198 Burlington, N.J. / Burlington Twp.
16 Tommy Wyatt WR R-So. 6-3 206 Pine Hills, N.J. / Overbrook Temple
58 Charles Zarzecki OL R-Fr. 6-7 345 Boonton, N.J. / Boonton