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)

 

2018 SCHEDULE

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

 

2017 RESULTS

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

SCORING: 18.0

RUSHING: 147.1

PASSING: 115.6

TOTAL OFFENSE: 262.7

 

2017 DEFENSIVE STATS

SCORING: 28.3

RUSHING: 181.8

PASSING: 216.8

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

 

RETURNING LEADERS

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

 

OFFENSE PREVIEW

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.

 

DEFENSE PREVIEW

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.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

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.

 

PREDICTION

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 ROSTER

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