The first thing I will say is, HA! Rutgers was NOT first this year for B1G 2018 Previews because we were not last in 2017! Yeah sure, some teams’ weeks were moved around, but whatever. Not first because not last! Anyway, speaking of last year...
Okay so, Rutgers seems to be on a bit of an up slope with a tiny sample size. Rutgers went from two wins, none of them in conference, in 2016, to FOUR whole wins, THREE of them in conference in 2017. Also, no 58, 78, 39, and 49 point shut outs. Good, good, this was quantifiable progress. Rutgers’ running-based offense got the job done in our wins, buuuuut still ranked as the worst total offense, worst pass offense, and second worst scoring offense behind Illinois in the Big Ten. Janarion Grant, someone Rutgers fans hoped would be back and ready to go after his devastating 2016 injury (I hate you, Desmond King), unfortunately, battled other injuries for the whole season and did not contribute much to Rutgers’ offense (It’s okay though, don’t be too sad, he got a Ravens tryout!). In addition, it was another year, another QB battle for RU, with Redshirt Junior Giovanni Rescigno, Louisville Transfer, Kyle Bolin, and Freshman Johnathan Lewis all working together to amount to... not much.
Rutgers’ defense was... fine. Lower middle of the pack in the conference aside from red zone defense where Rutgers was dead last. On special teams, “Heismann should have been candidate,” Big Ten Punter of the Year, and Team MVP Ryan Anderson helped Rutgers achieve number one in B1G punting. Take THAT rest of the conference.
Okay so Rutgers actually did have a big offensive shake up with offense bringing in a new Offensive Coordinator, John McNulty from the Los Angeles Chargers after Jerry Kill retired from coaching due to health reasons. Rutgers fans are familiar with McNulty as OC during the best Schiano years where he worked with Mike Teel, Ray Rice and other Rutgers greats. Under McNulty, Rutgers became the first team in FBS history with a 3,000-yard passer (Teel), a 2,000-yard rusher (Rice) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood). I’m eager to see how Rutgers’ young quarterbacks, sophomore Johnathan Lewis, early enrollee Freshman Jalen Chapman, and Freshman, Artur Sitkowski, a 4 star recruit, may blossom under McNulty’s offense, as well as Junior Tom Flacco (yes, brother to Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco) and senior Giovanni “the GOAT” Rescigno. As far as a starter goes, I’m not sure and don’t want to spread false rumors, but Sitkowski looks gooood. Kid was throwing passes to Saquon Barkley this past Saturday. Rutgers also has a rising star wide receiver in Bo Melton, who last year had the most receiving yards, and shined at the Spring Game with taking home a huge 75-yard touchdown pass from Sitkowski. Jerome Washington, Rutgers’ leading receiver from 2017, returns as does Hunter Hayek, who had the most returning catches (8). We lost running backs Gus Edwards, and Robert Martin (Giants), but we should be fine. Also, our offensive line will be very good and I’ll say no more. Overall, the future of RU’s offense may be in this clip here:
Will Chris Ash’s alleged great defensive coaching abilities come to light this year? I don’t know, and to be honest I’m ambivalent about our defense this year. We lost a lot of starters particularly in our defensive line including Kemoko Turay, RU’s earliest NFL Draft pick in years (#52 to the Colts), Sebastian Joseph-Day (#195 to the LA Rams), Darnell Davis Jr., and Myles Nash. Luckily, Rutgers return Julius Turner, Kevin Wilkins, Jon Bateky, and Elorm Lumor, but the lack of proven depth makes me feel like we’re going to possibly have a very gassed defense line this year. Wilkins had a good Spring Game, with one pick, a sack, and tackles for a loss. In the Rutgers secondary, I really hope Blessuan Austin is not like Janarion Grant, where he is out for the previous season with an injury (ACL tear), but is unable to make an impact in the next when he returns. If he is truly back, it’s going to be a big help as he’s a dynamic, physical cornerback who can definitely make the secondary. Overall, with the Spring Game, I know the focus was to “show off” our new passing game, which was awesome, but our extremely high scoring game of 132-132 didn’t give me much confidence in our defense, but I hope I’m wrong.
2018 Special Teams
Well, no more Ryan Anderson (I am sad), but Rutgers landed Australian punter, Adam Korsak, to step into Ryan Anderson’s big cleats. Aussie punters are good, right? Also, kicker Justin Davidovicz absolutely nailed his extra points and field goals in the Spring Game, so we seemed to be covered on that front. Thank goodness because we need ALL THE POINTS.
The good: Our non conference games should be wins... Then again EMU was supposed to be a win. Oh wait, this is the good. Anyway, I’m excited to play Northwestern (Homecoming) for the first time since being in this conference. We’ve apparently played 3 times ever and Rutgers won all 3 of those meetings. I also see a potential 5 wins in a row stretch if we can field a decent team this year.
The not good: Our final stretch after our Oct. 27 bye is absolutely brutal and so is a morale destroying game like Ohio State being so absurdly early. Also, the margin for error in this schedule is, uhh, none, if we want to be bowl eligible this year (which I think we can be).
If You’re Talking to a Rutgers Fan
Talk about Ryan Anderson, horses, the passes in our Spring Game, Fat Sandwiches, Kemoko Turay making us proud at the Draft, Eric LeGrand, how our new OC looks creepily similar to Chris Ash, Taylor Ham vs. Pork Roll, the Bald Eagles we have near campus, the beautiful Jersey Shore. Anything we can tawlk about with you positively, we’ll tawlk. Anything negative? Fuggedaboutit.
Rutgers Week 2018 Schedule
Monday: Preview and Mailbag
Wednesday: Traditions & Fans
Thursday: TBD and Mailbag Answers
Friday: Some hate piece