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B1G 2016 // Rutgers Scarlet Knights Cocktail Party Preview

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What will Rutgers do in 2016? I don't know, but if you read the articles for Rutgers Week, you might have an idea of what could happen... and what Rutgers fans REALLY want to happen.

The township of Piscataway, the home of the Rutgers University- New Brunswick's athletics teams. These are in fact, separate cities, both of them home to features of Rutgers- New Brunswick. And just look at that! I have already "learned you" one thing about Rutgers considering most college athletics fans do not grasp the concept that Rutgers is not actually in Piscataway (this owes itself to more explanation and conversation at a later date). Anyway, the township of Piscataway, where the Rutgers Football team and brand new coaching staff wait in anticipation of the 2016 season... And thank goodness that the abstraction of 'future' exists because the past certainly sucks for Rutgers. Do see the comprehensive timeline of important Rutgers moments and scandals (and some good things) in the past four years here.

So uhhh... about Last Season

Ladies and gentlemen if you would please look right here.

Rutgers Football has been gifted with a completely new football coaching staff and athletic director. It's not like the reasons for these changes were a constantly foot in mouth former athletic director with scandals of her own and a football coach whose inappropriate contact with a faculty member about a player's academic status was straight out of a bad comedy movie. No no, it was just time for these new people to fall into place in order to get us to where we need to be in the Big Ten. Coach Chris Ash & Co. and AD Pat Hobbs have come to Rutgers from the planet of "Competence" successful programs and with notable achievements in their positions and they will certainly save us.

Our season was not 4-8, 1-7 in the Big Ten... Actually yes, that last part is true. HA HA Hoosiers. Thanks for our only B1G win this past year. And our season did NOT start out with 5 arrests which helped us clinch the Fulmer Cup. If you wish, please refer to the timeline linked above of what totally did NOT occur at Rutgers this past season and beyond.

Moving forward. Hello there 2016 season, you look beautiful from a distance... Please be beautiful up close....

Offense

The Good News

Janarion Grant. 1,583 all-purpose yards. 984 kick return yards. 35 receptions. 352 receiving yards. No doubt that Grant is the Rutgers offensive player to look out for this year. Fans are also eager to see how an up-tempo, power spread offense put into effect by new offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer, will suit the team... and it is very up-tempo. At the Spring Game, the band couldn't even finish our first down fanfare before the ball was snapped. In addition to this change, it has been made clear that the #AshEra is all about competition and there is no bigger competition for a spot on that field than between quarterbacks Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig. Perhaps this new culture will bring out the best in these two, who both clearly have potential, and the on-field result will lead us to victories.

The Bad News

Well, we lost our best offensive player to the NFL Draft. While the Rutgers fan base is incredibly ecstatic for Leonte Carroo being picked in the third round by the Miami Dolphins, we worry of course what our offense is going to be like without such an impact player. I'm sure the other wide receivers are eager to fill his shoes, but that is much easier said than done. These players include Andre Patton, Carlton Agudosi, and Janarion Grant (who has already proven himself). The quarterback thing is also still really a toss up as neither looked particularly strong at the Spring Game. In addition, the new offensive scheme is not without its issues especially if we don't have the talent to make it work properly. Time will tell.

Defense

The Good News

Bringing in Chris Ash, the former co-defensive coordinator for Ohio State, who helped lead Ohio State's defense to a National Championship and Fiesta Bowl win, respectively, is now Rutgers' head coach. Defense is his forte and our new defensive coordinator is the very DC who taught Coach Ash everything he knows. We're looking to have a very self-contained, fundamentally sound defense and, hopefully, Rutgers can be a defense school (again). Additionally, it looks like senior defensive lineman, Darius Hamilton, will be returning after being out for most of last season with a lower body injury. Hamilton is a team captain and a talented defensive player, and Rutgers fans are certainly eager to count his tackles in 2016. Our secondary was rather emaciated last season, but hopefully a year of being that exposed did wonders for the development of those players.

The Bad News

Our secondary was swiss cheese and much of the team just did not know how to tackle. Chris Ash and the defensive coaches have addressed the existence of these problems. Ash has promised to implement effective, "rugby style" tackling to which Ohio State owed much of its defensive success, but it's hard to break habits and some of these players have been tackling wrong for years. We'll wait and see.

Special Teams

The Good News

Rutgers' special teams coordinator, Vince Okruch, previously assisted with the quality control for the kicking game and defense for two seasons at Ohio State. He has 35 years of coaching experience with 15 of those years coaching in the Big Ten. He said that he is looking to further develop the talented Janarion Grant and field goal-blocking boss, Kemoko Turay into the impact players of an "aggressive" style special teams. Rutgers' kick return was a nice positive from last season so it makes sense that a (hopefully) better coaching staff will further maximize this.

The Bad News

Newness all around... Same players, different coaching staff (this can be applied to the bad in each category, really). CAN our special teams ability actually be maximized? 2016 season please come sooner so I don't have to keep asking these questions!

Mark R. Sullivan/Gannett

Schedule

Date Opponent
Sept 3 @ Washington
Sept 10 Howard
Sept 17 New Mexico
Sept 24 Iowa
Oct 1 @ Ohio State
Oct 8 Michigan
Oct 15 Illinois
Oct 22 @ Minnesota
Nov 5 Indiana
Nov 12 @ Michigan State
Nov 19 Penn State
Nov 26 @ Maryland

The Good News

Going off early projections, already enacted changes in the team's schemes and culture, improved player development, and gut feeling, I say:

Teams we definitely beat: Howard, New Mexico, Indiana

Teams we could probably beat: Maryland, Penn State, Illinois

Teams we could surprise: Iowa, Minnesota, Washington

Teams that could be an, albeit unlikely, upset: Michigan, Michigan State

Team we will not beat: Ohio State

Yes. I believe this is the year we finally beat Penn State. Not so much because we're stronger/better (but I do hope this will the case), but because Penn State seems poised to be mediocre this year.

The Bad News

The existence of the teams in those last two categories and the uncertainty of whether or not Coach Ash & Co. have eliminated the choking curse from Rutgers. I think that should be Rutgers fans' biggest wish to be honest. Rutgers fans-- I call upon you to think of all the games we could have won had we not choked. It's okay, you don't have to tell me, I can see through your tears that you all understand.

If you meet and start chatting with a Rutgers fan (and we do exist), don't mention:

The 2014 Penn State game, the spike on fourth down, Homecoming 2014, the 2015 Penn State game, Julie Hermann, trite New Jersey stereotypes, arrested players, our inability to have locked down New Jersey talent in the past forever years that would have certainly assured our dominance in any conference... and Pork Roll vs. Taylor Ham.

Do mention:

Our history as "The Birthplace of College Football," our awesome former players holding it down on various NFL teams (namely the Patriots), the sweet defensive coordinator resume our new head coach has, our first Big Ten win over Michigan in 2014, Leonte Carroo, "Pandemonium in Piscataway" and our 2006 upset over #3 Louisville, New Jersey positives (yes, there are many), our bowl game trips in the past ten years, Eric LeGrand, new uniforms.

B1G 2016: Rutgers Week

MONDAY | Cocktail Party Preview | Potluck I

TUESDAY | Personnel Files | Potluck II

WEDNESDAY | Traditions | Potluck III

THURSDAY | Wildcard | Potluck IV

FRIDAY | H8rade | Potluck V