Football at Rutgers in the last few years has been down. After winning the Quick Lane Bowl against North Carolina in 2014, Rutgers trended downward, bottoming out at 2-10 in 2016 in Chris Ash’s first year as head coach. However, Coach Ash has brought back some integrity to the program, doubling his wins from his first year, going 4-8 last season with wins against Morgan State, Illinois, Purdue and Maryland. Here is what we are looking at for the upcoming season.
On signing day, Rutgers signed 22 players and had the 51st best class in the nation and 12th best class in the Big Ten. After securing 3 4-star recruits in 2017, the Scarlet Knights failed to sign a 4-star recruit. The class is led by QB Artur Sitowski and RB Isaih Pacheco. Sitowski was an early enrollee and surprised media with a strong showing in Spring Ball. Sitowski is competing for the starting job with RS SR Giovanni Rescigno. Pacheco should see the field this fall, but is sitting behind GR TR Johnathan Hillman from Boston College and SO Raheem Blackshear.
Rutgers has a quarterback controversy on their hands. RS SR Giovanni Rescigno has been with Rutgers since 2014, but didn’t see playing time until his junior year in 2016. Since them he has played in 16 games, with a 50% career completion percentage for 1406 yards, 7 TD’s (only 2 in 2017) and 6 interceptions (5 in 2016). Competing for the spot is true Freshman, Artur Sitowski, who impressed fans, the media and coaches during the spring game, Sitowski threw a 75 yard bomb for a TD during the spring game, which hasn’t been seen by a QB for Rutgers in quite some time. Watching the two compete during Training Camp will be very interesting.
In the last two years, Rutgers has struggled on offense, averaging less that 300 yards a game, including a low of 112 yards on 31 plays against Michigan State in last years season finale and a 58 point blow out followed by a 78 point blow out against #2 Ohio State and #6 Michigan in 2016. If Rutgers wants to continue to get better each year, strong offensive play will be needed.
Rutgers gave up on an average of 5.72 yards a play during the season and almost 10 yard a play against Ohio State. It is pretty easy to see that in 2017, Rutgers had plenty of holes in the defense. This was good for 71st in the nation, which was still ahead of Oklahoma (82nd), Stanford (90th), Arizona (93rd) and National Champion UCF (74th). But these teams had high powered offenses that ranked as some of the best in the country. Rutgers isn’t very deep in the d-line. The D-line has 2 locked in spots with DB Jon Bateky and DE Kevin Wilkins. The rest of the line is up for grabs with rising sophomores and true freshman. For a team that ranked ranked 14th in the Big 10 in red-zone defense, 13th in sacks and T-13 in fumbles recovered, the current lack of depth fails to close any holes in Rutger’s defense.
Rutgers is the goose among ducks in the Big 10 East. Unless something drastically changes, Rutgers will always have to run through the gauntlet of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State. Indiana and Maryland are always good, so it doesn’t look like Rutgers will win any games in the B1G East. How about crossover games? Well This year, the Scarlet Knights play Wisconsin, Northwestern and Illinois. The Knights will lose all 3, with the only toss up being against Illinois. Rutgers should be able to handle Texas State and have even matchup against Kansas and Buffalo. Rutgers stays consistent and wins a healthy 4 games this season.