Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Bilo's College Football: Rutgers Scarlet Knights 2016 End of Year Report
Chris Ash had his hands full in Piscataway this fall, as Rutgers was repeatedly humiliated by top powers in the Big 10. Rutgers finished 2-10, but even worse, they were 0-9 in Big 10 play. Their only wins came against FCS member Howard, and they won at home against New Mexico, which now looks like a quality win of sorts. The average margin of loss was by 30.9 points per game, something further moved by a 58 point loss to Ohio State, and a 78 point loss to Michigan, which was the worst defeat by a Big 10 team since the University of Chicago was a member of the league. The good news is that it can only go up from here.
Rutgers could not settle on a QB all season, and as a result got just 11 TD passes in 12 games with two different QBs sharing a bulk of the playing time. Giovanni Rescigno, a sophomore, played in 7 games, while Chris Laviano, a junior, played in 7 as well. Freshman Tylin Oden got into 6 games, and completed just 1/8 passes for his trouble. Rescigno was the slightly better QB between he and Laviano, but it was just barely, and by simple logistical math. Rescigno completed 52.8% of his passes, while Laviano completed just 48.3%. Rescigno passed for 889 yards, while Laviano went for just 748. Neither QB went over 6 yards per attempt all season, which is abysmal. Laviano was better in TD/INT ratio with 5/2, while Rescigno was 5/5. Basically, this position imploded this season, and a replacement must be found in recruiting that can put it right again.
The good news about the run game is that it could have been worse…much worse. With that said, it was not great either. Junior Robert Martin led the team with just 625 yards rushing and only 2 TDs on 12 carries per game. He was closely followed by senior Justin Goodwin, who finshed with 517 yards, but he only ran for one score, averaging just 43 yards per game. As a unit, Rutgers backs averaged 144 yards per game. This was not a great number, but it was made much worse when you realize just how bad the passing game was.
With no reliable passers, this group suffered badly. The team leader in receptions finished with just 39 catches, and that was promising freshman Jawuan Harris. Harris finished with 481 yards with a 12.33 yards per catch average, but scored only 3 times al season. He averaged just 3.3 catches per game. He needs to see the ball more, and I believe if he does, he can become a star in this league. Andre Patton caught 33 balls as a senior, and fellow senior Janarion Grant, who was supposed to be the star of this unit, finished with just 20 receptions after playing in only 4 games. This unit loses a ton of depth due to attrition after this fall, so you will see several new faces next season.
For what it is worth, the line did not perform horribly in 2016. Pressure came from two sources in Julian Pinnix-Odrick (10 TFLs) and Darnell Davis (8 TFLs). Jon Bateky and Sebastian Joseph showed some flashes from time to time, and five other DLs made tackles behind the line this season, which is promising when Rutgers will lose only two of those players. The Knights recorded 1.75 sacks per game, led by Pinnix-Odrick, which shows some talent up front on defense. The main issue this unit had was not in getting into the backfield to apply pressure, but in stopping the run, as Rutgers allowed 264.17 yards rushing per game.
Trevor Morris, a sophomore, has had to step up and lead this defense as a young player, and that is no easy task. He recorded 102 tackles this season, and got completely abused most days. Deonte Roberts, also a sophomore, compiled 95 total tackles on the season. Tyreek Maddox-Williams recorded 47 tackles, and productivity fell off from that point. Because of the inability to stuff running lanes by the line, the young LBs were forced into action, and largely failed to stop anything before it was a 5 to 7 yard gain. Morris and Roberts are stars in the making, but they need some help.
This unit showed some promise, as they allowed just 186.5 yards passing per game. Of course, when teams are running at will and running up the score, why pass? Sophomore Blessuan Austin became a shutdown star with 14 pass break ups on the season, which is highly promising. Only sophomore Isaiah Wharton had as many as five otherwise, which is not. Senior Anthony Cioffi was the only DB to pick off multiple passes on the season, and even then he only recorded two. Again, as teams ran at will against the Scarlet Knights, there were fewer opportunities to make plays in the passing game. As such, Rutgers recorded just 8 INTs all season as a team. Cioffi also led all DBs in tackles with 63, and the bad news is that he leaves the team as a graduate.
Junior PK David Bonagura had limited opportunites in 2016, and did not make the most of those at times. He connected on 10/14 PKs on the year, and also managed to miss two PATs. Those numbers do not scream reliability. Even worse was the play of Punter Michael Cintron, who was just awful in 2016. He averaged just 37.89 yards per punt, while punting a whopping 7.9 punts per game. Janorian Grant was highly successful in his 4 games returning kickoffs, averaging over 32 yards per return. The same cannot be said for Justin Goodwin, who averaged just 18.4 yards per return. That is a diametric difference. Grant also averaged 16 yards per punt return, but Jawuan Harris averaged only 3.73 per return, again, a gaping difference.
Basically, Chris Ash has to tear down the house and rebuild almost every aspect of this football team. The honeymoon is over, and now he knows what must be done. Rutgers is a basic disaster of a program right now, and a complete rebuild is all that can be done. It was hard to find any one area where the Scarlet Knights really excelled this season. They averaged just 15.7 points per game on offense, so I suggest that they start working there.
Successes: Very few indeed. Other than some moderate success in pass defense, there was not anything worth writing home about.
Needs: Everything. Rutgers needs a QB in the worst way, they need a reliable run game, and the line pretty much must be rebuilt from end to end. Defensively, stopping the run in2017 has to be a priority, because that was where most of the damage against them was done. Special teams are a wreck as well.
2017 Non-Conference Opponents: Washington, Eastern Michigan, Morgan State…Washington should crush Rutgers once again, but there are opportunities against an improving EMU club. The Morgan State game is an absolute win. Going 2-1 against this rather weak lineup (Washington being the exception) is not out of the line of possibilities.