Thursday, June 22, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
It has been a long time since I have seen a team in a power conference have as bad a season as Rutgers had in 2016, and is likely to have in 2017. The Big 10 has had it leak that the leadership of the conference has regretted letting the Scarlet Knights into the conference almost from the day that the invitation was given. There have been disastrous issues on and off the field and court in football and men's basketball, and the team has not competed worth anything in either sport. The TV revenue from the New York City market has been negligible, at best, and the market largely does not care about college football in any capacity. Chris Ash was bought in from Ohio State to turn this football program around, but is that even possible under the current conditions?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
You really have to pick everything apart with this offense and hunt down anything to be excited about in the most remote way. With that being done, you can look at the line and see that three starters return, and they have to have improved, right? Tariq Cole is back at LT, Dorian Miller is back at LG, and and Kamaal Seymour is back at RT.
Robert Martin is back at RB, and he averaged 5.17 yards per carry. One would hope that the current staff would take the leash off of him and just let him be the focus on the offense, which was something they were unwilling or unable to do last season. He scored only two times all last fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Everything, basically. This football team scored just 15.7 points per game last fall, and nobody really stood out except for Martin in flashes. There needs to be a massive talent infusion at QB, because not one player on the current roster at the position can win. Not one.
The run game, after Martin, is devoid of talent and depth, and there are no big play threats to be found that you can look to for a big break it loose moment.
The receivers are largely pedestrian, and have not helped the QB position blossom at all.
The line is largely a flat mess,but has the only thing coming back that you can look to for hope, and that is youth and some depth.
David Bonagura, the PK, is back, but never seemed to make the most out of every limited opportunity last fall, making just 10/14 FG attempts.
What To be Excited About: Defense
Again, this is difficult pickings with a unit that allowed 37.5 points per game. DE Darnell Davis does return after finishing second on the team with eight TFLs last fall, and Sebastian Joseph was reasonably able at NT, and will return for his senior season.
Jimmy Hogan also returns at DE, and should provide some relief in a rotation role. Kevin Wilkins provides the same at NT.
The LB corps, which was dreadfully young last fall, returns intact with the starters. Trevor Morris (WLB), Deonte Roberts (MLB), and Tyreek Maddox-Williams (SLB) will all return to action this fall. Morris led the team with 102 tackles, Roberts finished second with 95, and Maddox-Williams finished with 47. The key reserves outside, Eric Margolis and Ronnie James, both return.
Three starters will return to the secondary this season. Isaiah Wharton and Blessuan Austin will be back at CB, while Saquan Hampton is back at FS. Austin was a big hit last fall, as he finished with 14 PBUs and 41 tackles. Wharton finished with five PBUs and 46 tackles. Hampton played in just seven games, and finished with 46 tackles. Every key reserve will return to action behind this group, with sophomore Lawrence Stevens looking to take over at SS for the departed Anthony Cioffi.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
I suspect that there will be plenty of improvements across the board from the defense in 2017, as several young players got plenty of time on the field and took their lumps last fall. That said, this unit needs to gel in a giant hurry to show what they are made of, and the offense had to find a way to keep this unit from getting killed by spending way too much time on the field. I am not confident in that part of the equation. The key will be to show how much this group learned last fall, and how much they have developed in the off-season as a group.
One concern that is glaring is at Punter. Michael Cintron is scheduled to return as the starter, but averaged just 37.89 yards per attempt on 7.9 attempts per game. When your offense is killing you, you need all of the real estate you can get to work with as a defense, and Cintron is not giving them that.
2017 Schedule: 9/1 Washington, 9/9 Eastern Michigan, 9/16 Morgan State, 9/23 at Nebraska, 9/30 Ohio State, 10/14 at Illinois, 10/21 Purdue, 10/28 at Michigan, 11/4 Maryland, 11/11 at Penn State, 11/18 at Indiana, 11/25 Michigan State
I do not see more than two games where Rutgers could be considered a remote favorite, and those are games against Eastern Michigan and Morgan State, and I am not fully sold on them as a favorite against Eastern Michigan just yet. This roster is still far from being one that can compete in the Big 10, and may not even be all that competitive in the Group of Five leagues. Ash took on a major dumpster fire job from Kyle Flood, and this roster, as good as it was a decade ago, is in complete collapse as far as the talent level is concerned. This is a long term project, to say the least, and we could see much of what was evident last season this fall. This is simply a bad team right now.