The Rutgers Scarlet Knights proved that they still have some growing pains to go through since joining the Big Ten.  They had two nice wins at home against Maryland and Purdue in 2017 and also had a solid road win against Illinois as well, which was their first Big Ten road win in the history of the program. Now yes, if we were talking about a school like Ohio State or Michigan, fans might be jumping off the side of the stadium. For Rutgers, this is progress and to be honest it can hopefully only go up. The Scarlet Knights have a big core of returning players that have only had the feeling of playing in the Big Ten, so by now i hope they know what they are going up against.

Prestige Ranking (If NCAA Football 19 existed): 3*

People may strongly disagree, but they are still in the Big Ten, a power five conference. They are the state school of one on the most talented state.

Last Year’s Record: 4-8 (3-6 Big Ten) :

Bigger is better Rutgers…lets try and flip those numbers around, okay?

Projected Returning Starters:

Offense: 9

QB Gio Rescigno, RB Raheem Blackshear, WR Bo Melton, WR Mo Jabbie, TE Jerome Washington, LT Tariq Cole, C Mike Maietti, OG Jonah Jackson, RT Kamal Seymour

The offense returns 4 out of 5 offensive linemen, led by Tariq Cole, from a unit that allowed the least amount of sacks in the Big Ten last season with 18. That’s a pretty nice thing to know if you’re Gio Rescigno. The top returning talent is TE Jerome Washington, who some of you may remember for this spectacular grab:

 

Defense: 9

DE Kevin Wilkins, DT Jon Bateky, LB Deonte Roberts, LB Trevor Morris, CB Blessuan Austin, CB Isaiah Wharton, CB Damon Hayes, FS Saquon Hampton, SS Kiy Hester

The defense looks to be once again the strong suit of the team returning a bunch of players that have all played at quality time. Getting Blessuan Austin back from injury will be huge for the Knights who last year was considered by many to be a third round pick. Doesn’t hurt either to return two linebackers who both had over 100 tackles, although I’m still not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. The defense does return their entire secondary, most likely the most talented position group.

Special Teams: 1

LS Billy Taylor

Kid could take a beer can off the top of your head.

Key Loses:

RB Gus Edwards(Ravens), WR/KR Janarion Grant(Ravens), OG Dorian Miller, Edge Kemoko Turay (Colts), NT Sebastian Joseph-Day (Rams)

Edwards was a fantastic one year loan who led the team in yards and touchdowns last year. It will be hard to replace a man who did so much for a struggling team. Grant, who didn’t play much because of injury last season, tied the NCAA career combined kick return touchdown record. Miller was a two year starter on the offensive line and it will very hard to replace a guy like that when it comes to BIG TEN football. Turay was a pass rush specialist with only four sacks, which doesn’t make much sense, but he was a second round pick for a reason. SJB ended his career playing 49 games consecutively.. talk about grit.

Key Newcomer Offense:

Artur Sitowski, who is the hometown kid, joined the team during spring and looked spectacular. Some websites even consider him the favorite to win the job. He looks to be the future of Rutgers, but will that start this season or next season. A good quarterback battle in training camp always get the blood flowing.

Key Newcomer Defense:

Malik Dixon is a JuCo transfer, a subject I previously covered another article abut JUCO transfers and the benefits of them. Dixon looks to be a Deone Bucannon-type hybrid linebacker/safety. Listed at 6’3 and 215 pounds, he looks to be a player Rutgers hasn’t had on that side of the ball in a long time. He’s versatile enough to cover and help defend in the run game, adding more talent to an already scary defense for the Scarlet Knights.

Breakout Player of the Year: Raheem Blackshear

Blackshear averaged 6.1 yards per carry last season as a true freshman while being behind Gus Edwards and Rob Martin. Now, with Jon Hilliman coming from Boston College, Blackshear will look to become a bigger part of the offense. He caught seven receptions for 133 yards… averaging 19 yards per catch ain’t too bad. Scoring five total touchdowns with only 46 total touches doesn’t stick out, but shows that he has potential to improve on offense and also in the return game. For being a smaller back, he doesn’t shy away from contact either.

 

Five Year Recruiting Rank (Bill Connelly): 60

Alcohol Prediction: Louis XIII

The move to the Big Ten is finally starting to pay off, just like an expensive bottle of booze stored away in your cellar.

Outlook 2018:

The defense looks to be the most talented unit Rutgers has had in a very long time. Yes, they have been blown out by the Big Daddy’s of the Ten, but this year has a different feeling. Most of the defense will be players with three to four of experience under their belts. Returning all but one starter of the best pass-blocking offensive line in the Big Ten will provide time for Rescigno or Sitowski. Having a safety blanket in Jerome Washington, who could end up being the best tight end in the Big Ten, adds security for either quarterback. The big question is how will the wide receivers and running backs improve? Rutgers getting another grad transfer like Jonathan Hilliman will help grow some of these younger players.

2018 Record (overall: 7-5) (Big Ten: 4-5)

Rutgers upsets Northwestern at home while also beating Maryland, Indiana and Illinios in the Big Ten. They will also sweep all of their non-conference games.

Alcohol Prediction:Louis XIII

The move to the Big Ten is finally starting to pay off, just like an expensive bottle of booze stored away in your cellar.

 

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