#99 Rutgers Football 2017 Preview

Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Overall Rank: #99
#14 Big Ten
Year one of the Chris Ash era did not go well. That was no surprise, but Rutgers managed to win just two games and that was against Howard and New Mexico in September. There were a few games where the Scarlet Knights were competitive against Big Ten teams, but not enough to hope for much improvement in 2017.
2016 Record: 2-10, 0-9
2016 Bowl: None
Coach: Chris Ash (2-10 at Rutgers, 2-10 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Jerry Kill
Defensive Coordinator: Jay Niemann
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Robert Martin, RB, 625 yards
Passing: Giovanni Rescigno, QB, 889 yards
Receiving: Jawuan Harris, WR, 481 yards
Tackles: Trevor Morris, LB, 102
Sacks: Darnell Davis, DL, 2.0
Interceptions: 6 tied with 1
Other Key Returnees: RB Josh Hicks, WR Janarion Grant, OL Triq Cole, LB Deonte Roberts, CB Saquan Hampton
Key Losses: RB Justin Goodwin, QB Chris Laviano, WR Andre Patton, DL Julian Pinnix-Odrick, DL Darius Hamilton, DB Anthony Cioffi
The offense hopes to get moving under new offensive coordinator and former Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill. There is experience at quarterback with Giovanni Rescigno, Zach Allen and Tylin Oden. All three saw some playing time in 2016, but Rescigno was the only one who started any games. The best option may be freshman Johnathan Lewis, but he has a lot to learn to surpass the returning players on the depth chart. That could happen sooner rather than later though. Whoever ends up under center will have some playmakers to work with. Jawuan Harris was the team’s top receiver last season and Janarion Grant is back after missing most of the 2016 campaign with an ankle injury. The Scarlet Knights also welcome Ahmir and Damon Mitchell, transfers from Michigan and Arkansas, respectively. The complete lack of a passing game did not help a stagnant ground attack. Robert Martin and Josh Hicks are talented backs, but they have to be much more productive if Rutgers has any chance of winning a Big Ten contest.
As tough as it was to watch the offense last season, the defense was not much better. By the numbers, the Scarlet Knights pass defense was good, but that was mostly because the opposition rarely needed to pass when it was so easy to run against Rutgers and get a big lead. The front seven was terrible, but it was a young group. While the linebackers grow up and the secondary that started three sophomores last year tries to do the same, the key for the Rutgers defense will be getting pressure from the front four. The lack of size up front is a major problem though and losing Darius Hamilton and Julian Pinnix-Odrick does not help the situation.
The Bottom Line:
It is difficult to find more than two wins on this schedule. After opening at home against Washington, Rutgers hosts Eastern Michigan and Morgan State. Those are the two games the Scarlet Knights should win. The most winnable Big Ten games come in mid-October when Rutgers travels to Illinois and hosts Purdue the following week. With a couple wins there, Rutgers will have outside hopes of a bowl game. But winning a road game is probably asking too much for now.
Projected Bowl: None
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 144.9 (103rd in nation, 12th in conference)
Passing Offense: 138.3 (122, 14)
Total Offense: 283.2 (128, 14)
Scoring Offense: 15.7 (127, 14)
Rushing Defense: 264.2 (126, 14)
Pass Defense: 186.5 (18, 4)
Total Defense: 450.7 (97, 14)
Scoring Defense: 37.5 (116, 13)
Turnover Margin: -0.42 (98, 10)
Sacks: 1.75 (91, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 2.83 (109, 12)
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#91 Micah Clark