#87 Rutgers 2018 Football Preview

Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Overall Rank: #87
#13 Big Ten
 Rutgers Logo
After winning no Big Ten games in 2016, Rutgers managed to beat three conference foes last season. That was a good stepping stone for Coach Chris Ash as he heads into his third season leading the Scarlet Knights. But the numbers were terrible last season and there are some big holes to fill so reaching three Big Ten wins might be a stretch in 2018.
2017 Record: 4-8, 3-6
2017 Bowl: None
Coach: Chris Ash (6-18 at Rutgers, 6-18 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: John McNulty
Defensive Coordinator: Jay Niemann
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Raheem Blackshear, RB, 238 yards
Passing: Giovanni Rescigno, QB, 517 yards
Receiving: Jerome Washington, TE, 282 yards
Tackles: Trevor Morris, LB, 118
Sacks: K.J. Gray, DB, 1.5; John Bateky, DT, 1.5; Julius Turner, DT, 1.5
Interceptions: Jawuan Harris, DB, 3
Other Key Returnees: OL Tariq Cole, OL Dorian Miller, LB Deonte Roberts, DB Damon Hayes, DB Isaiah Wharton
Key Losses: RB Gus Edwards, RB Robert Martin, QB Kyle Bolin, DL Kemoko Turay, DB Kiy Hester, DL Sebastian Joseph, P Ryan Anderson
Rutgers ranked second to last in the nation in total offense with just 262.7 yards per game. New coordinator John McNulty will hope to change that in a hurry. But the question is whether he wants to do it with an experienced quarterback in Giovanni Rescigno or look to the future with freshman Arthur Sitkowski. Rescigno threw for 517 yards and two touchdowns last year, but Sitkowski is a big 6-5 signal caller and a strong arm. Starting or not, he will get a chance to take over this offense. And the receiving corps is very inexperienced too, but top pass catcher Jerome Washington is back after catching 28 passes for 282 yards. The running game should be strong even without Gus Edwards, who rushed for 713 yards and six scores, and Robert Martin, who added 434 yards and three touchdowns. Raheem Blackshear is a very promising sophomore and Rutgers also adds Boston College transfer Jonathan Hilliman. The graduate transfer rushed for 638 yards with the Eagles last season.
The defense is going to have to lead this team and this group has the potential to do it. Outside linebacker Trevor Morris is back after leading the team with 118 tackles in 2017. Deonte Roberts added 104 tackles and will join him in what should be a productive middle of the defense. The secondary is quite solid as well. Cornerbacks Blessuan Austin, Damon Hayes and Isaiah Wharton are all very good players with starting experience and senior Saquan Hampton will lead the secondary. The front four will have some issues replacing Kemoko Turay and Sebastian Joseph. Kevin Wilkins and Jon Bateky are experienced seniors, but have not been too productive. The rest of the two-deep is littered with underclassmen who will need to grow up quickly if Rutgers is going to have much success getting to the quarterback.
The Bottom Line:
Rutgers may need to win six of their first seven games if they hope to make a bowl. Besides a week two trip to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes, the Scarlet Knights have a pretty easy schedule. They host Texas State, Buffalo, Indiana and Illinois, while traveling to Kansas and Maryland. Those are six winnable games right there. With the back end of the schedule getting much, much tougher, those are likely the six games Rutgers will have to win.
Projected Bowl: None
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 147.1 (85th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 115.6 (124, 14)
Total Offense: 262.7 (128, 14)
Scoring Offense: 18.0 (120, 13)
Rushing Defense: 181.8 (83, 11)
Pass Defense: 216.8 (55, 10)
Total Defense: 398.6 (72, 11)
Scoring Defense: 28.3 (77, 11)
Turnover Margin: -0.42 (97, 11)
Sacks: 1.33 (112, 12)
Sacks Allowed: 1.50 (29, 1)

Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#250 Arthur Sitkowski