65 Teams in 65 Days: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Head Coach: Greg Schiano

Offensive Coordinator: Sean Gleeson Defensive Coordinator: Joe Harasymiak (First Season)

Conference: BIG 10

2021 Record: 5-8 (2-7) (Lost to Wake Forest in the Taxslayer Bowl) 2022 Non Conference Opponents: Boston College, Wagner, Temple

Key Additions: WR Sean Ryan (West Virginia), WR Taj Harris (Syracuse), T Willie Tyler III (Iowa Western CC), G JD Direnzo (Sacred Heart), T Curtis Dunlap Jr. (Minnesota), CB Rani Abdulaziz (Central Connecticut)

The Scarlet Knights were an enigma in 2021, as they looked great in non conference play, but terrible in conference play. They finished the regular season 5-7, yet they were able to weasel their way into a bowl game, where they got throttled by Wake Forest. The overall state of Rutgers football is far from average, however Greg Schiano has been slowly building a culture and hopes to bring Rutgers its first winning season since 2015.

Noah Vedral returns as the Scarlet Knights quarterback, and looks to make a jump in production no one has seen signs of, or sees coming. Last season, out of BIG 10 quarterbacks who had at least 300 dropbacks, Vedral was the worst in terms of yards per attempt and passer rating, while being below average in every other category. He is one of the worst quarterbacks in power five and Rutgers fans should not be too thrilled to have him back. At running back, the Knights lose Isaiah Pacheco, and replacing him will be Kyle Monangai, a sophomore who got a decent workload last season, carrying the ball 63 times. He wasn’t too productive, as he averaged less than four yards per carry, however he was more physical than Pacheco, averaging more yards after contact per carry and forcing missed tackles at a higher rate. I think Monangai is better than Pacheco, and as he develops, will turn out to be a fine college running back. At receiver, the two leaders of the corps will be Sean Ryan, a transfer from West Virginia and Taj Harris, a transfer from Syracuse. Ryan has progressed nicely throughout his career, playing over 200 snaps in each of the last three seasons. He really came on nicely in 2021, posting his best mark in yards per route run, averaging 1.58 and also being an above average target for the first time in his career, as quarterbacks had a 113.1 passer rating when throwing to him. He is a taller player and excels at coming down with contested catches, as he caught six on nine attempts last season. I believe Ryan will be the wide receiver one for the Knights in 2022, and while he will most likely rank in the bottom half of lead receivers in the BIG 10, he is still a solid player. Taj Harris will be the wide receiver two, and he has had an unorthodox career up to this point. Harris went off in 2020, as he was targeted over 100 times and eclipsed 750 receiving yards. In that season, which was by far the best of his career, Harris mainly played out wide. However, when 2021 came around, Harris played 89% of his snaps from the slot. Unfortunately, due to a nagging injury, Harris was only able to play in three games last season, and it will be interesting to see how Joe Harasymiak uses him in 2022. The Scarlet Knights have a below average receiving corps compared to the rest of the conference, but adding Ryan and Harris gives them a boost in terms of production and experience. The offensive line last year was abysmal, being one of the worst units in college football. Over the offseason, they lost their lone bright spot in Raiqwon O’Neal to the transfer portal, and things are looking bleak again this season. They brought in three transfers to try and rebuild the group, however only one has consistent FBS experience, Minnesota transfer Curtis Dunlap Jr. Last season, Dunlap unfortunately got injured, but in 2020, he was a full time starter, playing over 700 snaps. He is a solid run blocker, and was a vital piece to Mohamad Ibrahim’s huge 2020 campaign, but his pass blocking has never been up to par, as he gives up a pressure on almost 10% of his pass blocking snaps. The rest of the group is worse, and look for the Scarlet Knights offensive line to be one of the weakest in the BIG 10 once again.

The Scarlet Knights were below average in every defensive category last season, and their secondary was by far the worst in the BIG 10. The lone two bright spots in coverage both return, in cornerback Kessawn Abraham and safety Avery Young. Abraham did not allow a touchdown in 2021 and forced six incompletions. In a conference riddled with elite cornerbacks, Abraham finds himself in the middle of the pack in terms of lead corners, but he could work his way towards the top if he can limit penalties in 2022, as he committed six last season. Avery Young had very similar coverage stats to Abraham, as both of them allowed a passer rating of 68. Young however did allow one touchdown, but he only committed two penalties. These two players are great pieces and would start on most other teams, however it's their counterparts who make the Rutgers secondary the worst in the conference. Safety Christian Izien was targeted 22 times last season, allowed 17 catches and a 145.3 passer rating. He is one of the worst cover safeties in power five, and to top it all off, he is terrible at defending the run too, missing 18.3% of his tackle attempts. Abraham’s counterpart at cornerback is Max Melton, who is not as bad as Izien, but still allowed five touchdowns and an above average passer rating in 2021. The secondary will improve with the addition of nickelback Rani Abdulaziz, who had a productive 2021 season at Central Connecticut, but overall this is still one of the worst units in the BIG 10. The linebacking corps was bad in 2021, and will be worse in 2022. The duo will be Tyreem Powell and Deion Jennings. Jennings has played almost 500 snaps across three seasons at Rutgers, but has yet to have an opportunity as a starter. He is a bit undersized standing at 6’1, but still made an impact during his freshman season, forcing an incompletion and coming down with an interception. Since then, he has seen his snap counts drop in both seasons and his main weakness seems to be tackling, where he has missed 12.3% of his attempts throughout his career. Powell got a ton of playing time last season as a freshman, playing nearly 300 snaps. He has a great body, standing at 6’5 and weighing 235 pounds, however he struggled greatly last season, as his average depth per tackle was a whopping 7.4 yards down the field. However, despite these struggles, Powell has a bright future and will keep improving as he gets adjusted to speed at the college level. The defensive line loses some key pieces, but has a player with a bright future in Ifeanyi Maijeh. Last season, Maijeh was stout in every category being the best on the team in terms of average depth of tackle, third best on the team in win rate when rushing the passer, and he was a more than serviceable tackler. Unfortunately, he is the only bright spot of this unit as the rest of the group has little to no playing time, or has struggled when given the opportunity. Rutgers’ defense will struggle in every category in 2022 and expect them to be the worst defense in the conference.

This team is awful on both sides of the ball, and regardless of the schedule I simply don’t see them being a team that wins many games. The best unit on this team is their pass catchers, and even they aren’t anything to brag about. They will struggle in every category on defense and it would not shock me if the likes of Ohio State, Michigan and Maryland all score over 50 points against them. The Scarlet Knights are in for a brutal 2022 and just winning a conference game would be considered a successful season given their roster.

Record Prediction: 2-10 (0-9) AT Boston College: Loss

V Wagner: Win

AT Temple: Win

V Iowa: Loss

AT Ohio State: Loss

V Nebraska: Loss

V Indiana: Loss

AT Minnesota: Loss

V Michigan: Loss

AT Michigan State: Loss

V Penn State: Loss

AT Maryland: Loss

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