Rutgers faces its toughest challenge yet when the No. 4 Michigan State Spartans come to town for the Scarlet Knights' annual blackout game. The team has released its weekly injury report and depth chart, giving us an idea of what we can expect to see as they come off their bye.
The biggest injury news since our last injury report piece actually came right before Rutgers' win over Kansas. Before the game, the team announced DT Darius Hamilton (lower body) will miss the remainder of the season.
Hamilton's absence can't be overstated. He is the Scarlet Knights' best defensive player, and a great leader. The defensive captain played limited snaps against Penn State, but admitted afterwards he was still in pain. The injury proved to be too much, and now he will sit out the rest of the 2015 season.
Joining Hamilton on the sidelines against Michigan State will be WR John Tsimis (lower body). Tsimis missed the season's first two games due to injury before returning against Penn State. It's not clear what caused this injury, but regardless Tsimis has been ruled out for Saturday's game.
The following players will also miss the blackout game: TE George Behr (lower body), WR Dontae Owens (lower body), RB Desmon Peoples (upper body), LB Nick Rafferty (upper body), LB Austin Rosa (lower body), RB Charles Snorweah (upper body), and LB T.J. Taylor (lower body).
Rutgers' already thin secondary could face more depth issues, as CB Jarius Adams and SS Davon Jacobs are both listed as questionable with upper body injuries. Jacobs was listed as the starter at strong safety leading up to the Kansas game, but if he can't give it a go Saturday, Kiy Hester will get the start. The defensive backs' statuses will be worth monitoring throughout the week.
G Chris Muller (lower body), DE Kemoko Turay (upper body), DE Djwany Mera (lower body), DB Ronnie James (lower body) and OT Zach Heeman (lower body) are all listed as probable, and are expected to play Saturday.
Here's a look at the updated depth chart released earlier today.
QB: Chris Laviano/Hayden Rettig
RB: Paul James OR Josh Hicks OR Justin Goodwin OR Robert Martin
FB: Sam Bergen/Anthony Folkerts
TE: Nick Arcidiacono/Matt Flanagan OR Charles Scarff
WR: Carlton Agudosi/Vance Matthews
WR: Andre Patton/Janarion Grant
LT: Keith Lumpkin/Zack Heeman
LG: Dorian Miller/Tariq Cole
C: Derrick Nelson/Chris Muller
RG: Chris Muller/Marcus Applefield
RT: J.J. Denman/Ryan Brodie
* No change to the offensive starters, and only a couple tweaks to the reserves. With Tsimis out, Vance Matthews is now listed as Agudosi's back-up. Also, starting guard Chris Muller is now listed as the back-up center behind Derrick Nelson. Zach Venesky had previously been backing up Nelson.
* As expected, Chris Laviano is still the Scarlet Knights' starting quarterback. Just my interpretation, but I think if the coaching staff were serious about a potential switch, the bye week probably would have been the time to do it. Laviano faces his biggest test yet against the undefeated Spartans.
* Rutgers is still sticking with the four co-starters at running back, but Josh Hicks has dominated carries, totaling 62 through four games. Robert Martin is next at 41, with Paul James right behind him at 40. Justin Goodwin's status as a "starter" is puzzling, since he didn't receive a single carry against Kansas, and has just three on the season.
DE: Quanzell Lambert/Kemoko Turay
NT: Sebastian Joseph/Kevin Wilkins
DT: Julian Pinnix-Odrick/Eric Wiafe
DE: Djwany Mera/Jimmy Hogan
WLB: Steve Longa/Deonte Roberts
MLB: Kaiwan Lewis/Isaiah Johnson
SLB: Quentin Gause/Eric Margolis OR Kevin Marquez
CB: Isaiah Wharton/Brian Verbitski OR Jarius Adams
FS: Anthony Cioffi/Saquan Hampton
SS: Kiy Hester/Andre Hunt OR Davon Jacobs
CB: Blessuan Austin/Ronnie James
* The depth chart for the front seven remained exactly the same, save for Darius Hamilton being removed.
* Brian Verbitski popped up on the depth chart, as he is listed as CB Isaiah Wharton's back-up, along with Jarius Adams, who is questionable for Saturday.
* With Davon Jacobs' status uncertain, Kiy Hester is now listed as the starter at strong safety. If Jacobs is active on Saturday, it appears he will be backing up Hester along with Andre Hunt.
K: Kyle Federico/Chris Gough
P: Joey Roth/Michael Cintron
LS: Alan Lucy/Alex Hutchings
H: Joey Roth/Brian Verbitski
KR/PR: Janarion Grant/Josh Hicks
* No changes on special teams. The Spartans have already allowed a kick return touchdown as well as a punt return score, so Janarion Grant will look to take one to the house again Saturday.