Everyone knows how talented Leonte Carroo is. The 2014 All-Big Ten First Team selection is the only player returning in the conference with 1,000+ receiving yards and 10+ touchdowns and Phil Steele named him a preseason Third Team All-American.
But, the question is, who will be Rutgers' other targets?
Andrew Turzilli and Tyler Kroft leave big shoes to fill after departing for the NFL. The numbers between the two were not eye-popping (a combined 34 receptions for 616 yards and four touchdowns in 2014), but Turzilli's ability to stretch the field (34.7 yards per catch) and Kroft as a safety valve/chain-mover opened up a lot of space for Carroo.
With question marks surrounding the depth of the Rutgers receiving core, defenses will certainly double-team Carroo and force other guys to make plays. And with a new quarterback, this unproven group will have to establish itself quickly.
Andre Patton, a 6-4 200-pound athlete, is the likely candidate to line up as the Knights' No. 2 receiver. He emerged in the final two of games of 2014, reeling in a total 11 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns. Patton played a key role in the comeback win over Maryland, torching the Terrapin secondary for 101 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions. He followed that up with a 67-yard, one-touchdown performance in the Quick Lane Bowl rout.
The Wilmington, Delaware native has the size and speed to create mismatches, especially if defenses throw extra defenders Carroo's way.
Patton has a wide catch radius, but must improve his hands, as he had a few key drops in the games versus Maryland and North Carolina. If he can prove to be consistent catching the football, Patton will be a reliable option opposite of Carroo.
Janarion Grant, the speedster who is best known for his return skills, is actually Rutgers' most productive returning wide receiver in terms of yardage. The junior racked up 312 yards on 25 receptions, working mostly from the slot. He saved his two best receiving performances for big wins over Michigan (3 receptions for 87 yards) and Maryland (8 receptions for 105 yards).
Grant's elite quickness is a nightmare matchup for safeties or linebackers that line up on him in the slot. However, Grant is the Knights' go-to return man, so he will not see consistent snaps at WR. But, he should see enough to make splash plays, like the one shown above.
John Tsimis is another slot receiver in the mold of a Wes Welker or Julian Edelman. He uses precise route-running and good hands to overcome his size and speed limitations. Last year, he totaled just 188 yards and three touchdowns on 19 receptions, but scored big touchdowns in wins over Washington State and Michigan. Tsimis could end up being the possession, chain-moving receiver that every young quarterback needs.
For the second consecutive year, Carlton Agudosi was a star in the spring game, hauling in two long touchdowns from Chris Laviano. At 6-6, Agudosi is the most similar player to Turzilli on this year's roster. He's not as fast as Turzilli, but he is a long strider with a massive frame. He has all of the attributes of a deep-ball threat. If Agudosi can translate his spring success into the fall, he could be a breakout performer.
Redshirt sophomore Ruhann Peele missed the entire 2014 season due to injury and off-the-field issues after a promising freshman campaign. In 2013, Peele split time between cornerback and wide receiver. With depth concerns in the secondary, Peele could find his way back to the defensive side of the ball.
Rutgers brings in several three-star recruits at wide receiver to add depth to the position. Florida native Jawuan Harris is the most talented of the bunch. After some speculation, he was not selected in the MLB Draft and should now be fully committed to football for the time being.
At tight end, Kroft's receiving skills will be missed. However, last year with Ralph Friedgen at the helm, the Rutgers offense did not utilize Kroft much in the passing game. If that remains the same with Ben McDaniels now at OC, junior Nick Arcidiacono is a solid replacement. Arcidiacono is a good, tough blocker who had an impressive spring and saw action in 10 games last year.
There is enough talent in this group to make up for the losses of Turzilli and Kroft, especially if Rutgers turns to a more run-heavy attack with the depth and talent at the running back position.
The first big test will likely be the third game of the season at ttfp. The Nittany Lions made life tough for Gary Nova last year and will look to do the same to Rettig and/or Laviano. If the receivers can't make plays, the offense could be in for another long day. If they can, it could be a building block for a young, but talented, offense.
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