With the Rutgers football players scheduled to report back for summer workouts next week, here are five positive developments to welcome the team back.
New Weight Room
Construction began soon after spring practice concluded at the end of April. The goal was to have the new weight room complete by the start of summer workouts. There haven't been any recent updates, but indications seem to be that everything is on schedule. Even if it's a week or two late, the players will have a newly renovated space with new equipment to keep them going during the hot summer days. This will give strength and conditioning coach Kenny Parker even more tools to train the players and get them ready for the season ahead.
All incoming freshman and transfers can report on June 1st. Griffin covered the potential roles and impact of each newcomer here. The one player most likely to make an immediate impact is Michigan transfer Ross Taylor-Douglas. He has big program experience, is playing a position of need at cornerback, and joins a group devoid of a veteran leader. Taylor-Douglas also offers versatility and added depth to the position group most needing improvement from last season. He is a rare graduate transfer that has two years of eligibility remaining, so his excellence in the classroom is a welcomed addition as well.
Players Returning from Injury
Several key players were limited or sat out most of spring practice, but most should be close to being ready to participate without limitations at some point this summer. No two players on the injury list are more important than senior defensive tackle Darius Hamilton and junior defensive end Kemoko Turay. Adding both players to an already experienced and talented front line will be a pleasure for the defensive coaches. Although Hamilton did practice most of the spring, he was held out of the spring game, as he was still working back to becoming 100% healthy. Turay had shoulder surgery in January and sat out all of the spring. The performance of both will be a major factor in how successful Ash and defensive coordinator Jay Neimann can be in turning around the much maligned Rutgers defense next season.
Since spring practice ended, Rutgers head coach Chris Ash has picked up four commitments and the current ten player recruiting class for the 2017 cycle has moved up the rankings. There is a long way to go until national signing day nine months from now, but the program has experienced more positive momentum than it has in several years. The staff continue to work tirelessly in building upon their great start and will certainly keep their foot on the gas pedal. It will be important to continue to make progress this summer on the recruiting trail ahead of the start of the fall season.
With the spring semester behind them, the players can focus on the fall ahead. While some players will be enrolled in summer school, the workload in the classroom is less than during the regular school year. The coaches have a body of work from spring practice to critique and review with the team, ahead of the preseason training camp that begins in August. The players will be much closer to the 2016 season and based on the culture Ash and his staff have put in place, their focus should be unwavering. With a daunting schedule upcoming, the next two months are critical in preparing the team to succeed in 2016.