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Rutgers Football: A complete preview of the 2016 season

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Penn State Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

It is the first game week of the 2016 season and time to preview the inaugural campaign in the Chris Ash era of Rutgers Football.

First, let’s refresh ourselves on all of the previews that On The Banks has published over the past few weeks.

TJ Jurkiewicz previews Vegas win totals and makes his predictions on the season

Aaron Breitman looks at the benefits of Chris Laviano as the starting QB

Aaron also notes five areas Rutgers can improve on in 2016

Matt Pisani takes a look at how Robert Martin can break out in 2016

Quick Links for the team

Leading off: The New Era of Rutgers Football

Pat Hobbs hired Chris Ash to bring Rutgers back to relevance on the football field and out of the headlines off the field. Ash has recruited well beyond expectations and has not had to deal with any off the field problems since he was hired in December. Ash had broken down and analyzed every single aspect of the football program and has not been shy about making changes. He was very critical of the facilities when he was hired and now the Hale Center has been completely renovated and thanks to the Garutti Family, there is a brand new $1.25 million weight room. Excitement around the program is as high as I can remember and the players have responded incredibly well to Chris Ash’s new philosophy.

S&P+ (Computer) Schedule Prediction (via Bill Connelly)

Human Game by Game predictions

Week 1: @ Washington

Rutgers just isn’t good enough to hang with the #14 Huskies. L (0-1)

Week 2: Howard

Easy win against a weak FCS opponent. W (1-1)

Week 3: New Mexico

Rutgers has another easy one against one of the weaker FBS teams. W (2-1)

Week 4: Iowa

Iowa is simply a better team and won’t lose this one. L (2-2)

Week 5: @ Ohio State

Right now, Rutgers is Urban Meyer’s satellite team. No shot to win here. L (2-3)

Week 6: Michigan

Michigan is overrated, but still much better than Rutgers. L (2-4)

Week 7: Illinois

Rutgers gets an easy homecoming game but barely scrapes by a tough team. W (3-4)

Week 8: @ Minnesota

Minnesota wins this because they are the grittier team, led by the grittiest head coach in college football, Tracy Claeys. L (3-5)

Week 9: BYE

Week 10: Indiana

Indiana sucks. W (4-5)

Week 11: @ Michigan State

No chance on the road against a top level team. L (4-6)

Week 12: Penn State

Rutgers has gotta beat Penn State eventually. Time to take down the cult. W (5-6)

Week 13: @ Maryland

Maryland almost sucks as much as Indiana. W (6-6)

Final Prediction: Rutgers goes 6-6 and lands a spot in the Quick Lane Bowl against surprise ACC team Wake Forest.

Offensive Preview

3 Best Players

  • WR Janarion Grant
  • RG Chris Muller
  • RB Robert Martin

3 Underrated Players

  • TE Nick Arcidiacono
  • RB Justin Goodwin
  • C Derrick Nelson

Preseason Superlatives

MVP: Janarion Grant

Breakout Player: Chris Laviano

Leading Rusher: Robert Martin

Leading Receiver: Janarion Grant

Best Lineman: Chris Muller

Notes: Even though he isn’t listed as the starter on the week 1 depth chart, Robert Martin is the starting running back and the best one when healthy. Janarion Grant will be lined up all over the field and everyone will have a hard time keeping up with him. He will be the biggest difference maker on the team this year. Justin Goodwin has had a great camp season and will earn time on the field along with Josh Hicks backing up Robert Martin. If you weren’t aware, Derrick Nelson is a really good football player. He flew under the radar last year but was one of the first players knighted and has experience and skill as well as the fact that he was elected a captain.

Chris Laviano: The Most Important Player on the team

Chris Laviano faced endless criticism last year from fans who wanted to see Hayden Rettig play and were tired of Laviano’s underthrown passes and inability to move the offense. However, Laviano is a completely different beast this year. New tattoos and all, he has showed a competitive fire that no one else on the team has showed. He has taken control of the team and they wholeheartedly support him as their leader. He is in a new offense, one that will force him to spread the ball over the field and not make decisions at the line of scrimmage. The up-tempo offense helps him keep a short memory, as he will have no time to think of the previous play. Last year, the lack of support from his own “fans” clearly got to him in the season finale against Maryland. There should be none of that this year, as he has won the job fair and square and this coaching staff handed him nothing. He has earned absolutely everything with the new staff and they have bought in on him. Regardless of what Chris Ash says, it is pretty clear that Chris Laviano is “the guy” for Rutgers football. No #FreeAllen. No #FreeGio. None of that crap this year. It is time we get behind our QB and support him as he leads the team into a new era.

Defensive Preview

3 Best Players

  • DL Darius Hamilton
  • DL Julian Pinnix-Odrick
  • S Anthony Cioffi

3 Underrated Players

  • LB Trevor Morris
  • DE Myles Nash
  • DL Jon Bateky

Preseason Superlatives

MVP: Darius Hamilton

Breakout Player: Saquan Hampton

Leading Tackler: Deonte Roberts

INT Leader: Saquan Hampton

Sack Leader: Myles Nash

Notes: Saquan Hampton is a favorite of Chris Ash and will be a key member of the secondary. The safety spots have been shuffled all over but Hampton has settled in as the starting free safety while Anthony Cioffi is at strong safety. Deonte Roberts flashed ability but was stuck behind Steve Longa and only got one start against Army. He has moved inside to middle linebacker and has the potential to be a tackling machine. Jon Bateky saw some action last year and has already been knighted as a backup to Darius Hamilton.

Myles Nash: The New Defensive X-Factor

Myles Nash is one of my favorite players on the team now. He was recruited as a 6-5 200-pound athlete and is now a 6-5 254-pound pass rushing animal. Quanzell Lambert and Julian Pinnix-Odrick are big guys who can contain the edge and stop the run. However, they are not known for their pass rushing moves. Enter Nash, who has taken advantage of the open spot left by Kemoko Turay. He has spent 4 offseasons grinding in the weight room to get the frame he has needed. He will be rewarded in 2016 as he has cracked the 2-deep at defensive end and will see plenty of game action.

The SparkNotes Version

The 2016 Rutgers Football team is an absolute wild card. I can see them winning as few as 2 games while you can also make a case that there are 9 wins on their schedule. There are so many unknowns with this team from the new coaching staff to the wide receivers and the secondary that anything can happen. This season should be exciting and I’d be ecstatic to see the Scarlet Knight return to a bowl game. That would easily exceed everyone else’s expectation and people will start paying attention to Rutgers once again.