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.
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.
3 Best Players
- WR Janarion Grant
- RG Chris Muller
- RB Robert Martin
3 Underrated Players
- TE Nick Arcidiacono
- RB Justin Goodwin
- C Derrick Nelson
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.
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
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.