It’s official, Janarion Grant is coming back to Rutgers football for the 2017 season.
This is tremendous news for an offense that finished dead last in college football last season, which Grant missed the majority of due to his injury. He qualified for a medical hardship waiver by playing just under the 30% cutoff for the season. The Big Ten counts the championship game for all teams, so it’s based on 13 games and Grant played in 4. Still, there was no guarantee Grant would return, as he could have entered the NFL Draft. Instead, he will look to improve his stock by returning for his senior season.
His future was unknown for months, but Rutgers fans can breath a sigh of relief and rejoice in his return. Rutgers head coach Chris Ash, new offensive coordinator Jerry Kill and wide receivers coach Jafar Williams have probably exhaled the most though, as Grant is by the far the most experienced player on the roster within his position group. He is also the most dynamic and explosive player in the program.
Jawuan Harris is the only other player in the wide receiver group with any real experience. The rest of the group includes a young core with Rashod Blunt, Dacoven Bailey, Ahmed Bah, Jawuan Harris, Mo Jabbie, and Ahmir Mitchell. Preferred walk-on Cole Murphy was just added to the roster as well. This is a great opportunity for them to learn and play under Grant, who has a chance to be one of the top stars of Big Ten football next season.
In addition to the offense, what Grant brings to the special teams return game is otherworldly. Grant is currently tied for the NCAA all-time record for the most combined kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns in a career with eight.
He is fourth all-time for all-purpose yards in Rutgers history and will certainly move up that list next season. He already secured the record for most kickoff return yards in program history in 2015. His 98 yard kickoff return for a touchdown at Michigan in 2015 was the longest return by an opposing player in the history of the Big House.
Grant also sits fourth in #RFootball career all-purpose yardage at 4,251 - needs 1,090 more to break the record.— Jimmy Gill (@jgill027) January 17, 2017
The wide receiver ironically has thrown more touchdown passes (2), than touchdown catches (1) in his career so far. His greatest game was in 2015 against Washington State, when he broke the Rutgers single game record with 337 all-purpose yards, while returning both a kickoff and punt for touchdowns. He also won the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week award four times. He was named to the All-Big Ten second team by the media and third team by the coaches in 2015, which was the snub of the century. Last season, Grant had accounted for 35% of total offense for Rutgers before his injury. It certainly felt like a lot more than that.
We don’t know how different the Rutgers offense will be under new coordinator Jerry Kill, but it’s safe to assume Grant will be the centerpiece. Having Grant at his disposal will be a huge addition for Kill, who tends to field run heavy offenses out of the spread. However, I don’t think Kill had a player as versatile and explosive as Grant at Minnesota. He will likely use him in a variety of ways, similarly to how Mehringer used him. Finding balance around Grant out of the receiving core is a major key, so teams can’t blanket him as much as last season. Players like Harris and Mitchell have a chance to blossom next season as well, now that they can be complimentary pieces to Grant’s starring role.
This is huge news for Rutgers, as one of the best players in program history will lead this team in Ash’s second season. Welcome back Janarion!