It’s the season of gratitude, and while recover from eating too much turkey the past couple of days (or sides for this vegetarian), let’s add the senior class of Rutgers Football to our gratitude list. There are 21(!) seniors graduating this year, and we wanted to take the time to recognize each of their efforts individually. Here’s a list of all the graduating class of ‘17, in no particular order:
Robert Martin (RB):
Robert Martin has been a true asset to the Rutgers Football team, and despite injuries, a consistent producer of offensive yards. Martin was a first year starter, making his debut against Howard on special teams. Despite only one start at running back in 2015, Martin was ranked 10th in the B1G with 63.6 rushing yards per game. While injuries led him to only play 10 games in 2016, Martin improved his ranking to 6th, with 5.17 yards per carry. To add to his accolades, Martin moved into the top 10 of the Rutgers rushing yards leaderboard with his performance against Maryland, with 2,274 heading into his last game. While the running back corps has depth, Robert Martin will be hard to replace.
Josh Hicks (RB):
Despite often falling behind on the depth charts to his classmate Robert Martin, and this year grad transfer Gus (the Bus) Edwards, Hicks is a strong RB in his own right. A strong freshman season lead him to play the final 12 games of his freshman season, earning the MVP title in 2014 Quick Lane Bowl with 19 carries for 202 yards, and he became the 6th Scarlet Knight to reach 200 yards in a bowl game, right behind former star Ray Rice who generated 280 yards in the 2008 International Bowl. Given lack of depth he played both RB and safety in his Sophomore campaign, and registered 6 tackles, 1 fumble, and 1 interception at that position against Army. This was his best year, and he produced 674 rushing yards. Personal struggles led him to only play 7 games for two starts in 2016, and he has seen just 12 attempts for 78 yards rushing, and 5 for 68 receiving this season. While not always the star, Josh Hicks has been a solid player and loyal son to Rutgers, and his speed will be missed.
Kyle Bolin (QB):
A new addition to the Scarlet Knights, this former Power 5 quarterback came to the banks with much anticipation. After a great first series against #17 Washington, where he led the Scarlet Knights to a touchdown on an 11-plays and a game where he went 24-for-34 for 178 yards, his spark seemed to stall. He started in 5 games until again Gio Rescigno came in to relieve the the starting QB. Regardless of his production, or lack of, on the field, Bolin has proven to be a class act, and great leader, and was voted captain by his teammates in the off-season. We may always wonder what would have happened at QB if Gio had started against EMU, but let’s be thankful for the competition and leadership Bolin has brought to the position.
David Bonagura (PK):
A walk-on to the Rutgers program, Bonagura is a NJ native who put a lot of heart into this program and after not seeing any play action his first three years, was in 2016 the only placekicker on the roster. Showing his true grit and dedication, Bonagura worked hard to prove his worth as the starting placekicker, and while he may have not had the strongest leg, he made 10 of 14 FG attempts with a long of 41 yards, and recorded a touch-back on his first career start. In a program marred with bad behavior under former head coach Kyle Flood, Bonagura was named to the Academic All Big-Ten List in 2016 under current head coach Chris Ash, and has graciously accepted his position behind fellow PK Andrew Harte and star freshman Justin Davidovicz, who provide the Knights with better starting field position. Let’s hope Bonagura gets some play action in his final game as a Scarlet Knight.
Alan Lucy (LS):
An often undervalued position, Lucy served for 3 years at long snapper before being unseated by true freshman Billy Taylor. Lucy made his career debut in a victory against Washington State, and has often assisted in or made solo tackles blocking on the return. A great long snapper not only makes clean snaps, but can also block, run well, and makes plays. Lucy was able to do this well for three years, and the competition was tight coming into this season. Clark Harris and Andrew DePaola have made successful careers as long snappers in the NFL, so best of luck to Lucy after graduation.
Zach Allen (QB):
Another Power 5 transfer, Allen showed loyalty to his team by not joining the great quarterback transfer of 2016 despite not seeing much action under Chris Ash. While his action has been limited, he has only appeared in four games in two years, his dedication to the team should be rewarded and take him far wherever his career takes him in the future. Expect to see him see action in his final game given Ash’s dedication to creating a great experience for his senior class.
Ross Douglas (LB):
A redshirt Senior, Douglas did not see action until 2014 when he moved to running back to help fill out that position. While he did not move back to defense until 2016 at free safety, he has now started all 11 games as strong-side linebacker in 2017 and recorded some great numbers in his senior campaign. He brings fire and heart to the secondary, and has registered 14 solo and 19 assisted tackles, and 4 pass break ups so far this year. In 21 games played, he has delivered 1 assisted sack, 38 tackles (18 UA, 20 A), an assisted TFL, and 4 pass deflections. Douglas is a great leader, and has expressed interest in becoming a coach. Best of luck to Douglas in the future.
Myles Nash (TE):
Another versatile player, after redshirting his freshman year, Nash spent time of special teams in 2014, after seeing action in just one game in 2015 in the season opener against Norfolk State. In 2016 he played in all 12 games on the defensive line, and recorded 6 tackles included an assisted stop against no. 9 Penn State. When sophomore starter Tyreek Maddox-Williams tore his ACL in 2017 training camp, Nash went back to his defensive roots as a defensive end. Since then Nash has played at both positions, and has had success on both sides of the ball. Nash does so with a great attitude and is the first Scarlet Knight to play on both sides of the ball in the same game since 2013. In 32 games played, he has had 2 receptions for 21 yards, and in the same season 1 sack, 17 tackles (11 A, 6 UA), with 1.5 TFL for 5 yards lost. So many of these Knights have learned new positions to help with injuries and depth issues, and Nash has proven himself to be a true athlete.
Gus Edwards (RB):
One of the most successful of Ash’s slew of grad transfers, Gus (the Bus) Edwards has started in all 11 games at running back and is a key component of Jerry Kill’s offense. In a somewhat stagnant offense, Edwards has often lit the field on fire, producing 703 yards of rushing offense to date, as well as 1 receiving touchdown against Maryland and 1 tackle against Penn State. A season high 74 yard touchdown against Purdue and a game-winning 23-yard receiving touchdown against Maryland have made Edwards not only exciting to watch but a reliable producer of offense. Coming off of an inconsistent career at Miami, Edwards has proven he has what it takes to play on Sunday. We will miss his talent and dedication to the team, and thank him for taking a chance on Rutgers for his senior campaign.
Damon (Duwop) Mitchell (WR):
Given the lack of a passing threat at QB, Mitchell has likely not had the flashy senior year for which he was hoping. While I believe Mitchell has a lot of talent given his time at Arkansas, and top ranking coming into college, there has not been a lot for him to work with here at run-heavy Rutgers. Regardless, Mitchell has recorded 130 yards on 10 receptions, with a long of 33 yards against Eastern Michigan. He also had a 14 yard punt return against Penn State and registered a tackle in that game as well. Best of luck to Mitchell at the next stage of his career, and thank you for spending your final year of eligibility at Rutgers.
T.J. Taylor (LB):
A home-grown local native, Taylor hails less than 15 minutes from Rutgers in South Brunswick. Taylor redshirted his freshman year, and did not see action in 2015 due to an injury sustained in spring practice. In 2014, he played in all 13 games as a special teams contributor, and had two tackles against Ohio State. In 2016, he played in all 12 games again on special teams, and tied for second on the team with five tackles on special teams and delivered two stops on punt coverage against Michigan State. He has not seen any game action so far this season, but in terms of character Taylor is exactly the kind of player you want on your team. He has won both the Douglas A. Smith Award given to the most improved defensive player in spring practice, and a spot on the Academic All Big-Ten out of 27 in 2014.
Zane Campbell (DB):
Another NJ native hailing from Delran, NJ, Campbell played the first two years of his college career at D3 Wesley College. Due to NCAA transfer regulations, Campbell had to sit out 2015 and has spent the last two years contributing on special teams. He made his Rutgers debut against New Mexico in 2016, in which he recorded two tackles and has appeared in 10 games this year. Campbell had his best game against Ohio State with 4 solo and 1 assisted tackle. He also forced a fumble on punt coverage at Michigan and broke up passes against Purdue and Illinois assisting in those wins. A criminal justice major, we wish Campbell the best of luck whomever he chooses to defend.
Darnell Davis (DL):
Another team captain, Davis is a NJ native hailing from Union, NJ. A leader both on and off the field, Davis was voted Academic All Big-Ten in 2015 and 2016. Like many other young players, he started his career on special teams, after redshirting as a true freshman. He played all 12 games in 2015 and 2016 as a defensive end, and 10 this year to date. He has delivered a career 4 sacks (3 solo, 1 assisted), 95 total tackles (49 UA, 46 A), 4 forced fumbles, 15 tackles for loss for a total yardage lost of 57 yards, and 2 fumble recoveries one of which he returned for a 75-yard touchdown against Indiana last year. Davis had that highlight reel sack against Washington’s Jake Browning and totaled a game high 10 tackles against Morgan State including 1.5 for a loss, 1 sack, and a forced fumble. He has been a true leader for his team, plays with true grit and heart, and deserves all the best at the next stage of his career.
Andrew Harte (PK):
Another of Ash’s grad transfers, Harte played his undergraduate career at Jerry Kill’s former home of Minnesota. Harte has played all 10 games at kicker this year attempting all field goals. He has made 7 of 10 attempts, and after failing to convert a 32-yard field goal against Ohio State to avoid a shut out, Harte went on to make 1 of 2 field goal attempts with a long of 50 in a win against Maryland. He added points on both attempts against Penn State for a season high, and has made all 26 PAT attempts this season. A grad student in the financial analysis program, we have no doubt Harte will have success in the future.
Sebastian Joseph (DL):
A beast at 6’4” and 305 lbs, Joseph is the kind of lineman you want in the B1G. After recording a TFL in his first collegiate attempt in 2013 against Norfolk State, a season ending injury forced Joseph into a medical redshirt for the remainder of the year. He came back to play in all 13 games including stop in a win against North Carolina in the Quick Lane bowl in 2014, their last bowl win. He has started in every game since as a nose tackle, and delivered 93 total career tackles, 44 UA and 49A, including 14.5 for a loss. Joseph is a consistent in his defensive prowess, and aggressive in his style of play, with a tackle for loss yardage of 46, 2 pass deflections, 3.5 sacks (1 solo, 5 assisted), 2 forced fumbles, 1 QB hurry, and 2 blocked punts. He had a career high 7 tackles against the win against Maryland, including an assisted sack and TFL for a total of 6 yards lost. He is a leader in his community, nominated to the AFCA Good Works Team, Executive Board of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, and the Academic All Big-Ten in 2015 and 2016.
Nixon Provillon (WR):
Another NJ native hailing from Irvington, NJ, Provillon joined Rutgers for spring practice in 2016 after having attended Cheyney University. He was a member of both the football and track teams in 2013 and 2014, but unfortunately did not see any game action at either school. Provillon is an exercise science and sports management major.
Joe Rivera (DL):
Add another NJ native to the list of graduating seniors, this time hailing from Belleville, NJ. There was no recorded bio or stats for Rivera, so I have to assume he never saw game action for Rutgers. Best of luck to Rivera in the future!
Kemoko Turay (DL):
Another NJ native hailing from Newark, NJ, Kemoko Turay has been a source of inconsistency with amazing highs and disappointing lows in his Rutgers careers. Casual fans will remember Turay for blocking a late 4th quarter against Michigan to seal the win, and and of course another in the loss to Penn State. He played in all 13 games that year, and was named to the 14th Football Writer’s Association of American Freshman All-American Team, and Scout’s Freshman Second All-American Team. He was also named Honorable Mention All Big-Ten that year, and Big Ten Special Teams Player of the week in the win against Michigan. For all of those accolades, Turay has shown flashes of greatness mixed with some head-scratching plays which have lead him to never receive the same recognition as in his freshman campaign. Regardless, Turay has recorded some highly impressive stats, including 93 total tackles (50 UA, 43 A), 19 TFL for 122 yards, 4 pass deflections, 3 blocked kicks/punts, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble returns and 14 sacks (11 UA, 6 A) for 113 yards. He also recorded a touchdown on a fumble return in the comeback win against Indiana in 2015, and 6 QBH. This year he had a season high 9 tackles against Purdue, and has been a more consistent producer of defense. Let’s hope for one more blocked kick against MSU in Turay’s final start as a Scarlet Knight.
Dorian Miller (OL):
A NJ native from along the Norteast Corridor line in Metuchen, NJ, Dorian Miller was voted team captain this year, and is part of a distinguished group of offensive lineman who allowed no sacks and ran for 239 in the victory over Maryland this year. Starting in 10 games at left guard in 2015, Miller has started in every game since at the position. He saw action in 4 games in 2014, making his collegiate debut in the home opener against Howard. Say what you will about the offensive line, but Miller has been part of quite a few elite groups at Rutgers, and helped the offense rush for 274 yards against Illinois. In 2016 he was part of the line that allowed no sacks and sprung an 80-yard rushing touchdown in a win against New Mexico, and helped the offensive run for 375-yards in a win against Howard. In 2015, he was part of a group against New Mexico, and helped the offensive run for 375-yards again in a win over Howard. He was part of a group that allowed 5.2 yards per carry and only one sack in the comeback win against Indiana. Offense ran for 312 yards and did not allow a sack in a win over Kansas that year, and he earned his collegiate start in a win over Norfolk State in a group as the offense rushed for 291 yards and did not permit a sack. The offensive line does not always steal the show, but can make or break an offense looking to break through. Miller has done that well while being a leader to his team, and I wish him luck in whatever he chooses to do next.
Ryan Anderson (P):
Quite possibly the most valuable addition in grad transfers this season, Anderson was the only consistent contributor to last week’s embarrassing shutout to Indiana. Anderson has started all 11 games as punter, and in that time has been recognized by the media being named to both the Ray Guy Award Watch List and the CoSIDA Academic All-District Team. He has made 73 punt attempts for 3,255 yards, with a long of 70 yards against Indiana. 27 of his attempts have gone 50+ yards, and 19 were inside the 20. He has delivered 20 touchbacks, and a season average of 44.6 yards per attempts. There is no mistaking the importance of strong starting field position, and Ryan Anderson has limited the scoring ability of opponents by lengthening the playing field for them. Anderson will be sorely missed, and we thank him for spending his last year of eligibility on the banks.
Janarion Grant (WR):
If Ryan Anderson was the most valuable grad transfer, Janarion Grant has been the MVP of the Rutgers Football team these last 4 years. It’s probably why I saved him for last, and why saying goodbye to him will be so difficult. While even Ash has acknowledged that last year’s season-ending injury has kept him from having the senior campaign for which we all would have hoped, there is no doubting his contribution to this team on multiple sides of the ball. He delivered the shock of a century when he recorded an 100-yard punt return for a touchdown on his first collegiate touch against Fresno State. Grant showed the country then that Rutgers had someone to watch, and went on to receive more accolades than I can even list including 2013 Rutgers Special Teams Co-MVP, 2013 Second Team All-American Athletic Conference (Coaches), 2014 Mark Mills Effort Award, 2015 Rutgers Special Teams MVP, 2015 Third Team All Big Ten (Coaches), 2015 Second Team All Ten (Media), and more Special Teams Player of the Week Recognition than I can list here.
He is also trailing the NCAA Record for combined kick & punt returns for touchdowns by one and is the All-Time Kickoff Return yardage leader at Rutgers. In his Rutgers career, he has recorded 344 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns on 36 attempts, 1062 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns on 99 receptions, and 8 more touchdowns on returns with an average of 99 all-purpose yards per game. Let’s not forget that he also scored two passing touchdowns for 26 yards, and seemed at times to be the only source of offense last year. 2016 would have been his best year as he averaged 163.8 yards in 4 games before his injury. This season has been a struggle with injuries, but he still has two touchdowns in his last campaign. His electricity and stealthiness are unparalleled, and watching this fade as he has been plagued with injury truly makes me sad as he deserved more after chose to come back to Rutgers rather than leaving for the NFL for his senior year. Wherever Grant goes next, he will always be recognized by this writer, and I’m sure by the fans, as one of the best punt returners of all time, at least the best the Scarlet Knights have ever seen.
So there you have it, 21 seniors who will play their last game at Rutgers on Saturday against Michigan State. Say what you want about our chances to win, and the OTB staff does not see a strong chance of it happening, but what we can expect is this team who has stuck together through many hardships to play their hearts out for each other. This is a senior class who has stuck together through the awful Flood years, a firing of their head coach, the addition of a young, stricter coach in Chris Ash, and the transition years as the aforementioned Ash rebuilds the Rutgers Football program from the ground up. These kids, yes kids, deserve our support for showing heart, class, loyalty and dedication when many would have chosen to give up, and they were told they lacked the talent to be in the B1G.
With that, I ask that we give them a good show of support this week, and recognize all they have given to the program. There was quite a bit of media coverage on the fact that despite it being Senior Day at Indiana last week, there was a very poor showing for the game. While we didn’t beat them on the field, at least we can show as a fan base what paying proper respect looks like. It is supposed to be mostly sunny with a high of 57 degrees on Saturday, and I for one will be there to support these graduating Scarlet Knights as they take the field at HPSS one last time.