When rebuilding a college football program, there is no such thing as an exact timeline. Challenges and setbacks are a natural occurrence during the rebuilding process, while recruiting coups and development of players are hard to predict. Keeping those factors in mind, there are infrastructure and culture changes that are better gauges for future success. With that in mind, here are what I believe to be five predictions for Rutgers Football in the next five years that are attainable.
Facilities Will Be Improved To A Big Ten Level
This one is easy, as facilities have already improved since Chris Ash arrived in December 2015. The weight room was upgraded thanks to the donation from the Garutti family and practice fields are currently under construction thanks to a donation from the Towers family. However, there will be plenty more to do over the next five years. As part of the R B1G Build, facilities are being added for lacrosse and soccer, with the goal for the Hale Center to ultimately be dedicated entirely for the football program. While Ash has had the facility undergo a facelift since he took over, expect more improvements down the road. Hopefully with the program continuing to improve, donations will also continue to allow for upgrades facility wise and bring things to a Big Ten level.
Stability at OC/QB
After eight consecutive years of having a new offensive coordinator, it seems like the position will stabilize under Jerry Kill. He has commented previously that he no longer has the desire to be a head coach and that he is looking forward to the opportunity in being an OC, allowing him to just focus on coaching and recruiting. With Johnathan Lewis arriving on campus, he has a great opportunity to become the starting quarterback for several years. It may not happen this season, although he will have the chance to do so, but you have to think worst case, he will take over in 2018. The last time Rutgers had stability at both offensive coordinator and quarterback was a decade ago. The 2007 & 2008 seasons produced the top two seasons in total yards of any Rutgers offense in program history, as well as the most and third most points ever. While the offense did have the greatest running back in school history with Ray Rice, it also had John McNulty as OC and Mike Teel at quarterback. Adding talent to the current offense is a must, but Rutgers may be close to stabilizing the two most important positions of any offense, which should lead to major improvement.
Recruiting Top 40 Classes On A Regular Basis
In Chris Ash’s first full recruiting cycle, he produced a class ranked between 42nd and 45th, according to the major national recruiting services. There is no doubt that Ash needs to improve on these rankings with future classes. Rutgers finished with a respectable ranking for the first time in five years and that was with their fewest wins since 2002. While the 2018 class only has two commitments at the moment, the staff has been very active and has widened their scope by recruiting in the midwest, with Ohio becoming a focus. As Rutgers improves on the field, their success in landing top 10 recruits in New Jersey should improve as well. It’s reasonable to expect recruiting classes ranked between 30-40 year after year, which is really the minimum needed to be able to compete in the Big Ten East. Perhaps Ash can push the program into the top 25 at some point in the next five years, but after averaging the rank of 57th between 2013-2016, being consistently in the top 40 would be major progress.
Players Drafted To NFL On A Regular Basis
Improvement in recruiting will give the experienced staff that Ash has assembled the type of players that can really improve from a player development standpoint. While quality of depth on the roster will be the biggest factor in the team improving in Big Ten play, it will be important for recruiting for the staff to develop players into pros. Rutgers routinely had at least one player drafted during the Schiano era and with Ash’s track record from previous stops, I think it’s reasonable to predict those days will return. While having seven players drafted in a single draft like in 2013 shouldn’t be the expectations, having multiple draft picks year after year should be the standard the program hopes to achieve under Ash.
Make A Bowl Game
There I said it, the B word. While I do think it will take a few years, Ash will ultimately get this team back to playing in bowl games soon enough. With predicted stability on offense and consistent recruiting success that will upgrade the talent on the roster, this is the natural next step. Heck, who knows, it could even happen in 2018. In the first 8 games of that season, the schedule includes home games against Texas State, Buffalo, Indiana, Illinois, and Northwestern, with road games at Kansas and Maryland. I’m not saying Rutgers will be better than some of these programs that quickly, but that schedule is not a murderers row by any stretch.
At the end of the day, remember this rebuild is a process, one that will take years for the fruits of the staff’s labor to bloom. Here is what Jerry Kill said in talking to him this winter and something we should all remember:
“I said when I went to Minnesota, it was going to take 5-7 years and we were fortunate to really hit in years three and four, but not totally hit it. It takes 5-7 years to really to get things up and running, but again, with the leadership we have at our university, our athletic director at Rutgers is tremendous. When you are trying to turn something around, you want everything lined up. You want the AD lined up with the head football coach.”
In five years, let’s hope all of these predictions hit the mark. Rutgers will be getting a full share of revenues from the Big Ten and hopefully, Ash will be on his way to building a legacy of success on the banks.
What do you think? Am I crazy or was I too conservative? Sound off in the comments and thanks for reading.