It was a cloudy, cool and comfortable afternoon for Fan Appreciation Day. Hundreds of fans came out today to see a preview of what the 2017 Rutgers Scarlet Knights could look like. The fans were treated to an open live practice which showcased the Scarlet Knights’ offense, defense, and special teams drills. There were some good plays, and bad plays, but that’s what practice is for. Here is my analysis from today’s practice session.
What I was intrigued the most was the quarterback play between senior Kyle Bolin, senior Giovanni Rescigno, and true freshmen Johnathan Lewis. As I was watched meticulously, I was hoping to see if there was a quarterback that may have more command of the offense and who would stood out amongst the bunch. Today, I didn’t see anything from three quarterbacks that broadcasted a trademark play that would elevate them into the starter. Each quarterback threw multiple crisp passes and also interceptions to the defense. There wasn’t a clear cut winner quite yet. If I had to start a QB today, I would give a slight edge to Kyle Bolin but this starting job is still up for grabs, based on what I saw today. Coach Kill have the ultimate decision and it may be tough one.
The secondary played very well today by grabbing a few interceptions during practice. Redshirt senior Ross Douglass made an excellent interception, which “wowed” the crowd. Quarterbacks had a hard time with the deep pass due to the strong secondary play by juniors Kiy Hester, Blessuan Austin, Isaiah Wharton and Saquan Hampton.
I thought senior Gus Edwards showed a dominating presence with his size alone. He is a bruising running back which can make the Scarlet Knights more physical when it comes to the run game. I expect him to be a significant facet to Jerry Kill’s offense.
Hicks was amazing today. He displayed some uncanny and instinctive moves this afternoon. During one play, Hicks ran left and executed a sharp cut to the right, which fooled the whole defensive line and he scored on a 55 yard touchdown. If Josh Hicks brings that type of energy and spark every game, it will help the quarterback and help ball control on offense. Hicks is playing with a chip on shoulder and today’s practice showed it.
Special Teams wasn’t the sharpest today. The punt return and kicking needs some more work. Too many dropped catches during the punt returns which can be detrimental during a real live game. There were some missed kicks as well, which was an issue last year in 2016. On the bright side, the special teams did block a field goal, which reminded me of 2014 during the Michigan game. Hopefully, the Scarlet Knights get squared away and improve the special teams in practice.
Pass Protection needs some improvement
The offensive line wasn’t bad overall, but there were too many times where tall three quarterbacks had to scramble or move outside tackle box to make a throw. The offensive line needs to give the quarterbacks more time in order to be efficient. On the bright side, Tariq Cole played very well and showed promise. If they can be more consistent on QB pass protection, then Rutgers can sustain long drives and accumulate more points on the scoreboard. Last year, Rutgers gave up too many sacks and loss of yardage due to poor pass protection. It’s an area that needs the most improvement.
Time of the practice went to OT
According to the schedule, practice was supposed to end at 12:00 PM. It didn’t end until 12:25. Though it was a pleasure to see more practice time and seeing how the Scarlet Knights operate, it took away some time from the fans. Some fans felt like there wasn’t enough time for the autograph sessions with the players and coaches. If they can give the RU alums and fans some more time to engage with players and coaches, I think this would be a non-issue. Fans love to interact with players to feel part of the team.
Overall, it was a good sneak peak to see where Rutgers stands as a football team. The practice was more concise and punctual than the Spring game. Rutgers fans finally get to see the whole team playing, which gives some inspiration and excitement for the start of the season on September 1st.