During Rutgers Media Day on Sunday, Chris Ash was asked during his press conference about when he plans to decide on the selection of captains for the 2017 season. Here is what he had to say:
“Still a set number. We'd like to have four. But we could go up, as many as six, if we needed to. But we will have a player vote on captains this Wednesday. And that will be really about the midpoint of training camp and have a pretty good idea of who we can count on, who the players trust and who is dependable and who can be our best leaders and we'll vote on that. It will be a player vote that's done on Wednesday night.”
In Ash’s first season, Rutgers had four captains, all of which were lineman, equally split between offense and defense. Chris Muller and Derrick Nelson were on the offensive side, while Darius Hamilton and Julian Pinnix-Odrick were on the defensive side. All four played their entire careers at Rutgers.
The question now is who will the players vote to lead them as captains this season? If five to six players garner a significant amount of votes, I expect Ash to select that many for a key reason. There are a lot of new faces on the roster and it’s likely many freshmen, both true and redshirt, will play a lot this season. Having a couple of extra captains to help lead in an official capacity seems like a smart move. Of course, it really depends on who the players signal out as who they want to lead them. Not only do their choices need to be of high quality leaders, but they need to be players who will have a key role on the field as well. Here is who I think are most likely to be chosen to be captains for Rutgers football. All are in their last year of eligibility, except for one.
Ash has praised Mitchell since he transferred from Arkansas and he is in line to start at wide receiver. He will also have a significant role on special teams, a unit that needs major improvement this season. Mitchell is an experienced player and is hungry to succeed in his last year of college football. Having a motivated player who fully understands Ash and what he wants, both were at Arkansas together for one season, would be an asset as well. I think there is a very good chance he will be a captain.
Grant is supremely talented and has displayed tremendous toughness throughout his career. He has worked very hard to return after last year’s season ending injury. While he seems to be more reserved and let his play on the field do the talking for him, there is no doubt he is highly respected by his teammates.
The steady Miller is entering his third season as the starting left guard and was one of three players to represent the program at Big Ten Media Day. He has been a reliable player in his career and it’s always good to have a lineman in a leadership role. I think he is a lock to be one of the captains.
While Bolin hasn’t officially been named the starting quarterback, all signs point to that being inevitable. He brings a lot of experience with him and has experienced adversity in losing his job to the eventual Heisman Trophy winner at Louisville. Ash has praised Bolin’s preparation and ability to integrate himself within the program since his arrival late in the Spring. Being a leader at quarterback is part of the requirements of the position, whether you are a captain or not. It won’t matter if he isn’t voted one, but it would be telling if he was that the players clearly believe in him.
Edwards is another grad transfer, like Mitchell and Bolin, who bring a ton of experience, both on and off the field. He has impressed the coaching staff during training camp and is in line to be the featured running back at the start of this season. I’m not sure of his leadership style, but he is certainly a player that wants to make the most of this season.
Joseph joined Miller in representing Rutgers at Big Ten Media day. He is the most experienced defensive lineman on the roster, a group whose development is crucial to the success of the team this season. He seems to be a natural, likeable and vocal leader. He will need to lead by example on the field this season. I think Joseph is a lock to be captain as well.
Austin is probably the best player on defense and has a chance to be a breakout star in the Big Ten this season. He is well spoken and represented the program well at Big Ten Media Day. With the secondary expected to be the strength of the defense, having its best player lead on that side of the ball makes a lot of sense. He has also endured a lot in his career, being thrown in the mix and learning on the job as a true freshman. Austin is a good candidate to be able to council the many freshmen who see action this season. He is also the only non-senior I have on the list and having a captain carry over to next season would be ideal.
Call this a wild card pick, but the coaches have said how much Turay has matured and has developed into an every down player this offseason. His growth is in part to his willingness to buy into the coaching staff’s expectations and make a commitment to improving in every facet. He is a major key on defense this season and could be a good example to lead the younger players early on in their career, by showing them the right approach from what he has learned.
Another wild card pick, Douglas is well traveled after transferring to Rutgers before last season. He graduated from Michigan in just three years, so there is no doubt he is a leader in the classroom. On the field, Douglas is in line for a larger role after Tyreek Maddox-Williams was lost for the season with a torn ACL. He will likely play a hybrid linerbacker/defensive back role and should have the opportunity to have a big impact this season.
My Best Guess
I’m not aware of the inner workings of the team or the locker room, but these are my somewhat educated guesses of who will be selected captain on Wednesday night:
Dorian Miller, Sebastian Joseph, Damon Mitchell, Blessuan Austin, and Kyle Bolin.
UPDATE: Rutgers announced the captains and I was half right.
So what do you think? Who do you agree with and who did I miss? Who do you think will be selected? Sound off in the comments.