With training camp beginning on August 2nd for Rutgers football, let’s take a look at five players making their debut with the program on the this field this season who could make the biggest impact. To be clear, this could be any player who will be seeing their first game action at Rutgers, regardless of class or time with the program prior to this season. Let’s begin.
Tre Avery - Redshirt Sophomore Cornerback
The former Ohio State signee who was recruited by then Buckeyes defensive coordinator Chris Ash, ended up transferring to Rutgers from Toledo last year and has three seasons of eligibility remaining. Avery also held offers from many power five programs, including Clemson and Alabama, so there is little question that he has the talent to be an impact player in his career at Rutgers. Despite three-year starter Blessuan Austin declaring himself 100% healthy this past week after tearing his ACL last September, it’s likely the coaching staff will utilize Avery along with Austin and Isaiah Wharton as a three headed monster at the corner spots. There will probably be times all three are on the field together as well. Avery got plenty of first team reps this past spring with Austin still recovering, which prepared him well for this season. The Rutgers secondary is appearing to be the deepest position group on the team, with the three corners just mentioned and Saquan Hampton, Damon Hayes, and now Kiy Hester at the safety spots.
Adam Korsak - True Freshman Punter
The Australian import has big shoes to fill in replacing last season’s First Team All-Big Ten punter Ryan Anderson. The special teams unit was much improved last year and Anderson was a major reason why. It’s unfair to expect the same type of production from Korsak as a true freshman, but Rutgers does need him to be a steady contributor this season. Fellow Aussie and former Rutgers punter Tim Gleeson was reportedly a reason that Korsak chose to join the program. He’ll be more under the spotlight and have more opportunities to contribute than almost any other true freshman on the roster this season. If he can average over 40 yards per punt and show some touch by pinning opponents inside the 20 yard line from time to time, he’ll help this team in a significant way.
Shameen Jones - Redshirt Freshman Wide Receiver
After a redshirt season in 2017, Jones is primed to make an impact at the wide receiver position this fall. Head coach Chris Ash called him “the surprise” of spring camp within the receiving core and a major factor in his improvement has been his development physically. While the emergence of Bo Melton and speed of Eddie Lewis have gotten a lot of the attention since the spring, watch out for Jones to grind his way up the depth chart and showcase his big play ability this season.
Johnathan Hilliman - Graduate Senior Running Back
The grad transfer from Boston College is set to make the most of his last college football season in a return to his home state. After spurning former head coach Kyle Flood and Rutgers as a 4-star running back at St. Peter’s, Hilliman has already exhibited great leadership skills within the program this offseason. Last season at BC, Hilliman ran for 638 yards on 167 attempts for a 3.8 yards per carry and 5 rushing touchdowns. He also caught a career best 24 receptions for 155 yards and 2 receiving touchdowns in 2017. While new offensive coordinator John McNulty will likely employ a running back by committee this season with multiple options to choose from, Hilliman is the most proven by far of anyone in the group. Expect him to be the starter in the backfield, giving him an opportunity to end his collegiate career with a strong senior campaign. The lone grad transfer on the roster can also be a big help on the field and in the huddle with our last player mentioned.....
Artur Sitkowski - True Freshman Quarterback
Although he hasn’t been officially named the starting quarterback for the home opener against Texas State, the former 4-star recruit is heavily favored to be the lead signal caller for Rutgers this season. After showing off his big arm this past spring and establishing himself as the QB of the future at a minimum, expectations are high for the former Miami commit and Old Bridge, New Jersey native. Sitkowski, who will ultimately need to lead the offense with a steady hand by minimizing mistakes and limiting interceptions, it should be expected that he will also need time to adjust to the college game and learn on the job. However, the potential for him to give Rutgers a legitimate passing attack is a major reason to be excited about this season overall, as the program has been sorely lacking in this area the past few seasons. Sitkowski has the ability to give fans true hope for both now and in the future, as well as show recruits that real progress is occurring on the field for Rutgers football.