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The Best Thing at Rutgers Training Camp: BTN Tour Visit

The BTN crew visited Piscataway and delivered their take on the things that impressed them the most, along with other great moments

Wisconsin v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Thursday August 9 was Rutgers Day on BTN. Classic games were shown all day. In the afternoon the games were followed by the BTN Road Crew’s take on the 2018 edition of Rutgers football. Our own Aaron Breitman already shared his three takeaways from the coverage of practice.

However, the commentators themselves decided to share their thoughts as well. Each in turn spoke about the units or individuals who were most impressive as they viewed practice. They were joined by Rutgers legend Eric LeGrand. Eric continues to work as a color analyst for Rutgers broadcasts, and his abilities behind the microphone becomes more polished every year. Here are some pieces of their impressions:

Howard Griffith on Artur Sitkowski:

“Art Sitkowski...he’s a young guy, and he’s going to make mistakes, but the upside is absolutely there... He’s poised in the pocket, he has command of the huddle, and I really like what he’s doing down in the red zone”

Gerry DiNardo on the Offensive Line:

“Especially in this offense, a traditional pro-formation offense, you’ve got to be good up front, and the difference between today and Coach Ash’s first year is significantly better...they’ve got a lot of offensive lineman at camp and that’s a really good thing.”

Dave Revsine on the Defensive Secondary:

“I think it [the secondary] is a really good group of guys. I mean, I think they can stack up with anybody in this league...what stood out to me was the athleticism, there’s some good depth there too, a lot of different pieces they can move around.”

Eric LeGrand on the Offense:

“The way I saw the offense moving today, I was very impressed at the way they were able to score touchdowns and get behind some of those defensive backs I was talking about earlier.”

Here’s an opportunity to hear everything they said in this clip below:

The BTN road crew also conducted interviews. An in-depth interview with both offensive and defensive coordinators, and of course Head Coach Chris Ash. The coach had a interesting take on the hype of true freshman Artur Sitkowski. When asked what he did to advise Art as he comes in to battle for a starting position, Coach Ash said, “I just don’t want to screw him up, so I don’t tell him a whole lot, you know?”

Also, he was clear that he feels both offensive as well as defensive lines at Rutgers are still a work in progress. He feels that the few elite schools are the only ones that get lineman who are immediately ready to play, so everyone else has to work and develop the players. As this is his third year, and these players are still being developed, it is clear the coaching staff know there is more to do to develop both offensive and defensive linemen.

The return of Offensive Coordinator John McNulty has brought a lot of excitement among fans to see what he will do with the offense. In his interview, two things stood out. First, having been here when the program was regularly ranked nationally, he knows the excitement that can build around the program, and he is obviously anxious to see that again. Also, he feels strongly that moving away from a typically-college spread offense and moving to a pro-style will be a benefit for Rutgers, as the differences in the schemes will force opponents to have to change their “typical” strategies when facing the Scarlet Knights.

Coach McNulty also reiterated what he has said before, that to be successful, teams need to score a lot of points. As he put it, “To me, in college football you need to score in the 30s to have a chance any week, maybe its the 40s.” If he is able to do that, it sure will be a different offense! See the entire interview below:

This year, Defensive Coordinator Jay Niemann is sharing the role with newcomer Noah Joseph, who will also coach the safeties. It was good to hear that Coach Niemann was not thinking that despite the improvements in the defense as the season progressed in 2017, there was a chance to rest on any laurels. He said the improvement needed for the defense this year was a large as the one they took from 2016 to 2017. He reiterated his desire to focus on the fundamentals, and if they do, they will “go up a couple of more notches” in quality.

Coach Joseph, while new to Rutgers, has pretty deep experience, especially in the Big Ten East coming from Indiana. He plans to use the depth that the defense has to keep players fresh, and to continually rotate players in and out, so that by the end of the game, when it is needed, the players will still be fresh enough to keep up with their opponent.

As far as the role of co-coordinator, Coach Niemann was clear that they will lean on one another’s expertise, with Coach Joseph in the secondary, and Coach Niemann on the line. However, it was good to hear the mutual respect they have for one another, and Coach Niemann said, “It’s great to have a guy you can trust and depend on in the room.”

But wait, there’s more! Continuing on with Dan Resvine’s take on the secondary, BTN also mic’ed up DB Coach Cory Robinson, and you can get a feel for the intensity and the drive of these coaches as they push the players in practice each day. Using a combination of motivation, humor, and plain old good teaching skills, Coach Robinson keeps things moving!

As you can see, a lot gets packed into a single day with these summer visits by BTN. They try to hit as many different areas as possible, and a tremendous amount of information for the fans is provided.

To close out the Rutgers Day coverage, Sophomore Raheem Blacksheer and Graduate Transfer Jonathan Hilliman provided a clip on a couple of the drills that the running backs complete to emphasize ball control as well as blocking. In a game where attempts to strip the ball from backs is growing annually, these drills are interesting to see for the casual, or even knowledgable fan.

With only 22 days left until kickoff, it is clear that the camp is pushing hard, and the coverage by BTN gives all of us a better look at how the Scarlet Knights are progressing, and the areas of strength and weakness as we prepare for the opening kickoff on September 1.