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Thoughts on the Rutgers depth chart for Texas State

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Not too many surprises, but do you want Blackshear returning kicks?

Washington v Rutgers
Blackshear is listed as the starter, now wearing #2 on his jersey.
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Though the starting quarterback was announced last week, the rest of the two-deep gained more clarity on Monday. Here’s some immediate reaction with links to our positional previews for more detail on each player. Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media was the first to share this via Twitter ...

Position: Starter. Backup(s).

Offense

QB: Art Sitkowski. Gio Rescigno OR Johnathan Lewis

Sitkowski starting was already announced last Friday. As mentioned in the short post earlier today, Gio and JLew each have a different set of circumstances they would get snaps. Barring injury, Sitkowski needs a decent leash. See Quarterback position preview for more information.

RB. Raheem Blackshear. Jon Hilliman.

This is a minor upset even though Blackshear is considered the team’s most explosive player. With Hilliman’s experience and leadership, he should get plenty of carries regardless of what is listed here. People around the program have been high on Isaih Pacheco, so he might get some carries as well. See Running Backs position preview for more information.

WR: Bo Melton. Everett Wormley

WR: Shameen Jones. Mo Jabbie

WR: Hunter Hayek. Eddie Lewis

My rough draft of this group only required a switch of Hunter Hayek back to the starter over Eddie Lewis in the slot. Hayek is the team’s leading returning wideout in receptions, so he has more of a track record than Lewis. Melton and Jones from all accounts have been the two best receivers from spring through summer to training camp. Wormley and Jabbie got good experience last season and will see plenty of the field, too. It would be nice if one of the true freshman shows up soon. We have heard Paul Woods and Zihir Lacewell are raw, but have done some nice things. It will be interesting to see if someone like Tyler Hayek shows up on the field for a deep shot at some point. See Wide Receiver position preview for more information.

TE: Jerome Washington. Travis Vokolek.

Note, despite talking about being a pro style offense, no fullback spot is listed. Max Anthony was hurt in camp, so hopefully he is good to go soon. No surprise that one of the team’s best players, Washington is starting at Tight End. For all the talk about Vokolek, we’d be more concerned if he wasn’t listed on the two-deep. Nakia Griffin-Stewart will get some action in short yardage or when the team uses three tight ends one would think. Nakia is also needed at fullback if Anthony is injured. See Tight Ends / Fullbacks position preview for more information.

LT: Tariq Cole, Raiqwon O’Neal

LG: Mike Lonsdorf, Sam Vretman

C: Mike Maietti, Sam Howson

RG: Jonah Jackson, Nick Krimin

RT: Kamaal Seymour, Zach Heeman

The story here is about the health of Cole and Lonsdorf who have both been banged up. Ash said Cole will be fine for Saturday, which is good considering Lonsdorf is the guy the staff feels the second most comfortable with at left tackle. If Lonsdorf is not good to go, Vretman likely gets the assignment with redshirt senior Zach Heeman as the other possibility. The staff likes Krimin, but Ash in the press conference recently said no they would not move Jonah Jackson to left guard at this point in time. So it is possible Krimin would be in the mix as well on the left side.

Howson seems to be steady, though Jackson might play center if Maietti were to go down. Vretman and O’Neal in the two-deep is nice to see even though a guy like Zach Venesky may have missed his window of opportunity at this juncture. See Offensive Line position preview for more information.

Defense

DE: Kevin Wilkins. Mike Tverdov.

NT: Julius Turner. Jaohne Duggan.

DT: Jon Bateky. Wil Previlon.

DE: Elorm Lumor. Tijaun Mason.

The starters here were all projected since the middle of spring. Previlon has in the rotation a year ago, and the only experienced reserve. Mason, Duggan, and Tverdov are all redshirt freshmen who are forced into action due to the lack of depth so it will be interesting to see what happens. Brendan Bordner is the presumed 9th man, though he profiles as more versatile and therefore less tied to one spot perhaps. See Defensive Line position preview for more information.

LB: Tyreek Maddox-Williams. Olakunle Fatukasi.

MLB: Deonte Roberts. Rashawn Battle.

WLB: Trevor Morris. Tyshon Fogg.

The staff didn’t forget about Tyreek Maddox-Williams, who plays the Strong-side. This group was the messiest in 2016, but easily the steadiest right now. The only wrinkle in training camp per Jay Niemann was that he was hoping one of the back-ups would know all three spots well enough to be the 4th man up regardless of position. We’ll see if that happens and perhaps most interestingly if there is a rotation to get the starters more rest over the course of the game. See Linebackers position preview for more information.

CB: Isaiah Wharton. Avery Young.

CB: Blessuan Austin. Tre Avery.

SS: Damon Hayes. Kiy Hester.

FS: Saquan Hampton. Tim Barrow.

The only possible other way this could have gone would be if Hester was named a starter. Kiy surely has earned it in his time on the banks, but without being in spring practice or early summer session, will start off as the third safety getting looks in sub packages. It looks like a typo in Tre Avery’s first name (since it’s different in specialists) as he appears as the backup to Bless, but will get the majority of the reps in nickel packages. Avery Young broke from the pack of true freshmen to earn the spot at the other corner behind Wharton. Tim Barrow is on the right track as well. See Defensive Backs position preview for more information.

Specialists

K: Justin Davidovicz. Gavin Haggerty.

P: Adam Korsak. Nick Johnston.

LS: Billy Taylor. Matthew Sportelli.

H: Cole Murphy. Adam Korsak.

KR: Tre Avery. Raheem Blackshear.

PR: Raheem Blackshear. Avery Young.

It’s not every day that the starting running back is put at risk as the team’s punt returner, but Blackshear’s game changing ability appears to be needed there with a true freshman as his backup. Cole Murphy threw some passes at his last stop, so he should be capable of JT Tartacoff like antics if the situation allows it. Haggerty and Sportelli have been deemed reliable if needed, but there is not much depth at punter. Korsak will be playing his first football game on Saturday and Johnston is also a true freshman. See Special Teams position preview for more information.

Overall thoughts

This may be rather silly, but it is nice to see when there aren’t a zillion ORs listed in the two-deep. We all understand that there are sub packages where different personnel comes into the game, but if the starter goes down who is the next man up? It’s good to know the coaches aren’t just rolling the dice on game day. And players really are battling to see their name up on the board. On paper this has the look of a Bowl team, though schedule and luck are equally important.

Rutgers starters at all positions are Big Ten caliber players at this point, though they might not necessarily be a starter for a powerhouse club. At several positions a truly worthy, rotational Big Ten backup will need to prove it on Saturdays. Until then, the coaching staff will have sleepless nights trying to have plans in place to shuffle the decks in the event of emergency.

What do you think heading into the season opener this Saturday? Did anyone get omitted that you expected to be listed in the two-deep?