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Rutgers Spring Football: W2W4 in 2019 Scarlet-White Game

All eyes on Sitkowski (again), where will the help come from?

NCAA Football: Penn State at Rutgers
Melton will get a lot of attention in this one.
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

2019 Scarlet-White Spring Game - Saturday April 13

How To Watch: Live on BTN2GO; airing on BTN Sunday at 10 a.m.

How To Attend: Free Admission & Free Parking

Forecast: 76 degrees, partly cloudy

Guest Coaches: Michael Burton and Tim Wright

For information on all of the activities taking place, click here.

What To Watch For In Scarlet-White Game

Scarlet-White Rosters TBA

Saturday’s annual spring “game” will likely feature modified situations and scoring, as well as being a scripted scrimmage with live tackling. This sounded confusing and silly, but the 2018 edition ended up being just fine.

Here are five questions I want answers to:

Who is getting reps on the defensive line?

This is nearest and dearest to my heart normally, but of major importance this spring. Losing Kevin Wilkins and Jon Bateky, two multiple year starters leaves a huge void at defensive tackle in particular. Rutgers has guys who have shown something at the defensive end spots; CJ Onyechi, Elorm Lumor, and Mike Tverdov. That means for many players to get some playing time, they may be forced to be difference makers on the interior.

The majority of the players in the group are tweeners in a 4-3, but from what we have heard, RU will employ more of a 30 front default. Julius Turner went from two-star recruit to starter, but needs a lot of rest or his quickness is neutralized. He and the lone senior, Willington Previlon are the only returnees with significant experience in the middle, but both have performed better in platoon situations. So who else is going to show something? Micah Clark was moved over from offense with some size to push Brendan Bordner (up to 285 lbs.) and Jaohne Duggan primarily. There’s several redshirt sophomores, redshirt freshmen, and the early enrollee Malachi Burby that could be deployed in a variety of places, will any of them flash?

What is the game plan for the back seven of the defense?

The defensive line is in flux, but Rutgers has plenty of talent at linebacker. Tyreek Maddox-Williams and Tyshon Fogg seem to have solidified their standing this spring, neither needing a ton of reps. Drew Singleton has been a terror, but has still not been ruled eligible. Plenty of experienced depth sits behind them, so do the coaches let guys like Olakunle Fatukasi, Rashawn Battle, and Nihym Anderson play a ton of snaps? Anderson in particular could be a pass-rushing linebacker (jack end), but can he cover anyone?

At cornerback, Damon Hayes and Avery Young are battle tested in the Big Ten and probably won’t give up too much to the Rutgers receivers. So they probably will hit the showers early so younger players can see more action at corner. Tre Avery should see time in the slot, it will be interesting to see who else plays and how they perform against the previously anemic RU passing attack. Their assignments will only get tougher.

The safety position was fierce competition early on as no one with significant experience returned to the position. Tim Barrow and Christian Izien seemed to have kept a foot ahead for starting positions, though Malik Dixon impressed with his size and speed. Safety is a tough position to assess in practice because there often is not live tackling or secondary situations. More than any other position on the field, performance in the spring game may impact the safety depth chart.

When RU attempts a pass, is there protection?

Before the throw and catch are even attempted, the offensive line needs to hold up. Take any success with a grain of salt, the Knights defensive front isn’t exactly the ‘85 Bears. Even though I ranked the offensive line as the least responsible for the passing woes in 2018, they still need to improve significantly. Maybe one day soon an RU quarterback will have enough command of the offense to call all the protections and move within the pocket to help out his lineman, but that day is not today. The athleticism at the tackle position will be tested and perhaps Omari Cooper’s game experience helps him close the gap on the starters.

If there is no run game established even in an intrasquad scrimmage, the pass rush is going to tee off on the offense. Zach Venesky, Mike Maietti, and Nick Krimin in the middle need to get some push on the interior. If they don’t, many players battling for a spot like Sam Vretman relish the chance to show they can.

Where do the quarterbacks go with the ball?

Last year, Bo Melton wowed after having only four catches as a true freshman in the previous fall. Melton flashed so much in one spring game that expectations went through the roof. Though he ended up with 28 receptions, his season was a disappointment in every measurable way. Will they try to get him going or use this as an opportunity to downplay how desperately they need Bo to be a playmaker?

Other receivers like Everett Wormley, Shameen Jones, Tyler Hayek, and Mo Jabbie really need to show something. Nipping at their heels are guys like Jalen Jordan, Zihir Lacewell, Paul Woods, and Daevon Robinson who got good press in recent weeks and are just entering their second years on the banks. Eddie Lewis will get open, but it would be nice to see him catch the ball and make some moves.

The tight end depth chart is rather thin, but Johnathan Lewis’s hype train is already leaving the station. It would be nice to see him haul in a few balls. Be careful with tight ends though, we have seen plenty of spring performances that didn’t amount to anything in the fall at the position.

Why should we have hope this summer?

We need something to provide some optimism heading into summer and fall after a second of three Chris Ash seasons that ended without a Big Ten victory. Spring game breakout players are not guaranteed to have that success translate, recent examples include Melton, Nakia Griffin-Stewart, and Desmon Peoples (twice at least). That said, with a full spring to prepare it’s a good checkpoint on the progress of young players.

The most likely place this hope comes from is in the defensive back seven. We know Tyreek Maddox-Williams and Tyshon Fogg are Big Ten starters, but if Drew Singleton can fly around the field that could move the linebacker position from average to way above. Damon Hayes and Avery Young are solid starters at cornerback, so if Tre Avery can make some plays in the slot and one of the safeties shows some ball hawking ability, the team at least has something to hang their hat on. If Malik Dixon flies around the field also, that could be an X-factor.

On the offensive side, we saw plenty of flashes last spring and then just a dud once the season took place. I think John McNulty’s offensive system is flexible enough to fit its personnel and he won’t want to show too much on film, but throw us a bone! I’d like to see some more assertiveness in the passing game for one thing. Though we don’t want him injuring people, Isaih Pacheco in beast mode will be a welcome sight for sore eyes.

Enjoy the game and the replay on Big Ten Network! And no one get injured!!!!!!!