After making it through training camp “pretty healthy”, bad news came during Monday’s practice of the first game week of the season. Per his father on the Rutgers football Facebook fan page, Johnathan Lewis suffered a “serious injury” on Monday. The Knight Report first reported the news and NJ Advance Media did as well on Tuesday morning. Chris Ash and the program have not confirmed the news as of yet.
What it means is that the position group with the least amount of depth on the roster is now even thinner. Wisconsin grad transfer Kyle Penniston came to Rutgers in the spring, but was seen in a walking boot as late as last week and at a minimum will miss the first few games. With Lewis now likely out for a significant period of time, that leaves UCLA transfer Matt Alaimo as the only scholarship player at tight end on the roster.
It’s certainly not how you want to begin a new season and one in which major improvement is needed after a 1-11 campaign a year ago. The lack of depth at the position is shocking for a program in the fourth year under head coach Chris Ash. The offseason transfers of Travis Vokolek and Nakia Griffin-Stewart, who landed at Nebraska and Pittsburgh respectively, were already big losses and are even more so today.
You also have to feel for Lewis, who came to Rutgers as a promising quarterback prospect but never won the starting job. Instead, he selflessly volunteered to switch to tight end to help the team. After playing at the position towards the end of last season, he dedicated himself to playing there this season and by all accounts was poised to have a solid season. He was considered a potential breakout candidate this season by some, including in our staff season prediction post.
For a team that hasn’t finished better than the top ten worst in FBS the past three seasons in regard to total offense, any personnel losses are a setback. JUCO wide receiver Monterio Hunt also suffered a serious injury earlier this month. Aside from Alaimo, who has real promise as a tight end but hasn’t played a college football game yet and is undersized for this season, Rutgers has five walk-on candidates to potentially step up, including converted quarterback Cooper Heisey, converted H-back Brandon Meyers, as well as Ryan Cassidy, Jake Malaney and Jonathan Pimentel.
Chris Ash next meets with the media on Wednesday, so he will likely address Lewis’s injury at that time. For now, Rutgers fans unfortunately have to mull another setback for a team that can’t afford many more if the hope for a better season is going to remain much longer.
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