Many Rutgers fans want to know if this will be the year that Art Sitkowski breaks out? As a true freshman in 2018, he threw 4 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, which was one of the worst ratios in the nation. His completion percentage was 49.1% while throwing for 1,158 yards and posting a quarterback rating of 76.4 which was 107th in the FBS. There are plenty of reasons to point to as to why this may have happened.
A big factor was inexperience. Art needs to improve his decision making in his sophomore season with things such as when to throw the ball away, reading defenses, and dumping it off to a running back when appropriate. It can take a year or two for a top prospect to fully grasp playing against top programs and Art can hopefully learn from his past struggles against them last season.
Another factor is the offensive line. The line had their troubles with pass blocking last season, which led to Art forcing things and getting the ball off faster than he wanted, leading to mistakes. In this upcoming season, hopefully the line will improve with more experience and schematic changes under new offensive line coach Pete Rossomando, which could make things easier on Art.
The wide receivers did not help Art last year by dropping too many passes and not helping their quarterback when he was under pressure. You can assume that dropped passes and sacks are not a great combination for a young quarterback. Entering the 2019 season, no wide receivers have left, so we can only hope they improve with experience over last year. Rutgers is adding Monterio Hunt, a junior college transfer, who started every game last season in which he totaled 405 yards and 3 touchdowns for Northwest Mississippi Community College, who went 8-2. They are also adding two three-star freshmen this year in Stanley King and Isaiah Washington. There are over 15 receivers on the roster right now, most of which are young and inexperienced. Can a few of them become reliable enough to help Art improve over last year? That is a big question for this season.
Running back and slot receiver Raheem Blackshear was one of the lone bright spots on the receiving end last season, totaling 367 yards and 2 touchdowns, while tight end Travis Vokolek also had 2 touchdowns during the year. Rutgers is returning the core of its best group from last year, its running backs. Their cohesiveness and improvement over last year will give Art another weapon to help keep the defense honest and force them to respect the run so he can throw the ball. The team has more options at tight end, with Johnathan Lewis switching from being a quarterback, Matt Alaimo a transfer from UCLA, and Kyle Penniston a transfer from Wisconsin. These three additions should help the offense in blocking and with Art in the passing game.
As the team started training camp this past week, Art is going enters as no. 1 QB on the depth chart. McLane Carter, a grad transfer from Texas Tech, and Cole Snyder, an early enrollee, will also be competing for the starting job. Rutgers needs someone who can protect the football, be consistent, and be a leader for the offense. Sitkowski is being given every opportunity to be that quarterback.
Art said after the team’s first practice that he feels that things are slowing down and he can see things happen before they do. With this being his second year in offensive coordinator John McNulty’s system, he has hopefully adapted to the plays and the style of the game. John McNulty speaks very highly of all of the quarterbacks and their style of play. The Rutgers offense can only hope that Art takes positive steps forward this year in all of his stats, because that will be a major factor for the team to make progress.
With Art having a year of experience, along with potentially improved receivers and offensive line, will this be a season where Art is the breakout quarterback Rutgers is hoping for? Will he lead the Scarlet Knights back to their first bowl game since 2014 or at least a much improved season in 2019? The season kicks off August 30 at 7:15 against the UMass Minutemen at SHI Stadium. We all hope that this year Art shows great improvement and all of the pieces around him help lead Rutgers to a successful season.