Rather than keep the pure report card, this is the second post of a newly regular feature that moves us into the 21st century. Below is how the Rutgers Football position groups fared in each of the last two weeks. Last week’s post here.
Rapid fire thoughts
Quarterbacks: Had it not been for the INTs, the QBs may have gotten the fireball in Week 1, but this time against a Power Five opponent it was hard to argue especially after a horrid performance at Iowa. Against Boston College with no help from his running game, no one open deep, and nothing impactful from the offensive line, Art Sitkowski tossed for 300 yards as if he played like that every game. This may be a slight grade on a curve at this point, but I’m still shocked. Now what do you do?
Running Backs: The running backs had a better game than I thought after the re-watch. I recall one game in my college career where our starting running back played awesome in terms of heart, breaking tackles, making something out of nothing, etc, yet when I looked at the final stat line he finished the game with just 63 yards. That moment taught me that the total rushing yards is more about how skewed the total is per those super explosive plays. We saw both ends of the spectrum here starting with Raheem Blackshear 9 catches, 130 yards (74 coming on one play) but five carries for eight yards! Isaih Pacheco managed just 47 yards on 17 carries which really does not represent the day he had. All this said, I can understand those who want to include Blackshear and Aaron Young as “receivers” when lined out wide so much and flip the RB and WR grades.
Wide Receivers: The wideouts through the first quarter of the season have improved more than any other position group on the team with quarterback the only other possible contender. While rewatching the game I didn’t get a surefire snap count but my best guess would be the following order of most plays participated in: Bo Melton, Isaiah Washington, Mo Jabbie, Daevon Robinson (also a little TE action) which represents a changing of the guard effectively. Eddie Lewis, Hunter Hayek, Everett Wormley, Jalen Jordan, and Shameen Jones seem to have disappeared from the offense completely. Did I miss a Paul Woods sighting? The receivers also need to do a much better job blocking downfield, too especially when the game plan was to give Sitkowski these bigger targets downfield and outside. I wonder if this group can get any better this year or what other dimensions may be added. They avoided the drops and poor routes that plagued the unit for two years, but I gave the horizontal arrow because as a group not counting the running backs, they recorded less than 100 yards receiving. Had Melton broke that tackle on the final drive and scored a TD, they would have earned the up arrow.
Tight Ends / Fullbacks: Matt Alaimo made two solid catches for 19 yards, one on a beautifully executed play action that even the BC coaches had to appreciate. There weren’t many other sightings of other personnel as John McNulty stuck to his primary personnel most of the game with three wideouts, which often included Aaron Young and Raheem Blackshear as the slot man. So again, we could have gotten away with an incomplete rating also.
Offensive Line: The hogs up front didn’t open up any major holes in the run game. They were hit or miss in the pass game. To win your offensive line doesn’t have to be great, but I gave them the down arrow because of too many penalties and an inability to spring guys free on screens. Much else was covered in yesterday’s Q & A.
Defensive Line: The defensive line was the hardest group to grade here because some people felt they were solid like Andy Buh, others thought they were terrible. As most of you know by now, I played defensive line so I have some biases. I had them as the horizontal arrow, but decided to switch to the down arrow instead at the last minute. People getting washed down sounds like they have no chance to make a play which can be true at times at the individual level, but not the entire line. If everyone holds their ground, that doesn’t happen. Not nearly enough shedding blocks and zero pressure on Anthony Brown. I recall one maybe two pressures total. Jaohne Duggan played well I thought, but Mike Tverdov played too passively. What made him great last year was he went 100% all the time and if he made a mistake at least it was at full speed.
Linebackers: The LB’s did not have a good day. There was a lot of rotation on a warmer day than most expected, but the results were pretty similar across the board. I didn’t think Tyshon Fogg had a good game, but he did have 12 tackles, perhaps due to the sheer volume of inside runs. Olakunle Fatukasi has the quietest nine tackle game I can remember. Admittedly, I had to look up who was #17 to highlight his good play since Deion Jennings may have had the best day of anyone with more burn after Tyreek Maddox-Williams was banged up. Drew Singleton and Rashawn Battle who I had praised much so far this year were exposed against lumbering tight ends.
Defensive Backs: It was quite difficult to make sense of the defensive back performance. For the most part Avery Young and Damon Hayes completely locked down their men. Young also had nine tackles. Jarrett Paul made some awesome plays, but also allowed extra yardage with bad angles a few times as well. Christina Izien, Tim Barrow, and Tre Avery got less run because of the BC scheme. Malik Dixon did not deliver enough big blows to instill fear in any of the big backs. All that said, they avoided deep pass plays that hurt the previous two games.
Special teams: Rutgers thoroughly won the field position battle. They completed dominated field position. We saw awesome determination on the first kickoff return from Tre Avery. Adam Korsak was flipping field position constantly. Justin Davidovicz was three for three on field goals including a 50 yarder to keep the team in the game. Larry Stevens committed a crucial halo violation, but delivered and absolute wallop on the next kick return Rutgers had to cover. I almost gave the fireball for the second week in a row, but the curve is working against these guys and Coach Okruch.
Coaching: This rating will be the most controversial this week because there’s a lot of different ways to look at what “coaching” means. From a preparation standpoint, Art Sitkowski was amazingly prepared as were the Rutgers wide receivers. Defensively, the front was not ready initially for the speed and power of BC, but that is impossible to simulate. My main knock defensively was that the defensive ends were not sure how to handle certain option plays. The sheer number of penalties was abysmal and a lot is pointed at the coaches for lack of discipline, but many of these penalties were on the players from my vantage point. I thought the defense did not make in game adjustments, but the offense made a few effective ones, though not running the ball enough is paradoxical. And the offensive plays did help convert first downs after negative plays and penalties for the first time in ages. Overall, my grade came with this game only compared to last week, not the entire Ash era. I welcome the disagreement.
When I was compiling this week, I thought maybe I needed to do a version for Boston College to more accurately rate the RU performances. After reading all the message boards, articles from other sites, and rewatching the game, I feel more certain in my conclusions. The defensive front simply has to do better. If everyone on offense gets a hat on a hat the only way to make tackles is if people shed blocks and blow up what the offense wants to do. Drew Singleton and Tyshon Fogg did that against Iowa who has an equal or better offensive line than BC.
On offense, Art Sitkowski took what the defense gave him. The offensive line if they could have just gotten a little push in the run game would have opened up the entire playbook. Is the Kansas offensive line that much more powerful than RU to keep BC at bay? The receivers did their jobs, but a superhuman effort on a play here or there to break a tackle would have been huge. If we can see this type of offense the rest of the year with just a few less penalties, these games will be at least watchable.
We welcome your comments, many of which may revolve around what group was in your opinion, unfairly rated in Game #3. For that, please vote in our poll below: