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Rutgers Football Position Meter and look toward Week 2

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Week 1 was mostly positive with the win.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Michigan State
Pacheco, B. Melton, and Sutton all made contributions.
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Below is how I rated the Rutgers Football position groups in the first game of the season with minimal curvature.

Here is a quick recap and what to watch for in Game 2 against Indiana.

Quarterbacks

Had it not been for two bad turnovers in their own territory, the QB’s may have gotten the fireball in Week 1. Per the film review, they did what they had to do when playing the entire game with the lead. Trending up.

Next week: Indiana will likely stack the box and play press man to man, cover 1 or even cover 0 so a few quick slants and well placed 50/50 throws will be critical. Just because they should, that is not Indiana’s play style as they ran a conservative defense against PSU and if they play cover 2, the QB’s will need to complete short passes underneath in high volume.

Running Backs

They were moderately successful when they did run the ball, but nothing game breaking. They did a good job of avoiding major losses of yards on early downs. Blitz pickup was excellent and they were threats on check downs in the pass game.

Next week: Now that there’s game film, the backs should be able to see that there were holes open for big gains they did not capitalize on with the new scheme. Rutgers needs to have more yards to set up second or third and medium rather than long down and distance.

Wide Receivers

This was a solid trending up as a few critical yards after catch against zone coverage were provided by at least three different guys. No fireball though because drops were a problem and need to be cleaned up. We need more data to evaluate one on one coverage.

Next week: The aforementioned slants and other quick completions require timing, body control to shield defenders, and solid hands to let RU hang around.

Tight Ends

Last year we could have given a Red Cross with all the injuries for the whole season, but with a fair complement of scholarship personnel this week still got a disappointing result. There were a few drops (though Vedral didn’t exactly make it easy) and blocking was average at best overall, though on my re-watch better than I remembered especially on max protection plays.

Next week: Long-term I think this group has good potential, but the baby step is simply better blocking of second and third level defenders with a clutch short yardage reception sprinkled in.

Offensive Line

The hogs up front kept the pocket clean and opened a few rushing lanes against the Spartans. The scheme is not one to shove people back other than in short yardage, but I’d like to see more push for the fireball. Reggie Sutton was my offensive MVP.

Next week: Indiana may come with more exotic pressure and maybe just more people, so it’s going to be a tougher test.

Defensive Line

The defensive line rotated a zillion guys which led to a penalty or two and easily three plays when RU simply wasn’t ready which allowed MSU easy first down conversions. On the flip side, they were completely disruptive in the run game, especially on the interior. No fireball only because they could not get a consistent pass rush without help from the linebackers.

Next week: Indiana has a good passing attack so they need to somehow get pressure without blitzing.

Linebackers

The LBs won this game. Sacks, forced fumbles, recoveries, clutch tackles, only one penalty. Tyshon Fogg and Mohamed Toure had the highlight reel plays but Olakunle Fatukasi, Maddox-Williams, and others played well, too.

Next week: Indiana has a smart coaching staff when it comes to exploiting matchups. They will try to isolate linebackers in coverage and neutralize most of the outside pressure. Indiana’s QB, Michael Penix Jr is a good runner, so the linebackers will need to contain him on scrambles and not miss chances to tackle him in the backfield.

Defensive Backs

This was the toughest grade to give. Opportunistic is the best word here because the defensive backs were put on islands quite often and allowed some big plays. On the flip side, they swarmed the ball and were resilient. Brendon White is as advertised though and showed amazing closing speed. Freshman Max Melton might be the third corner the team needs alongside Avery Young and Tre Avery.

Next week: MSU threw for over 300 yards but a lot of that came after RU was in prevent. Can they hold up in man coverage against IU’s speed? The turnovers won’t come every week, but the big plays allowed are probably the new normal. If you blitz at times, defensive backs will have no help in coverage or to make tackles.

Special teams

Maybe this is somewhat of a reverse curve, but they weren’t particularly impressive. Korsak was more effective with the rugby style rollout / delay even if the yard total was down. Fava did come through with a clutch field goal late in the game. However, there was a fumble lost on a punt return and there were mixed results on kick coverage. Bo Melton did get down the field fast on a punt to recover a fumble by MSU as Rutgers played their starters on special teams as they did during Schiano’s first tenure.

Next week: Rutgers probably needs two big plays on specials to beat the Hoosiers. Maybe they block a kick.

Coaching

With personnel that is still bottom of the Big Ten, I don’t know how you could coach any better than this. The staff tailored the scheme to the players on the roster, not the type of players they wish they had. RU was the most prepared of any team in all of college football their first game after the pandemic crippled the normal offseason program.

Next week: How does the team avoid a letdown after their first conference win in forever and how do they handle in game adversity which was not much of a factor against Michigan State?

The skinny

As said last year, the defense overall is good enough if they were complemented by an offense who could do at least average Big Ten damage. Can the offense do a little more as the season progresses? The offense is at a level many saw as the ceiling in 2020 in just one game, so what is the new maximum they can achieve?