With the 2020 season complete, Rutgers football is getting a much needed break after a surprise 3-6 campaign that saw them play nine Big Ten games in nine consecutive weeks. While this offseason will be more unpredictable than most regarding personnel decisions after this past season did not count against any player’s eligibility per an NCAA ruling due to the global pandemic, the Scarlet Knights got some good news as linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi announced he will return for the 2021 season.
Fatukasi had a breakout campaign in which he led the Big Ten with 101 tackles and 11.2 tackles per game. Those totals would have been even higher but the senior was injured in the regular season finale against Maryland, leaving with 7 tackles and 1 sack. He returned against Nebraska before leaving in the first half due to injury after making just 2 tackles.
He was also second in the conference with 11 tackles for a loss and finished the season with 3 sacks.
Fatukasi registered double digit tackles in six of his first seven games this season, including 17 tackles against Michigan and Penn State.
In the season opener, Fatukasi led Rutgers to a surprise victory over Michigan State with 10 tackles, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble in a game that the defense produced seven takeaways. He was named the Bednarik Award National Player of the Week and Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week for his performance.
For the season, Fatukasi was named First Team All-Big Ten by the media and Second Team by the coaches while being named one of 16 national semifinalists for the Butkus Award given to the nation’s top linebackers.
“Certainly very pleased that O3 has decided to return next year. I thought he had a tremendous season,” said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano on Monday. “As I’ve told you guys many times, he established a work ethic that the rest of our football team can aspire to. Having him come back again as a returning captain really says a lot. We are going to do things to help him improve as much as we can to take his game to another level, which would really be great for our program and certainly great for him.”
Having Fatukasi back in the middle of the Rutgers defense is a huge win for the program and is a boost for next season’s outlook.
Another key veteran player will not return, as safety Brendon White announced his departure after one season at Rutgers following his transfer from Ohio State. He hopes to play on Sundays next fall in the NFL. White made an impact early on but was hampered by injuries the second half of the season. In five games, White registered 40 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 1 interception. He recorded a season high 15 tackles against Michigan.
Schiano, who coached White with the Buckeyes, commented “I’m excited for him. I know this is a dream of his. He is going to attack it the same way he has with everything in his career. We will be here to support him.”
Later on Tuesday, defensive lineman Michael Dwumfour announced his intention to leave for the NFL as well. He was a disruptive force at times up front and played in eight games in which he registered 25 tackles and 0.5 sacks. His departure certainly hurts the depth and experience along the defensive line next season, but hopefully he can achieve his dream of playing on Sundays too.
Very blessed and grateful for this opportunity! pic.twitter.com/8S7TjJOt3i— Michael DwumFour (@Dwumfour__) December 22, 2020
Tuesday evening Bo Melton announced his return and to read more click here.
We will provide roster updates for Rutgers football as they continue this offseason.