Year two of the Greg Schiano era ended with a 40-16 loss to Maryland that kept Rutgers out of a bowl game. Now, sights are set on year three and this is where the Scarlet nights hope to get to the six-win mark.
Rutgers has taken steps forward record wise since Schiano took over. It finished 5-7 this season with two victories in Big Ten play. That makes it five conference wins in two years for Schiano after Rutgers finished 2-10 in 2019.
The Scarlet Knights are not all there yet but Schiano continues to recruit at a high level, especially in the state of New Jersey. As we head into the offseason, there are some players to rely on moving forward. Here are five players who showed promise during the 2021 campaign.
1. Kyle Monangai
Monangai is one New Jersey product that stayed home and has a chance to be a big-time contributor moving forward. He opened some eyes in training camp and turned in a breakthrough season. The redshirt freshman rushed for 235 yards and four touchdowns on 62 carries. Monangai has his breakout game against Illinois when he rushed for 78 yards against Illinois. With Isaih Pacheco declaring for the NFL Draft, Monangai has a chance to be the premiere back next season.
2. Hollin Pierce
Pierce came into the season looking for a role and quickly turned into the starting right tackle. The redshirt freshman is a behemoth on the line at 6-foot-8 and 325 pounds. Pierce took over at right tackle in Week 2 and played the remainder of the season in that spot. He has NFL potential if he is able to polish his game and might have a chance to do so at the left tackle position next season.
3. Aaron Lewis
Lewis decided to return home after attending Michigan. He transferred to Rutgers and will now be a focal point of the defense. Lewis played a backup role this season at defensive end and finished with 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks. At 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, Lewis has great size coming off the edge. Any player who commits to Michigan must have the goods. Lewis showed this in a limited role this season but that is expected to take a jump in 2022.
4. Max Melton
Melton ran into some trouble in September when he was suspended for a paintball gun incident on Livingston Campus. Despite the suspension, he made nine starts for Rutgers and finished with a team-high three interceptions. Melton was still considered a freshman this season thanks to COVID impacting the 2020 season. Melton played in all nine games a season ago and emerged as a corner with shutdown potential in 2021.
5. Kyonte Hamilton
Hamilton is another player who contributed as a backup. He made his first start against Wisconsin at defensive end but was mainly playing at nose guard. Schiano praised Hamilton throughout the season for his work ethic and athleticism. Hamilton committed to Rutgers for wrestling before joining the football team and will begin later this month. Even so, he is in great position to replace Julius Turner at the tilted nose tackle spot next season.