The Scarlet-White Game will have a different feel this year.
It was delayed three weeks due to COVID-19 but the day has finally come. The game will take place at SHI Stadium in Piscataway on Thursday night at 7 P.M. and there will be fans in the building. This will be the first time that spectators will be allowed in since the 2019 season finale. To add a bit more excitement, this is the first time fans will get to watch Rutgers’ football live since Greg Schiano was brought back as head coach.
The crowd will be reduced in size but having some allowed back in the building will bring back a semblance or normalcy. This will also prepare players, coaches, and fans for the regular season in the fall. Before we get there, we have to take a look at the spring game.
Here are five things to keep an eye on during the game on Thursday night.
Backup QB battle
The growth of Cole Snyder and Evan Simon is something that Schiano has been looking for all spring. With Artur Sitkowski transferring to Illinois, the Scarlet Knights now have an opening at the backup quarterback position.
Snyder and Simon have gained much of the attention despite having played just three snaps combined in their careers. Many eyes will be on them and the use of Johnny Langan. In 2020, Langan’s role was a bit predictable. He was used as a runner, especially in short-yardage situations.
Noah Vedral is locked in as the starter and Rutgers is hoping that he can stay healthy over the course of the season. Langan remains in the running for backup quarterback and has far more experience than Simon and Snyder but the youngsters will dominate attention.
Offensive line configuration
Rutgers will return eight offensive lineman that have started a game for the Scarlet Knights. They will have plenty of options to choose from and that includes Temple transfer David Nwaogwugwu.
Raiqwon O’Neal is going to be the anchor a left tackle. Aside from O’Neal, the rest of the offensive line is up in the air. It will have a lot to do with where Nick Krimin ends up. He spent the 2020 season as the starting center after being a full-time guard in 2019. Krimin brings versatility to the offensive line and others could fall into place once his position is nailed down.
Schiano and offensive line coach Andrew Audrich will have plenty to look at up front. Big Ten games are won and lost in the trenches. The Scarlet Knights saw great improvement from their line in 2020 compared to year’s past but there is still room to grow. Schiano has done a tremendous job recruiting and that includes along the offensive line.
The depth for Rutgers in the secondary is thin. Christian Izien returns as an the leader in the secondary and the lone sure thing. There will be a chance that we could see some members of the secondary change position.
It begins with Avery Young. Keep an eye on where he lines up because he could end up moving to safety. This is a move that could happen because of some transfers coming in. Patrice Rene and Christian Braswell are new members of the Scarlet Knights. They are corners that have a chance to play significant roles, along with Tre Avery and Max Melton.
The switch to safety for Young might end up being a better fit. A unit that entered the spring with depth chart concerns could end up being a strength entering the fall depending on how they line up. It begins during the Scarlet-White Game to see where Schiano places his chips.
Impact of transfers
The impact that Schiano has had on the recruiting trail is undeniable. This does not just include incoming freshmen. Schiano has been able to land some impact transfer that could log significant time come the fall.
It begins with Kansas State transfer Joshua Youngblood. The All-American kick returner has dealt with hamstring issues that have limited him this spring. It is unknown how much he will contribute the to spring game but he is expected to be a big part of the offense, and of course special teams, come the fall. The duo of Youngblood and Aron Cruickshank is something that has excited fans. Nwaogwugwu, Braswell, and Ifeanyi Maijeh have come over from Temple. Maijeh, along with Rene, are expected to be in a position to compete for starting jobs.
Rutgers has already began building for the future. It will be interesting to see how the pieces fall into place come the fall. We will have a chance to get a glimpse on Thursday.
Energy, coaching, fans
It was mentioned above that this will be the first time fans are back in SHI Stadium since Schiano returned. Spring game or not, this is something to watch. Fans will have a chance to watch their Scarlet Knights live and cheer for them in person.
Rutgers finished with a 3-6 record in 2020. This was a Big Ten schedule with no off weeks. Fans got to enjoy a season with strong coaching and see great competition. In year two of Schiano, the team will have a semi-normal routine leading up the the season. This, plus the addition of some out-of-conference games, means that Rutgers could take another step forward this season.
It’s spring, the weather is nice, and football is back in some capacity. This means fans in Piscataway will come out to support their Scarlet Knights and give a glimpse of what it can be like during the 2021 season.