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Five Takeaways from the Scarlet-White Game

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Rutgers showed progress in some areas and failed to offer clarity in others.

Syndication: Asbury Park Press
Taj Harris impresses in his Rutgers debut.
Michael Karas/NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Scarlet team defeated the White team 16-14 on Friday night at SHI Stadium. The scoring was early but not often unfortunately. Even so, there were plenty of highlights to watch as well as the annual spring awards. Just remember we are evaluating a spring game and there is no reason to overreact in either a positive or negative way with this team. There is a lot of prep and practice time remaining before the season opener at Boston College. That being said, here are five takeaways on the action from Friday.

Not much separation at Quarterback

All three signal callers had both good and bad moments in the spring game, leaving the impression that there isn’t much clarity at the position heading into the summer.

The much anticipated home debut of Gavin Wimsatt resulted in him completing 9 of 16 passes for 118 yards along with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for 10 yards on two carries. Wimsatt clearly has the arm strength and he was visibly more physically developed since last season. However, he continues to work towards mastering the offense and the learning curve is still present. He is returning home next month to receive his high school diploma, so he is still adapting to the college level. While some fans hoped he would shine to the point it seemed obvious he was clearly the frontrunner to start the 2022 season opener against Boston College, that did not happen on Friday night. Encouraging signs but it’s going to take time for Wimsatt.

Noah Vedral was 9 of 16 for 119 yards along with one touchdown pass as well as 34 yards rushing on 5 carries. He was the most consistent and only QB not to throw for an interception. The idea that Vedral would quietly fade into the background as Wimsatt asserted control of the offense has not become a reality. Vedral’s value lies in his leadership, the ability to run the offense and his toughness. His experience showed tonight and was the best of the three QB’s in the spring game.

Evan Simon was 10 of 17 for 86 yards and one interception in the spring game. He threw for a big gain to Taj Harris in the first half but his turnover came in throwing into double coverage. He has some talent for sure, but seems clear he is behind Wimsatt and Vedral heading into training camp.

It doesn’t seem crazy to think that offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson and head coach Greg Schiano will at least consider playing both Vedral and Wimsatt to start the season. Unless either quarterback can separate himself in August, a platoon seems plausible.

Wide Receiver group looks strong

The debuts of transfer Taj Harris (Syracuse) and Sean Ryan (West Virginia) did not disappoint. Harris made a spectacular touchdown catch on his back shoulder from Vedral in the beginning of the game and finished with a game high 5 catches for 49 yards. His playmaking ability was on display and he has the chance to have a monster season in the fall. Ryan also played well, making 4 catches for 48 yards including a 26 yard grab on Wimsatt’s first completion of the game. Shameen Jones had 3 catches for a team high 67 yards that included a 49 yard reception. Christian Dremel had 2 catches for 43 yards as well.

This group’s ability to make big plays stood out Friday and hopefully they can add a healthy Aron Cruickshank to the room before training camp begins. Although it won’t be easy to replace Bo Melton, Rutgers could end up being deeper and more consistent at the position overall next season.

Linebacker depth a concern

With veterans Olakunle Fatukasi, Tyshon Fogg, Tyreek Maddox-Williams and Drew Singleton gone and a trio of linebackers having sat out the spring game due to injuries (Tyreem Powell, Mo Toure, Moses Walker), it’s clear more depth is needed. Deion Jennings won the spring award for most improved defensive player and Austin Dean had four tackles including two sacks. However, this group is vulnerable and whether they can stay healthy or not next season is a big question. 4-star Anthony Johnson is still developing after arriving early in January. It’s possible Rutgers will take another look at the transfer portal to see who might be available before the summer as well.

Al-Shadee Salaam is a playmaker

The redshirt freshman was electric on a 37 yard run and showcased some serious speed. Salaam is only 5’10” but is elusive and hard to tackle in being so built so low in the ground. Aaron Young didn’t play in the spring game and Salaam took advantage of the opportunity, finishing with a game high 71 yards rushing on 5 carries. While he’ll have to contend with fighting for carries in a crowded backfield that includes Kyle Monangai (65 yards on 7 carries and a 1 yard touchdown catch), Jamier Wright-Collins (26 yards on 7 carries), incoming 4-star Samuel Brown and Young, Salaam has a unique skill set that the others do no possess.

Line play remains a question on both sides

The defensive line definitely won the battle in the trenches on Friday. They were led by Ifeanyi Maijeh and Aaron Lewis while also receiving contributions from Jordan Thompson, Henry Hughes and Kyonte Hamilton, who had to deal with double teams, among others. Whether the defensive line can become a strength this coming season remains to be seen, but they have some solid core pieces to build from.

The offensive line saw four transfers make their RU debut in Curtis Dunlap Jr. (Minnesota), Willie Tyler (Louisiana-Monroe), JD DiRenzo (Sacred Heart), and Mike Ciaffoni (Colorado State). How the depth shapes up should be interesting to watch for as it’s hard to evaluate the line too much with two teams splitting personnel. Hollin Pierce sat out but should be back at left tackle in the fall.

As a unit, this group is making strides under new assistant coach Augie Hoffmann. It’s too early to get a read on how the line will progress, but forward progress was made this spring just having time to work together.