It is no secret that the offensive line for the Scarlet Knights left much to be desired during the 2021 season.
Rutgers struggled to find any consistency up front, mainly because of a lack of depth. It showed on the field as the Scarlet Knights lost many battles in the trenches. In the Big Ten, that is not something that you want to see.
“I haven’t shied away from it,” head coach Greg Schiano said during Big Ten Media Days. “I think that is the thing that really slowed us down last year. And it’s not an attack on any singular coach or player. It’s just the facts of the matter. We play in a league where the battle of front is fierce and we didn't do enough to win that battle.”
That has a chance to change this year if all goes right. Unfortunately, Schiano believes that we will not see Reggie Sutton this year after suffering a season-ending knee injury last September. Schiano said Sutton “tore every three-letter ligament,” according to NJ Advance Media.
“I can’t predict the future, but he’s going to be a long shot for this year,” Schiano said. “Hopefully he can come back for 2023.”
Sutton is a major loss that will be difficult to replace. The Scarlet Knights were aggressive in the offseason, bringing in offensive linemen via the transfer portal. Rutgers added four players that have a chance to contribute right away — JD DiRenzo (Sacred Heart), Willie Tyler (Louisiana Monroe), Curtis Dunlap Jr. (Minnesota) and Mike Ciaffoni (Colorado State).
“I think we did some things in the transfer portal that are going to help us,” Schiano said. “I think we did some things developing our players that are in our program.”
If the offensive line is able to grow, the offense has a chance to take a step forward. This is especially true this year with a young group of skill position players — outside of Noah Vedral.
The quarterback competition for the Scarlet Knights features Vedral, Gavin Wimsatt, and Evan Simon. Vedral has started each of the previous two years for Rutgers but was unable to get anything going down the field. This was because of a combination of offensive line play and poor deep-ball accuracy.
Wimsatt remains the intriguing option under center because of his hype as a prospect. The time will come for Wimsatt but he is still just a freshman, having entered Rutgers last season at the age of a high school senior. Simon is another unexperienced option that would benefit from protection up front.
The quarterback room is not the only one that would benefit from an improved offensive line.
Isiah Pacheco is now with the Kansas City Chiefs after a successful career in Piscataway. This means the Scarlet Knights will feature Kyle Monangai and Al-Shadee Salaam. Aaron Young is also in the mix as he returns from an injury.
With the inexperience at the skill positions, Rutgers knew that it had to make some improvements up front. While Sutton remains out with an injury, the Scarlet Knights will need some transfers to step up so the offense can compete at a higher level.
“I think our O-line, if we can grow there, our offense will grow exponentially,” Schiano said. “Not step by step. It can take some jumps so it’s an important position.”