The calendar has turned to August and football season is officially back.
Rutgers began practices on Wednesday and there are many questions be answered as training camp goes on. We are exactly one month out of the season-opener against Boston College. Greg Schiano will be working with his assistants to make personnel decisions and fill certain gaps all over the field.
So, what are the major questions that will be answered during camp? Spoiler alert: the quarterback situation and offensive line are not on the list. It is clear that these two aspects will be the major storylines over the next month. Below, we highlighted five different topics to keep an eye on.
1. How will the offense replace key losses?
The offense left much to be desired last season. The Scarlet Knights were third to the bottom in the Big Ten in scoring last season with 19.7 points per game. Not to mention, both Bo Melton and Isiah Pacheco were NFL Draft picks.
This does not bode well for the offense, right? Rutgers was busy in the offseason bringing in some talent that could help right away.
Shameen Jones was second on the team in receiving last season, behind only Melton. Aron Cruickshank is expected to return from a torn ACL and bring some explosiveness to the offense and special teams. In the transfer portal, the Scarlet Knights have some receivers that could step up right away.
Syracuse transfer Taj Harris was an elite receiver in the ACC before transferring to Rutgers. The New Jersey native will look to bring a polished receiver to the offense that can get it done at all levels on the field. West Virginia transfer Sean Ryan is another weapon who could benefit from an extended role.
As for the running back position, we will get there soon. Will this end up being a committee for the Scarlet Knights?
2. Will they be any major defensive changes?
Rutgers allowed 24.6 points in 12 games last season. Joe Harasymiak was brought in to be the new defensive coordinator and will have some talent returning at all positions. Now, he just has to put it all together.
Harasymiak is coming to Piscataway after a 2021 season where he led a Minnesota defense that was third in the nation in total defense, allowing 278.8 yards per game.
In 2021, Avery Young made the move from cornerback to safety and it worked well. Will there be some more changes coming to the defense this year?
3. Who can be expected to contribute right away?
Newcomers can be broken down into two categories — transfers and first-year players.
Rutgers will have plenty of both. Of course, the aforementioned Harris and Ryan will have a chance to contribute right away, along with a quartet of offensive linemen added through the transfer portal. As for first-year players, it will be interesting to see who Schiano uses.
Linebacker Moses Walker was a highly-touted prospect with expectations right away but suffered a knee injury that will keep him out for the 2022 season. Anthony Johnson is another prospect that can add to the group of linebackers. Sticking with the defensive side of the ball, can edge rushers like Kenny Fletcher or Q’yaeir Price emerge? Especially with the loss of Mohamed Toure to injury.
Jacob Allen committed to Rutgers as one of the top players in New Jersey coming out of high school. As an offensive lineman, it might take some time to get acclimated to the Big Ten but he brings high hopes for the future.
4. The defensive line has high hopes. Will it all pan out?
We mentioned that Toure will miss the season with an injury. The Scarlet Knights also lost Olakunle Fatukasi and Julius Turner from last year’s team. Despite the losses, Rutgers’ defensive line has a chance to be one of the best units on the team.
The question remains, will expectations pan out?
Mayan Ahanotu and Ifeanyi Maijeh transferred to Rutgers in the offseason. There is great promise from former Michigan transfer Aaron Lewis while Kyonte Hamilton has a chance to step up as well.
The Scarlet Knights lost a tackling machine in Fatukasi and their sack leader in each of the last two seasons in Toure, who totaled nine sacks during that time. Regardless, this defensive line has a chance to be strong and that is important against the offensive lines and rushing attacks in the Big Ten.
5. What will the rushing attack look like?
We went over the replacements on the offensive side of the ball above but the running back room deserves its own category.
Pacheco has been the workhorse for the Scarlet Knights over the course of his career. Now that he is fighting for a job with the Kansas City Chiefs, Rutgers will have to look at other options.
Kyle Monangai and Aaron Young combined for just 440 rushing yards last season but scored nine touchdowns. Monangai seemed to be the second in command behind Pacheco last season but Young was within range in terms of carries. Young is still recovering from an injury suffered in the spring, which means Monangai could have a leg up early.
Al-Shadee Salaam is a name that has flown under the radar. He has not played a role in recent years but brings great speed into the equation. Jamier Wright-Collins also remains in the mix, along with four-star recruit Samuel Brown V.
It is likely that Monangai emerges as a potential favorite to be named the starter but it is unknown if Sean Gleeson will view him as an every-down back. There could certainly be a committee in the backfield for the Scarlet Knights as they look to transition from Pacheco.