The Rutgers Football season will kick off on Sunday, Sept. 3 at SHI Stadium against Northwestern. Leading up to the season opener, we will be taking a look at each position on the field for the Scarlet Knights.
The series continues with who Rutgers needs to step up as pass catchers — tight end.
Position Coach: Andrew Aurich
Key Returners: Johnny Langan, Victor Konopka, Mike Higgins
Key Losses: N/A
Key Newcomers: Shawn Bowman, Logan Blake
What Went Well In 2022: Versatility
Of course, this begins and ends with Johnny Langan. Since coming to Rutgers, Langan has been used in many ways within the offense. It will be interesting to see how its Ciarrocca decides to use the weapon.
Langan entered Piscataway as a quarterback in 2019 before acting as a ball carrier in 2020, catching just two passes. Over the last two years, Langan has transitioned into more of a tight end role, totaling 49 catches. The problem with the play calling became when Langan was lined up in shotgun, opposing defenses knew that it was going to be a draw play.
While Langan still has that in her arsenal, Ciarrocca could choose to use him as more of a traditional tight end to add another dynamic to the offense.
This could be one of the deepest tight end rooms Greg Schiano has had since returning to Rutgers. Along with Langan, Victor Konopka returns with experience within the offense. Shawn Bowman transferred in from Maine while freshman Logan Blake is an interesting piece as well. The 6-foot-6 product of New Jersey brings great size.
New position coach Andrew Aurich has emphasized different areas for his tight ends and could choose to use them in different ways.
Improvement Needed: Pass Catching, Run Blocking
Rutgers established a bit of an identity running the ball last year. Before Samuel Brown’s injury, he was a workhorse for the Scarlet Knights and that could be the case once again with a deep room in the backfield. This is why Aurich has put an emphasis on his tight ends run blocking.
Konopka missed eight games last year and this allowed Mike Higgins to step up on the depth chart. He appeared in seven games while Langan remained the starter.
Last season, Rutgers had 34 catches from tight ends, with 31 coming from Langan. Konopka has just five catches in two years for the Scarlet Knights. The question is, can the tight ends emerge as pass catchers?
The Scarlet Knights have plenty of size at the position. Langan is actually the smallest option at 6-foot-3. The trio of Konopka, Bowman, and Higgins are all 6-foot-5 or above. The ceiling is high in terms of catching the football and it is time to implement this offensively. This will be another challenge for Ciarrocca for the 2023 season.
The offense was at an all-time low last season. Rutgers got virtually nothing from the tight end position so anything in 2023 will be an upgrade. The good news is that there is potential. The Scarlet Knights return Langan and should have other options as well. The question mark remains on if they can take the next step. Along with the quarterback and offensive line, Rutgers will have to get more out of its tight ends — both catching the ball and in the trenches.
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