On the Banks Nation, Rutgers Nation, SB Nation, the UNITED NATIONS...whats going on?! I’m Matt and I’m a new contributor for On the Banks. It’s finally time for me to put all my Rutgers Athletics thoughts and opinions to pen (or keyboard?), but more about me later. For now, lets talk Rutgers Football! With the seasons only a few weeks away, there are certain position groups, players, coaches, and more that I’m excited to watch this fall.
If you have watched Rutgers Football that past two seasons, you’re familiar with Gavin Wimsatt. Yes, I’m looking forward to watching Gavin improve as a QB, but I’m more interested in the big boys upfront protecting him. Controlling the line of scrimmage is paramount in football and especially in the Big Ten. Of course the blue chip, college football playoff contenders of the Big Ten have an arsenal of elite talent in the trenches, but so do teams like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. I’m not sure what they’re feeding them boys in the midwest, but they sure know how to pancake linebackers and pass protect against some of the nations best pass rushers. One thing most of the elite offensive lines have in common is SIZE.
Finally, after almost 10 years in the Big Ten, Rutgers Football’s offensive line is expected to have an average weight of 300+ lb. Does that mean Rutgers is about to bulldoze through the Big Ten? Absolutely not! Does it mean the team will have the size to compete in arguably the most competitive division in football? Yes (until divisions and possibly conferences cease to exist because of TV contracts and money, but I digress. That’s an article or maybe a therapy session for another time).
Ranking Big Ten football teams projected offensive line by total weight:— JR’s Rankings ️⭕️ (@jrs_rankings) July 20, 2023
1. Penn State: 1,590 lb
2. Minnesota: 1,575 lb
3. Illinois: 1,565 lb
3. Rutgers: 1,565 lb
5. Wisconsin: 1,563 lb
6. Ohio State: 1,557 lb
7. Michigan State: 1,555 lb
8. Nebraska: 1,550 lb
9. Michigan: 1,544… pic.twitter.com/89YYzzrSoC
One player in particular that I’m excited for is Reggie Sutton. Before a potentially career ending injury during last year’s training camp, Sutton was regarded as one of the best guards in the conference. Establishing a consistent offensive line early this season is key, and slotting in Sutton at one of the guard spots can help bolster the unit. With new offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, the goal is for him to bring NFL experience to the sideline each Saturday this fall. Protecting the QB and blocking up front for our talented running backs can help lead the offense to some much needed success fans have been hoping for a LONG time now.
Deion Jennings returning for a sixth year gives Rutgers fans another reason to be excited for the defense. While his experience is extremely valuable to the team, I believe his commitment to the program is even more important. Jennings is the perfect example of an instate, under recruited player who committed to RU, remained patient, and developed into a key starter for the defense (don’t be shocked if he is announced as a captain). Pairing him with Tyreem Powell, the 6’4” 240lb MONSTER from South Jersey, makes me scared that I even considered playing college football (at the D3 level). Powell was recently named to The Butkus Award watch list. This is reminiscent of just a few years ago when Olakunle Fatukasi was added to the same watch list. Both are equally terrifying players.
Tyreem Powell has been named to The Butkus Award watch list.— Rutgers Football (@RFootball) August 10, 2023
The award is presented annually to the nation's best linebacker. pic.twitter.com/fPTNfLW31R
The story doesn’t stop there because the linebacker room also returns two-time team sack leader Mohamed Toure and highly recruited Erasmus Hall product, Moses Walker (shout out Brooklyn, shout out my mom!). My expectation is for Walker to rotate in with Jennings and Powell, and Toure to play as a stand up edge rusher (think JJ Watt or Micah Parsons). The four players are extremely talented, and I’m excited to see how DC Joe Harasymiak plays them as the season progresses. Fun fact—in a now deleted tweet, Walker trolled Penn State when he announced his commitment to Rutgers. We may not have beat Penn State since joining the Big Ten, but i consider that a nice consolation prize!
CHOP. To Rutgers Football, this is more than just a word—its an ideology, a state of mind, a battle cry for an entire program and fan base. Greg Schiano’s mantra dating back to the early 2000s has always been CHOP. The idea is simple: you have a task, you need to complete it. Focus, determination, grit, and perseverance through adversity are all necessary to accomplish said task.
Schiano has done a phenomenal job getting the players, and even the fans (some but definitely not all), to buy into the culture he wants for this program. However, I want this season to be the year he takes the program to the next level. Rutgers Football, until massive leaps are made in terms of winning and recruiting, will be a development program. It will be place for under recruited high school athletes to develop into great players and receive a top notch education. Greg Schiano knows this, however he also wants to bring the program back to where it was in the Big East and become a national contender each year (don’t get mad at me! He said it at half time when we thrashed Seton Hall at the RAC in 2019). While it may come with laughs, I also want this... who wouldn’t?!
Coaching at Rutgers and in New Jersey is not easy. You can’t expect someone like Chris Ash, who is from Iowa and coached in the midwest, to have immediate success or understand the difficulty of coaching in the Northeast. People living in New Jersey can pick between teams from every major sports league and never think twice about college football. You need to find ways to generate buzz and attract local fans to the program. I think the Athletics Department and Pat Hobbs have done a terrific job to find new ways to get fans to Piscataway, despite lackluster performances on the field. Rutgers has the unique ability to make people in New Jersey care and be passionate about college football (and not just Penn State!!).
Now is the time for Greg Schiano to CHOP. Now is the time to finish the season the same way it started. Last year, Rutgers had one of the best defenses in the country during the first half of the season, but by the end, finished in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. It’s not easy to compete on defense when you are always on the field, so Schiano needs to find trust in new OC Kirk Ciarrocca to find ways to control the clock and limit turnovers.
I am a Schiano supporter, but during the season finale against Maryland I quickly began to realize why there are some that may not have been excited for his return. He runs the program a specific way and, from my understanding, wants to control everything. When the culture is defined behind CHOP, then why are fans subject to watching Maryland blow out Rutgers in a lifeless effort in back to back season finales? I was at both games and it was not fun for my eyes. Not to brag, but the game against Maryland in 2021 was when I was inducted into the inaugural Rutgers Athletics Fan Hall of Fame. The performance on the field was not ideal, but at least I was enshrined in Rutgers Athletics history (for being a fan with a mom who had her entire active adult community vote for me non stop for weeks. WORTH IT). I’m sorry, I’m sorry, lets wrap up this post...
With all this being said, I implore Greg Schiano to find ways to innovate the program, more than just with CHOP. Fans can look to one positive sign towards this—Schiano announcing Wimsatt the starter ahead of Big Ten Media Day. As fans, we don’t have to experience another QB carousel that made me question if I was watching actual football last season. No more mind games, just get out there and play some Big Ten smash mouthed, hard nosed, IN YOUR FACE FOOTBALL!
So yeah, if you couldn’t tell I have a lot of thoughts and can talk for hours about Rutgers Athletics. I don’t expect most posts to be this long, but like Carmella Soprano once said...
My love for Rutgers Athletics really blossomed during the summer of 2016. I was an intern at Bank of America with lots of time on my hands. So, like any intern, I obviously discovered the wonders of high school football recruiting, Despite reading every article about Bo Melton and Tyshon Fogg that I could find, I did end up getting a return offer for a full time job in 2017 (so, HA!). Since then, my passion for RU has only grown. As mentioned above, I am in fact a Rutgers Fan Hall of Famer. As I begin to post more, I want to make one thing clear—I am no different than you reading this. I have opinions, some right, some wrong. I want Rutgers Athletics to go to the friggen MOON. If you find yourself disagreeing with me, thats fine, but just remember...your disagreeing with a real life (fan) Hall of Famer. Would you voice your disagreements to Ray Lewis? Probably not.
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