Entering the fourth year of Greg Schiano’s second tenure in Piscataway, the same question is still on the minds of most Rutgers fans. When will Rutgers have an even mildly successful offense?
If you ask my father, the answer is probably never, but in reality, it could be as soon as the next few weeks.
A new offensive coordinator, a more developed Gavin Wimsatt under center, and the potential breakout of Samuel Brown V are all big reasons for optimism as we approach the season. On the other hand, the offensive line looks like it very well could be the “same old Rutgers”.
To put it lightly, Gavin Wimsatt was underwhelming last season. He never pulled away from Evan Simon to earn the starting job and was beginning to look like he would never live up to the expectations he came in with. He completed just 44% of his passes and threw more picks than touchdowns under Sean Gleeson in 2022 but with a new offensive coordinator in Kirk Ciarrocca, the hope is that Wimsatt takes some major strides.
However, the only way that Rutgers’ perceived savior is going to find success this season, is if the offensive line improves exponentially. Last season, Rutgers’ sack rate was ranked 79th in the country and 9th in the Big Ten. If Wimsatt doesn’t have time to scan the field and find open receivers, then the Scarlet Knights are in for another season of a second-rate offense.
If the offensive line does in fact give Wimsatt some time to throw, Rutgers could be much improved. The Scarlet Knight brought in FCS All-American receiver Naseim Brantley as well as JaQuae Jackson, a D2 wideout who hauled in 13 touchdowns and almost 1,200 yards last season. Both of these guys look to be difference-makers for Kirk Ciarroca’s offense this fall and will be counted on to replace the production of Sean Ryan, Aron Cruickshank, and Shameen Jones.
On the ground, Rutgers features a community backfield headlined by true sophomore Samuel Brown V, someone that many have deemed to be the X-factor for the Scarlet Knights’ season. He’ll be joined by a trio of backs in Aaron Young, Kyle Monangai, and Al-Shadee Salaam, who have all shown flashes during their times at Rutgers. Young was a non-factor last season despite rushing for five touchdowns the year before, as Schiano turned instead to Monangai and Salaam to carry a bulk of the workload prior to Brown’s emergence. It’ll be interesting to see who steps up out of the Rutgers backfield alongside Brown this season.
It’s no secret Greg Schiano likes to run a conservative offense, but if he wants to get back to a bowl game, he’s going to have to give the reigns to Ciarroca and let the offense open up. Back in the days of the old Big East, maybe Rutgers could pound down defenses till they gave in, but in the modern Big Ten, that just doesn’t work. You have to show some true explosiveness on offense if you want to win football games, something that the Scarlet Knights have failed to do over the last few seasons.
If you want to beat the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, and our rivals over in Happy Valley, you can’t score 14 points and hope your defense holds them to 13. Hell, you can’t even beat Northwestern if you can’t score. Rutgers boasts a bonafide Big Ten defense that should be amongst the better groups in the conference this season, but when they’re on the field for 100 plays a game and getting no help from the offense, it doesn’t matter how good they are, the Scarlet Knights can’t win. If they can show the ability to compete with other Big Ten offenses, they just might have a chance to go bowling this season.