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Rutgers Football: Under the Radar Players and Vets That Need to Take the Next Step

Let’s discuss players who may be floating under the radar as well as veterans of the team that need to take the next step forward

Rutgers defensive back Shaquan Loyal (6) covers wide receiver Rashad Rochelle (8) during training camp practice on Wednesday, August 9, 2023 in Piscataway, N.J.
Andrew Mills | NJ Advance Media

RUTGERS NATION!! We are only two weeks away from the first game of the season. With the roster and starting positions finalizing soon, let’s take a look at some under the radar players as well as veterans on the team that need to take the next step forward!

Under the radar

Rashad Rochelle/Max Paterson/Ian Strong (WRs)

With all three starters from last season gone, there has been a heightened focus on the WR group all off-season. With transfer WRs JaQuae Jackson and Naseim Brantley making positive early impressions, Rutgers still needs production from former recruits to showcase the program’s ability to develop players. Rashad Rochelle played in limited action last season, mostly from the RB position. However, with Rochelle playing QB in high school, it will be interesting to see if new OC Kirk Ciarrocca can find ways to incorporate his unique skill set into gadget plays (think of what we saw from Langan in previous seasons).

Max Patterson is a quick, shifty WR that I’m hoping can make a impact early on this season. We saw him show promise during the spring game, catching the “game winning” TD from QB Gavin Wimsatt on fourth down (in the rain). Patterson and Wimsatt seems to have a great relationship off the field (check out Wimsatt’s Tik Tok for proof). It would be great to see an even better connection between the two on the field.

Lastly, Ian Strong is a true freshmen with Big Ten size (6’3” 210 lbs). It appears Strong has had an impressive training camp so far! Rutgers needs to find success in the passing game early on this season and hopefully Strong can help lead the charge.

Vet Who Needs to Take the Next Step

Isaiah Washington (WR)

Washington was a member of the 2019 recruiting class. Each year, he seems like a WR due to become a viable weapon in the passing game; however, he has not been able to develop into a consistent option just yet. Being one of the most tenured players on the team, this season presents the perfect opportunity for him to take the next step forward. He has the chance to fill the role that Sean Ryan played this past season, which can help provide Wimsatt with a reliable downfield threat.

Under the Radar

Al-Shadee Salaam (RB)

Rutgers has loads of talent at the RB position, but Salaam is one back that I’m hoping can be a consistent contributor to the offense. Showing flashes last season, Salaam is a speedster with the ability to change direction on a dime. Sam Brown is the No. 1 RB on the team (not much of a debate), however Salaam’s speed could help give the offense a good change of pace, especially on third down as a receiving back. When given the opportunity, Salaam proved he can make B1G time plays in B1G time moments!

Vet Who Needs to Take the Next Step

Victor Konopka (TE)

The tight end group has size, but Konopka is the biggest of them all. Standing at 6’7”, 255 lbs, Konopka should present matchup nightmares for linebackers and safeties. While he hasn’t had the opportunity to contribute in previous seasons due to injury, now is the time for Konopla to add a much needed spark in the passing game. We’re all familiar with Johnny (football) Langan, but in order for the offense to take the next step forward, production needs to come from someone other than former QB converted to TE (we love you Johnny, I swear). Hopefully, Konopka can be THAT guy!

Under the Radar

Jordan Thompson/Cam’Ron Stewart/Keshon Griffin (DL)

The defensive line is looking like the strongest and deepest unit on the team. In order for this unit to be successful, rotating in fresh legs will be key. That’s where Thompson, Stewart, and Griffin can make an impact within the interior of the defensive line. It’s possible one of these three players can start alongside Kyonte Hamilton, but I expect all three to regularly rotate in on defense. The size of all three players is frightening to any offensive line: Thompson (6’2” 260 lbs) Stewart (6’5” 250 lbs), Griffin (6’4” 295 lbs). I genuinely need to know how much these guys eat each day.

Vet Who Needs to Take the Next Step

Desmond Igbinosun (DB)

With former starters Christian Izien and Avery Young fighting for spots on NFL rosters, Rutgers will look for Desmond Igbinosun to the lead the safeties. Getting his first major experience during the 2021 Tax Slayer Bowl, Igbinosun will need to play an important role alongside Minnesota transfer Flip Dixon and Newark native Shaquan Loyal. With brother Davison (former #1 player in NJ) playing in the same conference now (transferred from Ole Miss to OSU) , it’s time for Desmond to show lil bro who’s the better player in the Big Ten!