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Opponent Preview: Offense

A look at Week 1 opponent Rutgers’ offense

NCAA Football: Charlotte at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

After an abysmal 2016 season for the Rutgers offense, the Scarlet Knights introduce a new offensive coordinator, a new quarterback (graduate transfer) and a big-time running back (graduate transfer) for the 2017 season. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that the Huskies will face a very different Rutgers offense on Friday in New Jersey.

  • New Offensive Coordinator

Chris Ash is a defensive minded head coach and has never ran an offense in his career. So when Rutgers had the worst FBS offense in 2016, Ash was able to lay the blame on offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer. The first year (and 29 year old) OC was sent packing and has since landed as the WRs coach at Texas.

To replace Mehringer, Ash reached out to former Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill. Kill had stepped down from his head coaching position during the 2015 season due to some serious medical issues. After sitting out all of the 2016 season, a now healthy Kill agreed to come on as the new OC at Rutgers. At Minnesota, Kill made a name for himself by running a high powered offensive system that is a cross between a spread and pro-style offense. If you’re curious, last year Rutgers ran a power spread attack. Much like the Huskies, you can expect nearly anything from this offense, with four wide outs in on one play and two tight ends and a full back in on the next. Speaking of tight ends, Kill loves to get them involved in the passing game, which we’ll cover in more detail below. Generally, Kill plays to the strengths of his players, which this year features a QB with a powerful arm, a solid stable of running backs and several talented receivers.

  • New Starting QB

Kyle Bolin was recently named the new starting quarterback for the Scarlet Knights, after winning the competition between last year’s starter Gio Rescigno and freshman standout Jonathan Lewis. Bolin is a graduate transfer from Louisville, who was once Louisville’s starter before losing the job to eventual Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. The guy reportedly has a cannon for an arm and standout leadership ability. One article I read compared him to Russel Wilson, specifically in regards to him being named a captain shortly after arriving on campus as a graduate transfer. He played in 15 games including six starts over two seasons for Louisville, and complied a 58.8% completion rate, with 13 TDs and 10 INTs. OC Jerry Kill tends to like bigger more physical quarterbacks who are pass-first oriented, but are also capable of moving the chains with their legs. While Bolin, a pro-style QB, has been named the starter, don’t be surprised if (at some point this season) 6’ 3” 240 lbs. true freshman Jonathan Lewis sees some playing time as a run-threat option at QB.

Check out these highlights from what was probably Bolin’s best game as a starter for Louisville:

  • Running Backs

Rutgers returns three experienced running backs this season in senior Robert Martin (5’11”, 212 lbs.), senior Josh Hicks (5’10”, 210 lbs.) and sophomore Trey Sneed (5’10”, 214 lbs.). However, the main story at running back for the Scarlet Knights appears to be Miami graduate transfer Gus Edwards (6’1”, 235 lbs.). Originally brought in to add depth, recent interviews with Ash and Kill indicate that Edwards is likely the starter heading into week 1 against the Dawgs. With his size and combination of power and speed, he’s certainly capable of being a 3-down back. He did nothing but impress during Rutgers fall camp, so Edwards could take on a work-horse roll in the Rutgers run game. If Edwards is out, you’ll likely see the rock in Martin’s hands. It’s also necessary to mention that Kill’s offensive scheme regularly utilizes fullbacks. The two who have seen the most touches in fall camp have been Max Anthony (6’0”, 240 lbs.) and Solomon Manning (6’1”, 241 lbs.).

Here’s a big run from Edwards in Miami’s 2014 match-up with Cincinnati:

  • Wide Receivers/TEs

Redshirt senior Janarion Grant (5’10”, 178 lbs.) is the most dynamic playmaker on Rutgers’ roster. He saw action in every game his freshman and sophomore seasons on campus (2013-2014) and was a Second Team All-Big Ten return specialist in 2015. He started the first four games of last season at wide receiver, averaging 163.75 all purpose yards and totaling 20 receptions and 16 rushing attempts with 6 touchdowns, before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He’s expected to be healthy for week 1 against the Dawgs and we’ll likely see him featured in the passing game as well as on special teams. Jawuan Harris (5’9”, 186 lbs.) and Damon Mitchell (6’2”, 217 lbs.) will also see playing time in week 1.

It sounds like the Huskies will miss facing 6’3”, former 4-star wide receiver Ahmir Mitchell due to an ACL injury in the spring. Mitchell is expected to return at some point in September, but his absence certainly takes some pressure off of the Huskies’ young secondary. With that in mind, Rutgers has five true freshmen receivers, at least three of whom, Melton, Hayek and Wormly will likely see action in week 1. This should be an ideal first game matchup for the Dawgs.

As previously mentioned, Jerry Kill likes to utilize his tight ends in the passing game. Last year, Rutgers tight ends combined for 16 catches for 91 yards and one touchdown... and none of those players are returning this season. Talk about starting from scratch. The two tight ends who will most likely see the field against the Huskies are former defensive end Myles Nash (6’5”, 257 lbs.), and Nakia Griffin-Stewart (6’5”, 255 lbs.). A junior transfer, Jerome Washington (6’4”, 258 lbs.) has been touted for his ability as a pass-catcher and could also see playing time.

  • Offensive Line

Not a strong point for this offense, but Rutgers does return two starters and a third player with starting experience to the O-line. Jonah Jackson (6’4”, 299 lbs.) is the new projected starter at center, while the right guard spot is still in limbo. The line is anchored by left tackle Tariq Cole (6’6”, 320 lbs.), who is considered the most athletic O-lineman on the team and at one point last season was ranked as the best left tackle in the Big Ten.

Go Dawgs.