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Interview with Frenemies: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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They may not have much but they have heart...

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Michigan State at Rutgers Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Leading up this today’s matchup between Penn State and Rutgers, we were able to catch up with David Anderson of On The Banks to get a closer look at the Scarlet Knights for both Saturday’s game and the future of the Rutgers program. We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and Black Friday but its’ now time for some Penn State football.

1) How do you think this Rutgers team comes out on Saturday? Do you think this is a team ready for the season to be over or could they have some fire lit under them on Saturday?

This Rutgers team under interim Head Coach Nunzio Campanile has shown more heart than any team since 2015 despite their record so they should continue to play hard. They just don’t have any big play ability on either side of the ball so it won’t matter by late in the 2nd quarter. There’s always a chance a team mails it in (previous Rutgers teams ... cough cough) especially when players are entering the transfer portal with regularity, but this team’s offensive line and front seven on defense have given it their all in 2019. The skill position guys have followed their lead, the team is just not good so it doesn’t matter how hard they play.

2) Rutgers quarterback situation has been interesting this season to say the least. They’re on their third quarterback in Johnny Langan. What are his strengths and weaknesses? Do you believe he can exploit Penn State’s secondary?

”Johnny Football” was third string for a reason coming into the year because McLane Carter and Art Sitkowski had more upside AND experience. Langan has two strengths, he is a tough SOB and can motivate his team even when they can’t even achieve a first down for an entire half (like last week). Unfortunately, he cannot throw a football accurately with any regularity and lacks zip even when on target. Sad as it is to say, I do not think he can exploit Penn State’s secondary. All of his deep completions to receivers this year came on jump balls where Bo Melton pulled a poor man’s Allen Robinson type move to outfox and rip the ball from a defender. The long gains made by Isaiah Washington required him getting pummeled on a 50/50 duck but holding on or running a long way after a slant route. Langan does have Tim Tebow like 4th quarter stretches at times where he all of a sudden fires five straight zingers that may or may not be caught bookended by beast mode runs, but just as quickly as he gets hot, he returns to his baseline.

3) On both sides of the ball, who should fans watch in terms of players who could be impacting the Scarlet Knights in a big way next season?

The caveat to this is of course who is hired by the next coach and what the transfer portal does in both directions for this program. On offense, Bo Melton has been the most underutilized talent since I can remember watching Rutgers Football in 1993 or so. If Rutgers can find a quarterback and a play caller who could scheme Bo open in 2020 he could have a big year. Isaiah Washington as a true freshman knows how to get open, take a hit, and told Campanile he will “never quit”, but the problem is that he has fumbled the ball each of the last two weeks when he was just trying to fall down and move the sticks. If Washington gets some old man strength with a lot of pec flys in the weight room, he should be a pretty good wideout. The running backs all have upside, but the offensive line is at least two years away from opening holes. On defense, Avery Young had an up and down year mostly due to poor communication with the team’s new safeties, but should be a pretty good cornerback in 2020. Tyshon Fogg and Drew Singleton are good linebackers who have eligibility left and play with the emotion needed for a struggling team to keep fighting.

4) Now, this coaching search for Rutgers has been a doozy already. Fans are obviously upset with the Schiano situation. Do you think there’s any chance he comes back to Piscataway and if not, who do you think takes the reigns?

It’s clear the fan base, administration, and everyone around the program was very split on Schiano even before Chris Ash was deservedly fired. Then once Schiano was involved in negotiations, everyone got on board realizing at this point the two sides had to agree or it would be catastrophic. Talks broke down last Sunday but seem to have picked back up so it seems like Schiano or bust. If not him, there’s no real indication. Someone like Jeff Hafley who is yet another Ohio State DC, has more Jersey ties but I’m not certain if he wants the job. Anyone who wanted the job before might not want it now after the Schiano fiasco anyway.

5) Do you think there is hope that anyone but Schiano can turn the ship around? It’s certainly a tough situation and with Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State only growing the gap between them and the rest, it will only get tougher going forward.

The hope ranges from Schiano will simply restore respectability (win 1 Big Ten game each year) to he will get the team 7-8 wins per year maximum. No one in their right mind thinks he will take the team above the Big Ten East Powers and get RU to a Rose Bowl. My take on this initially was that there are better intermediate and long-term candidates who are more flexible offensive minded guys, likely younger, that would not pull a Chris Ash and try to beat the Ohio States at their own game (never EVER EVER going to work at RU). That said, once talks broke down and part of the rationale was Rutgers not wanting to make the “investment required to compete in the Big Ten”, anyone else will have no chance in the short term based on money, lack of facilities, enthusiasm, etc. The hope was that a Greg Schiano, Butch Jones, Al Golden, Steve Addazio, even your old friend Joe Moorhead would get the program back to a non-embarrassing level and then the next guy (ideally a young hotshot on staff) could have the impact Mark Dantonio had at Michigan State for a while where they rise above the Indiana and Maryland every year with an occasional shot to take down a big boy in a down year.

6) What do you believe are reasonable expectations for Rutgers next season and in the next five seasons?

Next year, it depends on what attrition looks like in the transfer portal. It will be at best a random 4-8 season, more likely a one-two win season again barring some hotshot quarterback joining the team who can offset an inexperienced, poor offensive line. There’s two possibilities here on the five year. If Rutgers hires Schiano (which seems likely once again) he will stabilize the program immediately and everyone will expect at least one bowl trip in the next three-five years. If they are forced to play the longer game with a first time head coach, maybe a bowl five years from now IF they can get some semblance of an offense. I do think if you just find someone with some offensive ingenuity it would do wonders, but not enough for immediate bowl games if the boosters completely pull the plug on all the funding as fallout from the Schiano debacle.

We’d like to thank David Anderson for taking time out of his holiday weekend to answer our questions.