Quick 2019 Recap: Bad. Rutgers was bad. The Scarlet Knights finished 2-10 and winless in the Big Ten, including 0-5 on the road. They did put up a fight defensively for much of their season finale against Penn State, but New Jersey’s State University was shutout not once, not twice, but four times in-conference, and managed just six points against the Nittany Lions. Head coach Chris Ash was fired in late September, and interim coach Nunzio Campanile shouldered the burden for the remainder of the campaign. In short, it was another year to forget.
Offensive Players to Watch: RB Isaih Pacheco and WR Bo Melton
The good news for Rutgers is they return their top wide receiver in senior Bo Melton, and their top running back in junior Isaih Pacheco. Pacheco rushed for 729 yards in 11 games in 2019, and If he plays in all of Rutgers’ games, he has a shot at 1,000 yards. Melton is by far the most proven dynamic wideout for New Jersey’s state university, leading the team with 30 catches for 427 yards. Rutgers also brought in two conference transfers on offense, former Wisconsin wideout Aron Cruickshank and one-time Nebraska quarterback Noah Vedral. Vedral is immediately eligible as a grad transfer, and is expected to compete for the starting job with two former starters, Art Sitkowski and Johnny Langan.
Defensive Player to Watch: LB Tyshon Fogg.
Rutgers also added several defensive transfers, but their defensive leader is senior linebacker Tyshon Fogg. Fogg led the team with 104 tackles and was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten (He also had 1.5 sacks against the Nittany Lions.). He could present a big issue for Sean Clifford and the rest of the offense with his ability to both get to the quarterback, and make tackles in the open field. The Scarlet Knights will certainly need him to anchor the defense if they want to improve a side of the ball that allowed 30 points or more in 10 games last year.
Major Changes for 2020: As mentioned previously, there is a lot that has changed in Piscataway. Rutgers brought back former head coach Greg Schiano, and have welcomed in five Big Ten transfers, including former Wolverine defensive lineman Michael Dwumfour and ex-Buckeye defensive back Brendon White . The coaching staff has brought five new coaches to New Jersey, and only one that coached at Rutgers in his position last year (the former interim coach Nunzio Campanile).
Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions play their game and don’t let off the gas. When re-watching last year’s contest, the offense let up offensively and seemed content to coast to a 20-point victory...which is FINE. Penn State is still better talent-wise, and shouldn’t have any issues with the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers Wins If: Penn State commits Are You Hungry sandwich amounts of penalties and turnovers.
Make no mistake. Rutgers will be better in 2020 than they were in 2019, and it won’t take long until they start to compete in the conference. However, I don’t think it happens this year, and it would take all of their transfers to become eligible, and Penn State to suffer a few injuries for Rutgers to defeat Penn State. Ball control is a must, so if [Insert starting quarterback here] and Pacheco can hold the ball and punch it in, then who knows?
We do. We know.