Other installments of Saturday Tradition’s critical questions series in the B1G East: Buckeyes, Wolverines, Spartans, Nittany Lions, Hoosiers. In the West: Badgers, Hawkeyes, Boilermakers, Fighting Illni, Wildcats, Cornhuskers. Still to come: Maryland, Minnesota.  

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Rutgers enters the fall looking to improve on last year’s  5-7 regular-season record. While the Scarlet Knights did play in a bowl game (and lost), that opportunity came about as a replacement team as Texas A&M battled COVID-19.

Heading into 2022, a lot of questions surround Rutgers as it looks to make a Year 3 jump since Greg Schiano returned to lead the program. In order to make that jump, the Scarlet Knights must replace some key pieces and develop others.

As we head toward the season, here are 10 questions facing Rutgers:

1. Who wins the QB battle for the season opener?

A 3-man battle is taking place in camp. The group includes returning starter Noah Vedral, former 4-star recruit Gavin Wimsatt and Evan Simon, who backed up Vedral for much of 2021.

Vedral brings an ability to get tough yards as a runner to the position, but Wimsatt likely has the highest ceiling of the group. Even if he’s unable to begin the season as the starter, he drew high marks from BTN during the network’s bus tour.

2. Who takes over the lead role in the RB room?

Isaih Pacheco is off to the NFL and is making a strong impression during his rookie camp. His departure opens a big void for Rutgers.

He led the team with 647 rushing yards in 2021 and compiled over 2,400 rushing yards in his career. Pacheco will be missed, and finding his replacement at RB1 is a huge need.

3. Who replaces Bo Melton as the go-to WR?

Speaking of replacements, Bo Melton has also departed for the NFL. Melton left as the team’s leading receiver 3 years running and had 618 receiving yards last year.

The program did add Sean Ryan (West Virginia) and Taj Harris (Syracuse) as veteran receivers from the portal. With that duo — and returning Aron Cruickshank — the Scarlet Knights might have the beginnings of a talented WR room.

4. Who steps up to lead the defense in place of Olakunle Fatukasi?

It is hard to overstate what Olakunle Fatukasi meant to the Scarlet Knights defense. Fatukasi posted at least 80 tackles over the past 3 seasons, including an epic 90-tackle showing during the shortened 2020 campaign.

Minus the true heart and soul of the defense, Rutgers must get others to step up.

5. Is a bowl game a legitimate expectation?

After playing in a bowl game last season, it could be easy for fans to anticipate a repeat appearance. However, it’s important to remember the circumstances that led up to playing in that bowl, and a 5-7 season might be the ceiling for this unit.

In the preseason projections for Rutgers, ESPN’s FPI has the Scarlet Knights as serious underdogs for much of the year. Rutgers will need to flip things on their head in order to get back to the postseason.

6. Can the Scarlet Knights land an upset blow?

Rutgers has crafted its program on toughness and staying competitive in games. Unfortunately, an upset in a big game never materialized last year. The Scarlet Knights went 0-4 against ranked opponents despite decent outings against Michigan and Michigan State.

Even if Rutgers is unable to get back to a bowl game, landing an upset blow would give the program something to hang its hat on.

7. Which transfer has the biggest immediate impact?

Rutgers added 7 transfers this year. Among the candidates to make the best first impression are receivers Taj Harris or Sean Ryan.

The impact of offensive linemen is a bit harder to project but nonetheless important. Four offensive linemen — including former Minnesota player Curtis Dunlap — have joined the program and could have strong performances this season.

8. How does new DC Joe Harasymiak fare?

Joe Harasymiak joins the program as DC after 3 seasons with PJ Fleck’s Minnesota program. The past 2 seasons, Harasymiak served as a co-DC, and he should be a DC on the rise.

How the Rutgers defensive unit performs will be an interesting trend to follow. Last season, the defense allowed 25.6 points per game.

9. Can punter Adam Korsak take home the Ray Guy Award?

No preview of Rutgers’ 2022 season would be complete without touching on Adam Korsak. One of the best punters in the country, Korsak is also a leader in the locker room for the Scarlet Knights.

Winning the Ray Guy Award is not out of the question. Korsak was a finalist for the prestigious national accolade last season and a second-team All-American.

10. Will QB Gavin Wimsatt establish a high ceiling for the future?

Determining a starter is no easy task for Rutgers this season, and Wimsatt is deep in the competition for the role. It is no guarantee he lands the job, but that is not what is ultimately the goal for Wimsatt or the program.

Wimsatt looks to have all the arm talent needed to make an impact and is likely the most talented prospect in the QB room. Even if he doesn’t land the starting role in camp, Wimsatt needs to see playing time this season and prove he can be the guy to build around for the future.