Biggest takeaways from Rutgers' spring game
The spring season is in the books in Piscataway.
Friday night, Rutgers held its annual spring game to close out its schedule of 15 practices as it prepares for the 2022 season. The Scarlet Knights are coming off their first bowl appearance since 2014 and are hoping to build off that success.
The offense started off hot on Friday night but once the defense settled in it proved to be the unit further along this spring. It creates some questions for the Scarlet Knights to answer before summer workouts and fall camp arrive.
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Here are a few key takeaways from Friday night’s spring game at SHI Stadium:
There’s still a quarterback battle heading into fall
To start Friday night’s spring game, both Noah Vedral and Gavin Wimsatt looked like first-string quarterbacks. The two combined to complete 6-of-6 passes for 80 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the first two drives. It might’ve been the best the Rutgers’ passing attack has looked since the Kyle Flood era.
As the game progressed, though, both the smoking guns cooled down and the defense made life a little tougher on the two quarterbacks. The final verdict? There’s still a battle under center heading into fall.
Vedral ended the day completing 5-of-8 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 37 yards. Wimsatt closed out the night throwing for 118 yards, a touchdown and an interception while completing 9-of-16 attempts. Evan Simon was 12-of-19 for 109 yards and an interception.
The one noticeable difference on Friday night regarding the passing attack was the deep ball. The Scarlet Knights weren’t afraid to stretch the field throughout the game, which might be an indication that the offense is looking for more explosive plays through the air in 2022.
Who will be launching a majority of those passes? We’ll have to wait a little longer to find out.
Rutgers’ secondary can lay the lumber
The first two drives were rough for the Rutgers defense, but after the sluggish start it was the unit that won the day in Piscataway Friday night. That’s not too surprising in a spring game, especially for a Greg Schiano-coached team.
What was most noticeable from the spring game, though, was how hard the secondary was hitting when the ball was thrown. Max Melton had a few highlight-reel hits throughout the game. Joe Lusardi flattened Jordan Kinsler on a deep pass play.
It was the theme of the night.
Rutgers is putting an emphasis on hard hitting and trying to create turnovers this season. The secondary was able to make a couple of plays, intercepting two passes on Friday night, showing just how opportunistic it can be.
The one concern is that those tough hits didn’t always result in players going to the turf. That area still needs some work heading into fall camp.
Taj Harris and Sean Ryan are huge additions at WR
Losing Bo Melton from the receiving corps is a significant departure. Luckily, Rutgers was able to nab Harris (Syracuse) and Ryan (West Virginia) out of the transfer portal this offseason. Already, the two are showing off their skill sets.
Harris hauled in the first touchdown catch of the game, making an impressive play on a 19-yard pass in the end zone from Vedral. He ended the day with a few big receptions and totaled 49 yards and a touchdown on 5 receptions.
Ryan had an equally impressive outing on Friday night. He didn’t haul in a touchdown pass but he did total 48 yards on 4 catches, averaging 12 yards per reception. Not a bad debut.
Throughout the evening, Rutgers was able to get a lot of different receivers involved in the game. Shameen Jones had 3 catches for 67 yards. Christian Dremel had 43 yards on a pair of receptions. And Aron Cruickshank wasn’t even available for the scrimmage.
The Scarlet Knights certainly have some questions at the quarterback position, but the wide receiver room appears to be in pretty good shape. Or at least in better shape than it’s been in for quite some time.
The running backs looked explosive
When the running backs got room to run they were virtually unstoppable. The inconsistent play of the offensive line is certainly something that needs to be addressed, but the guys in the backfield looked pretty capable of carrying a heavy workload.
Kyle Monangai finished the game with 65 yards on 7 carries. Al-Shadee Salaam piled up an impressive 71 yards on 5 touches. Parker Day and Jamier Wright-Collins both got involved in the rushing attack, as well.
We’ll see if Rutgers has a guy capable of completely taking over a game during the 2022 season, but at the very least, the Scarlet Knights are in good shape from a depth perspective. The combination of Monangai and Salaam could be a pretty potent combination this fall.