Rutgers football: The 10 most valuable players from the past decade
What a long, strange trip it has been for Rutgers football over the past decade.
Since 2012, the Scarlet Knights have been a part of 3 conferences, been a part of 4 bowl games, posted a trio of seasons with double-digit losses and welcomed home Greg Schiano. It has definitely been an eventful decade for the program, but it is unfortunate that the stretch also included the lowest of lows.
From 2012-14, the Scarlet Knights made the transition from the Big East to the AAC and finally to the B1G. Across those 3 seasons, Rutgers posted 23 wins and appeared in a bowl game each season, even winning one.
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Unfortunately, the team won a total of 9 games across the Chris Ash era from 2016-19. With the return of Schiano, the program has seen a steady turnaround over the past couple of seasons, with optimism for the Scarlet Knights in 2022 and beyond.
As fans settle in for what is hopefully the resurgence to relevance under Schiano, here’s a glimpse at the top players for Rutgers from the past decade.
LB Khaseem Greene (2009-12)
Khaseem Greene has just one season eligible for this list, but it was one of the best statistical seasons for a Rutgers linebacker in program history. During the 2012 season, Greene posted 136 tackles, 12 TFL, 6 sacks and 2 interceptions.
Those 136 total tackles are still tied for 7th-most in a single season for the Scarlet Knights. The 2012 season also brought Greene up to 387 career tackles, ranking him 4th on Rutgers’ all-time list.
QB Gary Nova (2011-14)
Gary Nova is not just one of the most important players of the past decade, he is also one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in Rutgers history. He also holds the distinction of being the starting QB for the last bowl win by the Scarlet Knights, in 2014.
When his career finally came to a close, Nova finished 2nd on Rutgers’ all-time list with 9,258 passing yards and first with 73 passing touchdowns. Nova threw for 22 touchdowns in 2012 and in 2014, tied for second-most in a single season for the Scarlet Knights.
RB Isaih Pacheco (2018-21)
Isaih Pacheco holds a spot on this list as a player who helped bridge the end of the Chris Ash era into the second stint of Greg Schiano. Pacheco ends his career as Rutgers’ leading rusher 3 straight seasons (2019-21) and never rushed for less than 500 yards in a season.
Pacheco leaves Rutgers with 2,442 career rushing yards, a mark that ranks 7th in program history. He also finishes with 18 rushing touchdowns and a pair of 100-yard games against Michigan.
WR Bo Melton (2017-21)
Bo Melton joins this list as a 2,000-yard receiver for his career. Considering the years that he was with the Scarlet Knights, that is quite the accomplishment.
Melton left the Scarlet Knights ranked 10th on the program’s all-time list for receiving yards (2,011), with 11 receiving touchdowns. His 164 receptions rank 6th on the program’s all-time list.
WR Leonte Carroo (2012-15)
Leonte Carroo never had more than 55 catches in a season, but he was always a big-play threat. He finished his career with more than 2,300 receiving yards and a program-record 29 receiving touchdowns.
Carroo had a career average of 19.5 yards per catch, a testament to his ability to test defenses down the field. He also finished 3rd on the Knights’ list for career receiving yardage (2,373) and had 10-touchdown seasons in 2014 and 2015. Carroo also holds the program record of games with 3 receiving touchdowns with 5.
LB Steve Longa (2013-15)
Steve Longa was as consistent as they come at the linebacker position. Longa posted a trio of 100-tackle seasons, including a career-high of 120 in 2013.
Longa finished his career with 17 TFL and 7 sacks as a leader for the Scarlet Knights. When it was all said and done, he finished 8th on Rutgers’ all-time list with 335 tackles.
Across his career, Longa posted 15 games of 10+ tackles. That included 19 tackles in 2015 vs. Ohio State, one game after setting his career-high at 16 in a win over Indiana.
DL Kemoko Turay (2014-17)
Kemoko Turay is mainly on this list for what he was able to accomplish as a freshman in 2014. Though he went on to have a solid career, he never could regain the numbers of his initial season.
During 2014, Turay finished with 8 TFL and 7.5 sacks. His most memorable game came during a huge upset of Michigan. Though he did post half a sack against the Wolverines, it was a game-saving blocked field goal late that gave Turay his signature moment.
Turay finished his career on a high note with 10 tackles and 1.5 sacks against Michigan State.
RB Jawan Jamison (2010-12)
Like Khasim Greene’s entry, Jawan Jamison had just one season eligible for this list. It came in 2012, but it was a dandy.
Jamison led the Scarlet Knights with 1,075 rushing yards in 2012. That mark still ranks 10th for a single-season in Rutgers history. He chipped in 323 yards receiving for nearly 1,400 yards from scrimmage.
The one knock on Jamison’s 2012 performance is that he only had 6 touchdowns. However, he proved to be the perfect complement to a passing attack led by Gary Nova, Brandon Coleman and Mark Harrison.
DB Anthony Cioffi (2013-16)
Anthony Cioffi had a very productive career as a part of the Scarlet Knight defense. He proved capable both as a tackler and in coverage, finishing with 169 tackles, 9.5 TFL and 8 interceptions in his career.
Though Cioffi’s best season came in 2015 during a 4-win campaign, he was still productive for the 2014 squad that took home a Quick Lane Bowl win. Cioffi had 2 interceptions on the season and put up 7 tackles and a forced fumble in the bowl game against North Carolina.
LB Olakunle Fatukasi (2017-21)
Olakunle Fatukasi joins this list as another member to bridge the Chris Ash-to-Greg Schiano years at Rutgers. He finished off his career with 3 straight years of 80+ tackles, including a memorable 90-tackle season during the 2020 COVID year.
Fatukasi leaves the Scarlet Knights with 282 tackles, 25.5 TFL and 6 sacks. For a team searching for identity and hunger, Fatukasi set the tone defensively for Schiano’s re-arrival.
During the 2020 season, Fatukasi averaged right at 10 tackles a game and put up totals of 10, 13, 16 and 17. He started the year with a bang while putting up 10 tackles in a win over Michigan State. Fatukasi also had a brilliant 16 tackles, 2.5 TFL and 2 sacks in a loss to Michigan.