Way too early 2016 look: Rutgers
As we close the door on 2015, Saturday Tradition takes a look at each B1G team and how it projects in 2016. Yes, we realize that projecting 2016 records in January is silly. Take them for what you wish.
Coach: Chris Ash (first year)
2015 record: 4-8 (1-7 in B1G)
Biggest losses: Leonte Carroo, WR; Steve Longa, LB; Paul James RB
Key returners: Darius Hamilton DE; Robert Martin, RB; Janarion Grant, PR/KR
2016 recruiting class ranking (247sports): 63rd (12th in B1G)
Top committed recruit: Three-star CB Patrice Rene
2016 Strength: Defensive line
Assuming both are healthy, Darius Hamilton and Kemoko Turay can form one of the better defensive lineman duos playing alongside one another. The 2015 squad was hurt badly by Hamilton’s injury. As a result, the Scarlet Knights couldn’t stop the run. They were depleted up front, which isn’t the formula for success in the B1G. But alongside Turay and Hamilton, Julian Pinnix-Odreick will bring some veteran experience back, as will Joseph Sebastian. As long as those guys can stay on the field, the 33 rushing touchdowns the defense allowed in 2015 should see a significant decline in 2016.
2016 Weakness: Linebackers
The news that Steve Longa was off to the NFL had to be crushing. The junior set a Rutgers single-season tackles record and was the one indispensable piece of a defense that struggled mightily in 2015. But to make matters worse, Rutgers lost senior linebackers Kaiwan Lewis and Quentin Gause. Those were the team’s top three tacklers. The 2016 returners at the position have a combined one career start. That’s it. Junior college transfer Deonte Roberts was that guy, and with Longa gone, he could have to be the guy in 2016. Other than that, it’ll be a mix of sophomores asked to shoulder the load. The good news is that Ash is a defensive-minded coach who has had plenty of success revamping defenses. His toughest project could be in front of him.
Way too early 2016 projection: 3-9 (1-8 in B1G)
If there was a team that wishes the new conference play expansion rule could hold off another year, it’s Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights open the season at Washington. Then they open B1G play with Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan. Ouch. The B1G East is not very forgiving of rebuilding teams, which Rutgers found out all too well last year. It’ll be interested to see what new offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer is able to do with an offense that lacked an identity in 2015. Also, will he stick with Chris Laviano or will Hayden Rettig finally get a shot? It could be another year of trial and error in Piscataway. The results might not take shape in year one, but Ash’s cleansing job will be in full effect in 2016.