As early signing period comes through, Rutgers head coach Chris Ash is welcoming a slew of future Scarlet Knights to the banks of the Raritan.
Offensively, Ash brings in highly touted quarterback Artur Sitkowski, a former Miami commit and New Jersey native. Sitkowski, originally from Old Bridge, spent his senior season playing in Florida at the prestigious IMG Academy. Joining him will be another quarterback all the way from the west coast in Jalen Chatman. The two recruits will join Johnathan Lewis and Gio Rescigno this spring in what looks to be a crowded quarterback room, bubbling with competition.
While Lewis and Rescigno have the experience edge over the two young freshmen, they will all be learning a new scheme. Offensive coordinator Jerry Kill retired this past week for health concerns. Kill battles epilepsy, a seizure disorder due to abnormal and excessive brain cell activity. This is Kill’s second time retiring due to the epileptic symptoms, as he stepped away from his head coaching job at the University of Minnesota two years ago.
Rutgers is now on the search for its ninth offensive coordinator in as many years. It’s certainly hard to facilitate the growth of talent when players are learning new schemes year in and out. The Scarlet Knights have been at the lower end of the nation’s offensive rankings for the past few years. They also haven’t been able to develop any real offensive talent. It was a much-improved defensive unit that was able to keep them in close games last season.
On the bright side, this will attempt may bring in a savvy new coordinator that may turn all of that around. Whoever fills the position will have their choice of quarterback in a room full of talent to commandeer the offense they bring with them.
Keep in mind that the Rutgers offense isn’t completely devoid of talent. Recruiting classes under Ash have started to trickle in young but inexperienced players who could take strides in their second seasons of college football. Raheem Blackshear looks to take the biggest leap, as he slingshots to the top of a depth chart decimated by graduation. In a limited role, the true freshman running back flashed three-down back ability. Blackshear rushed 39 times for 238 yards and three touchdowns at 6.1 yards a clip. Through the air, he notched seven receptions for 133 yards and another two scores. Those stats should rise mightily in a more featured backfield role.
The young receiving corps is another area that could greatly improve after their first seasons. Hunter Hayek and Bo Melton will lead the way, as both had ample playing time in their true freshman seasons. A shaky quarterback situation and run heavy offense left them with miniscule statistics, but in spurts looked like offensive building blocks. They’ll be joined by highly touted commit Daevon Robinson, a four-star recruit from Shawnee, New Jersey. Listed as an athlete, Robinson stands at a tall 6’4″ and has high-point ability. If Ash decides to slot him at reciever, Rutgers will have that tall go-to option that they’ve lacked since Brandon Coleman and Carlton Agudosi.
The offensive line, arguably the best asset to the offense last season, will continue to improve as they return half of their starters. Starting tackle Tariq Cole has NFL talent but it would be in his best interest to stay for another year. Rutgers will have to replace both of their starting offensive guards. They’ll lose left guard Dorian Miler to graduation and right guard Marcus Applefield to transfer, as he decided to play out his last season of eligibility elsewhere. The Scarlet Knights have talent waiting in the wings in former four-star recruit Micah Clark, Nick Krimin, and Zach Vanesky who will all compete for the guard spots.
In all, the offensive talent is there for the Scarlet Knights. It’s going to be about finding someone who makes the most out of it, as Rutgers hunts for their new offensive coordinator.