The long offseason has come to an end and Rutgers football is on the horizon. The Scarlet Knights are set to open their season on Saturday, when they host the Texas State Bobcats in Piscataway at noon.
Texas State, who went 2-10 a year ago, brings a very young team to the table this year with only twelve seniors. The less experienced players will have to step up big time in order for the Bobcats to turn their program around. It will not be easy for them on the road against a Rutgers team that has improved at almost every position from their 4-8 campaign a year ago.
Texas State Offense
The Texas State offense, like most of their team, struggled last year. The Bobcats scored only 207 points all year, averaging 17.2 points a game. The team graduated its 2017 starting quarterback, Damian Williams. Last year’s backup, sophomore Willie Jones III, will start the season as the playmaker for Texas State.
Jones averaged 3.9 yards on 43 attempts a season ago, and did not throw for a touchdown all season.
For a team that has relied on the rushing game in the past, the Bobcats will look to Anthony Taylor, who recorded two touchdowns and 436 rushing yards a year ago. Taylor also had 15 receptions for 159 yards.
Look for Texas State to establish more of a passing game on Saturday if they want to be successful against the Scarlet Knights’ defense.
In addition to a rather inexperienced quarterback, the Bobcats will also show off a young offensive line. Junior Aaron Brewer has the most experience among the lineman and Brewer only recorded two assisted tackles on the year.
The offensive line is going to need to step it up when they visit Rutgers on Saturday, or the Scarlet Knights’ explosive defense will be able to put on quite a show in front of their hometown crowd.
The Scarlet Knights’ defense was a bright spot a year ago, and while Rutgers’ lost two of their most productive defensive players to the NFL, the Scarlet Knights look to continue the tradition of a strong defensive unit.
Deonte Roberts, Rutgers’ projected starting linebacker, had the best 2017 of the returning Scarlet Knights. Roberts recorded 104 total tackles last year, five of which were for a loss. If Roberts eclipses the 100 tackle mark for the second straight season, his production will be a huge part of keeping games close for the offense.
Damon Hayes also returns with 48 total tackles a year ago. The Scarlet Knights are going to want him to increase his interception total from a year ago, when he only recorded one interception.
Look for the junior to create more momentum-changing plays in 2018, and make more tackles for loss.
Texas State Defense
The Texas State defense has a lot of room to improve if they want to finish better than last place in the Sun Belt conference in 2018. The defense recorded no interceptions in 2017, and allowed opponents to score 403 points, almost double the amount Texas State put up themselves.
The bright side is that seven of the Bobcats’ ten tacklers return from a year ago. With another year of experience under their belts, the defensive line should stop some of the big plays they gave up far too often a year ago.
Bryan London was the team’s top performer during his sophomore campaign in 2017. London provided 91 total tackles, four of which were for a loss. London was also tied for the team lead with two forced tackles.
The Bobcats are going to need even more production and leadership from London if they are going to be able to stop the Scarlet Knights’ emerging running game.
Frankie Griffin also returns after a 74 tackle season in 2017. Of those 74, 10.5 of them were for a loss. Griffin’s four sacks were second best among the Bobcats a year ago, and the Texas State coaching staff will want him to get going early this season when he faces one of the best left guards in the country, Tariq Cole, on opening day.
The offense that takes the field for the Scarlet Knights on Saturday will have a very different look than last year’s unit, and that’s due to Artur Sitkowski.
The true freshman won the starting quarterback job after a tight competition that spanned almost the entirety of training camp. If Sitkowski can establish a running game early on, he should find success against the Texas State defense.
Starting Sitkowski week one also allows him to make mistakes in a low pressure environment. He does not need to be perfect to win this ball game. Starting Sitkowski for week one seems like a smart idea; this allows him to get his feet wet in a rather lopsided game. Rutgers needs to let Sitkowski find his rhythm and take chances in the pocket.
Another exciting factor in this game for Scarlet Knight fans is Tariq Cole, who enters the season as one of the best left guards in the Big Ten. If Cole simply lives up to expectations on Saturday, Sitkowski should have more than enough time to get comfortable in the pocket and not make any mental errors against the Bobcats.
Rutgers 42, Texas State 10
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