As the Scarlet Knights prepare for kickoff in Piscataway, a familiar face appears on the sideline.
It does not belong to Jerry Kill, who stepped away from the program due to health concerns, nor does it belong to any of the other seven men who have been the offensive coordinator for Rutgers during the last eight seasons. However, John McNulty, may be more recognizable to the Rutgers’ faithful than any of his predecessors.
McNulty has not coached on the banks since 2008, when he left to coach the wide receivers and later quarterbacks for the Arizona Cardinals. Following his four-year tenure in Phoenix, McNulty spent a season coaching the quarterbacks in Tampa Bay, two seasons as the quarterback coach in Tennessee, before finishing his NFL tour with two years in Los Angeles leading the Ram’s tight ends.
Before McNulty’s talents brought him to each end of the country, McNulty made a name for himself coaching at Rutgers back when it was great to be a Scarlet Knight. The days when there was Pandemonium in Piscataway, when Mike Teel, Ray Rice, Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood put on an offensive show all season long, when bowl games were not only realistic, but reality.
The 2018 Scarlet Knights are very different than the 2008 Scarlet Knights. The Big Ten is a whole different animal than the Big East was in 2008.
Rutgers consistently faces some of the country’s best and rarely has a “light” week. In two of the four years that Rutgers has been a member of the Big Ten, they have been at the bottom of the conference in total offense.
For the first time in several years, the clouds are beginning to lift in Piscataway. McNulty has fostered greatness in the form of Scarlet Knights. Not only did his offensive help lead Rutgers to four bowl games in a five-year span but under his guidance, Rutgers became the first team to have a 3,000 yard passer in Teel, a 2,000 yard rusher in Rice, and two 1,000 yard receivers in Britt and Underwood.
Hoping to bring that glory back to Piscataway, head coach Chris Ash re-hired McNulty in January, with McNulty’s main focus being on the quarterbacks. Rutgers finally has depth at that position to make another bowl run.
While Ash and McNulty will not name a starting quarterback for a few more weeks, all signs point to the season ending with Artur Sitkowski at the helm, if not starting that way. Sitkowski, a talented true freshman, enrolled at Rutgers early and looked strong in his debut during the Scarlet-White game in April.
With only two weeks of official practices under his belt, Sitkowski was not perfect in the scrimmage but the promise was there. Not only has Sitkowski excited the Scarlet Knight fans, but has impressed the coaching staff early on in his career in Piscataway. If McNulty wants to change the course of the offense, it’s going to start with Sitkowski.
With nine new offensive coordinators in nine seasons, change has been the theme for the Scarlet Knights. Not only is Chris Ash hoping that he found the piece of the puzzle that stays, he’s hoping he found the piece that brings Rutgers to new heights.
In his third year as head coach, Ash has stated that 2018 is the year the Scarlet Knights push to make a bowl game, a feat that has eluded the school since 2014. McNulty has the perfect combination of experience as a Scarlet Knight, an impressive resume away from the school, and young talent to bring success back to Piscataway.