Similar Paths: Rutgers enters year three of rebuild

Countdown to Kickoff

If you’d like to see a Power 5 comparison to Texas State just take a look at Rutgers. 

The Bobcats’ first opponent this season has been going down a similar path over the last two years. 

The Scarlet Knights enter 2018 in year three of a complete rebuild under head coach Chris Ash.

The last two seasons haven’t been pretty for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers went 2-10 in its 2016 campaign with eye-popping shutout losses to Ohio State (58-0), Michigan (78-0), Michigan State (49-0) and Penn State (39-0). The Scarlet Knights finished 111th in total defense that season giving up 426 yards per game, and on offense they didn’t fare much better finishing 84th in total offense with 377 yards per game. 

In 2017, Rutgers saw its overall record improve to 4-8 with three wins coming in Big Ten play. But the team still saw some shutout losses, including a 56-0 defeat against Ohio State and 41-0 loss to Indiana. Offensively, however, the Scarlet Knights took a step backwards. They finished dead last — 126th — in the country in total offense by averaging 283.2 yards. Defensively, they gave up more yards than in 2016 with 450.7 per game, but they finished with a better ranking at 97th in the country. 

After a struggling in its first two seasons under Ash, Rutgers made some offensive changes. Ash hired Chris McNulty, who served as the Scarlet Knights’ offensive coordinator under Greg Schiano in 2007-2008, to run the offense after Jerry Kill retired for health reasons. McNulty was previously the tight ends coach for the Los Angeles Chargers. On defense, Rutgers added Noah Joseph from Indiana to be its co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach. Joseph helped lead Indiana’s defense to a top 50 finish in total defense. 

So will Rutgers improve in 2018? ESPN’s Football Power Index predicts this season will be similar to 2017 with the Scarlet Knights expected to win 4.3 games and lose 7.7. 

But Rutgers has potential. The Scarlet Knights have struggled because of poor quarterback play. They have senior Gio Rescigno returning, junior Tom Flacco —  Joe Flacco’s brother —  transferred in from Western Michigan and early enrollee Artur Sitkowski is promising as he arrives from IMG Academy. The offensive line has three starters back: senior Tariq Cole, junior Jonah Jackson and sophomore Michael Maietti.

The defense has shown some growth under Ash and it should continue in 2018. 

The meeting between Texas State and Rutgers will be a matchup of two teams in middle of rebuilding their programs. 

The season opener between the Bobcats and Scarlet Knights kicks off on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 11 a.m. at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, N.J.

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