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What should Rutgers football's standard be in the Big Ten?

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The 128-team countdown looks at a program that's way better than it used to be ... but still not where it could be?

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. So ... where's this going?

About nine years ago, Rutgers appeared in its first bowl in 27 years and only its second ever.

Greg Schiano's reputation has had its ups and downs since, but in 2005, the former Miami defensive coordinator became Rutgers' savior. After the program won 11 games in the five-year Terry Shea era (five of which came in one season), Schiano took over at age 35 and went 3-20 in his first two years.

But the Scarlet Knights won nine games over the next two, and in year 5 came the breakthrough. The next year, Rutgers won 11 games and finished 12th in the AP poll.

For most programs, we have a level of reasonable goals in our heads. They can change over time -- our estimation of what Kansas State might be capable of, for instance, has changed drastically over the last three decades -- but we have an idea.

Some teams should be happy with bowl bids. Others should aim for the occasional division title. Others feel like failures for winning fewer than 10 games.

For Rutgers, expectations have changed, but it's hard to figure out where the bar is at this point. The Scarlet Knights have been to nine bowls in 10 seasons and have won nine or more games four times, and their success (and strategic location) earned them a spot in a bigger conference.

And in their first season in the Big Ten, they treaded water, finishing a decent 8-5 (3-5 in conference) with a win over Michigan and a bowl romp over North Carolina. But they got obliterated in every battle versus a good team and finished 81st in the F/+ rankings.

After ranking 41st or better in four of six seasons, they haven't ranked better than 58th in the three years since Schiano left for an NFL job. They're still winning, and they certainly boast a rather athletic team. But recruiting, thought to be a Kyle Flood specialty, hasn't surged, and the general feeling around the fanbase is one of restlessness. (That hasn't been aided by woeful public relations.)

A local fanbase might not be the most reliable barometer for reasonable expectations, but ... what exactly should we be expecting from Rutgers?

I'm not sure what a fair ceiling is, but I do know stability would be nice. In just the three-year Flood era, Rutgers' offense has ranked as high as 56th in Off. S&P+ (2014) and as low as 119th (2012), and the defense has ranked as high as 13th (2012) and as low as 86th (2014). Combine the two best units, and you've got a top-20 team. Combine the two worst, and you've got a bottom-20 team.

Consistency and an identity would be welcome, but that might be difficult. After last year's offensive success, the quarterback and three linemen left and the coordinator stepped down. The defense could get a little nastier, but it might happen just in time for the offense to regress.

We're not so far removed from Rutgers' destitution to know that going to a bowl every year and holding your own against college football's second tier is nothing to sneeze at. But dissatisfaction is understandable, and if the offense slides, the negative buzz could pick up more volume.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 7-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 81
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
28-Aug at Washington State 77 41-38 W 55% 2.7 65%
6-Sep Howard NR 38-25 W 63% 7.5 99%
13-Sep Penn State 45 10-13 L 50% 0.0 39%
20-Sep at Navy 44 31-24 W 80% 19.6 85%
27-Sep Tulane 93 31-6 W 88% 27.9 100%
4-Oct Michigan 54 26-24 W 49% -0.4 40%
18-Oct at Ohio State 1 17-56 L 14% -25.0 0%
25-Oct at Nebraska 30 24-42 L 16% -23.3 0%
1-Nov Wisconsin 25 0-37 L 6% -35.5 0%
15-Nov Indiana 88 45-23 W 92% 33.5 100%
22-Nov at Michigan State 11 3-45 L 6% -36.9 0%
29-Nov at Maryland 62 41-38 W 41% -5.0 28%
26-Dec vs. North Carolina 70 40-21 W 85% 24.0 99%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 30.2 56 30.8 86
Points Per Game 26.7 83 30.2 89

2. Stumbling in the spotlight

Percentile numbers like those above usually send me looking for trends. With only 12-14 data points, you can identify any trend you want if you try hard enough, but you can often find a narrative worth pursuing.

With the data above, you can point to a season that started well, cratered in the middle, and finished reasonably well.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 5 games): 67% (record: 4-1)
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 4 games): 21% (record: 1-3)
  • Average Percentile Performance (first 5 games): 56% (record: 3-1)

Rutgers began 5-1, with only a tossup loss to Penn State marring a perfect start. But the Knights proceeded to lose four of their next five before rebounding with a crazy comeback against Maryland and the UNC romp. That makes for a fine story line.

But it's hard to notice a trend among the four eggs Rutgers laid in October and November.

  • Average Percentile Performance (vs. F/+ top 30): 11% (record: 0-4 | avg. score: Opp 45, RU 11)
  • Average Percentile Performance (vs. everyone else): 67% (record: 8-1 | avg. score: RU 34, Opp 22)

For perspective, the 67th percentile represents a performance on the border of the top 40. Not bad! The 11th percentile would constitute a ranking between about 110th and 115th. Against the four top-30 teams on the schedule, Rutgers played like Idaho; against everybody else, the Scarlet Knights were more like West Virginia.

The 2013 season told a similar tale; Rutgers played four BCS-level teams that won at least nine games and lost by an average of 22 points. Against everybody else: 6-3 with a plus-4.9 scoring margin.

If you're looking for another reason why Rutgers fans seem frustrated, that's a good one. When the biggest spotlight has shined, Rutgers has played its worst football. This hasn't always been the case -- in Flood's first season in 2012, Rutgers beat 10-win Cincinnati and barely lost to 11-win Louisville -- but it isn't a positive development.

The 2015 schedule features four teams that finished in last year's top 30 (including both Big Ten title game participants and Michigan State), which is either a reason for dread or an opportunity for redemption.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.92 32 IsoPPP+ 118.3 31
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 44.0% 44 Succ. Rt. + 111.7 32
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 32.3 114 Def. FP+ 98.0 92
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.5 62 Redzone S&P+ 114.2 29
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 15.8 ACTUAL 20 +4.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 76 30 32 31
RUSHING 65 50 39 70
PASSING 69 15 30 11
Standard Downs 26 30 30
Passing Downs 43 41 49
Q1 Rk 54 1st Down Rk 52
Q2 Rk 21 2nd Down Rk 61
Q3 Rk 42 3rd Down Rk 35
Q4 Rk 57

3. Big play-calling shoes to fill

Ralph Friedgen's coaching career began when he took a graduate assistant position at Maryland in 1969, a year after his career as a Maryland guard ended. He was Maryland's offensive coordinator from 1982-86, then came back as Maryland's head coach from 2001-10. He was fired after 2010, and it looked like his career had come to an end as he approached age 64.

He had one final act. Flood lured him out of his forced retirement. It was perhaps Flood's most important recruiting win. Friedgen brought efficiency; Rutgers improved from 101st in Success Rate+ to 32nd and sacrificed little explosiveness in the process.

Quarterback Gary Nova's numbers improved across the board despite an upgrade in competition: his per-attempt yardage went from 6.1 to 7.9, his completion rate from 54.5 percent to 57.2 percent, his sack rate from 7.6 percent to 5.2, and his interception rate from 4.6 percent to 3.7. He developed a fun rapport with star receiver Leonte Carroo, and despite a revolving door at running back, Rutgers' offense looked magnificent at times.

At 67, Friedgen decided that "getting up at 4:30 every morning and working 18 hours a day for 15 weeks of the year" was a bit too much. Flood convinced him to stay as a "special assistant," but receivers coach Ben McDaniels will now be running the show.

McDaniels would be well-advised not to change much, unless his quarterback situation forces him to.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Gary Nova
187 327 2851 22 12 57.2% 18 5.2% 7.9
Chris Laviano 6'3, 210 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8597 11 28 107 0 1 39.3% 1 3.4% 3.3
Hayden Rettig 6'3, 205 So. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9312
Giovanni Rescigno 6'3, 240 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7985
Michael Dare 6'5, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8584

4. Got a quarterback?

In 2009, I wrote this about Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel in the Football Outsiders Almanac: "As alcohol is to Homer Simpson, Teel was the cause of and solution to most of Rutgers' problems."

He was also the last Rutgers quarterback to play well until Nova's 2014. Between 2010-13, RU quarterbacks -- Tom Savage, then Chas Dodd, then Nova -- failed to produce even a 130 passer rating. Savage managed a 128.8 in 2009, then crumbled and transferred. Dodd hit 126.8 as a freshman, then got replaced by Nova, who hit 125.8 in 2012.

Nova's 2014 rating: 145.3. Under Friedgen, and with Carroo living up to potential, Rutgers improved from 84th in Passing S&P+ to 15th.

So now the reins go to any of three youngsters: last year's backup Chris Laviano, LSU transfer Hayden Rettig, or redshirt freshman Giovanni Rescigno. (Incoming freshman Michael Dare was well-touted, and lord knows Rutgers has played freshman QBs, but we'll assume he's a longshot, if only because he needs to put on about 20 pounds before facing Joey Bosa.) Rettig was a blue-chipper in high school, Laviano looked pretty good in the spring, and Rescigno passes the eyeball test.

Whoever wins the job (and my guess is Laviano) will have to clear a high bar if Rutgers is to avoid offensive regression. And he'll be protected by a line that must replace three players who had combined for 112 career starts. Two two-year starters (tackle Keith Lumpkin, guard Chris Muller) return, and there is a nice mix of experience and high recruiting in the pipeline, but treading water is the best-case scenario.

Then again, the skill position players might have something to say about that.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Desmon Peoples RB 5'8, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8591 115 447 3 3.9 3.1 33.9% 1 0
Robert Martin RB 6'0, 200 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8681 87 434 7 5.0 4.3 37.9% 1 1
Justin Goodwin RB 6'0, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8303 83 328 1 4.0 3.6 36.1% 1 1
Josh Hicks RB 5'10, 205 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8625 71 438 2 6.2 6.2 45.1% 1 0
Paul James RB 6'0, 205 Sr. NR NR 64 363 5 5.7 4.8 46.9% 3 2
Gary Nova QB
27 125 3 4.6 5.1 37.0% 4 1
Chris Laviano QB 6'3, 210 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8597 6 81 0 13.5 9.3 83.3% 0 0
Janarion Grant WR 5'11, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8609 6 48 0 8.0 7.3 66.7% 1 1
Charles Snorweah RB 5'10, 175 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8336







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Leonte Carroo WR 6'1, 205 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9182 94 55 1086 58.5% 27.8% 59.6% 11.6 409 11.6 183.8
Janarion Grant WR 5'11, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8609 45 25 312 55.6% 13.3% 53.3% 6.9 1 6.5 52.8
Andre Patton WR 6'4, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8494 42 20 223 47.6% 12.4% 59.5% 5.3 -35 5.3 37.8
Tyler Kroft TE
39 24 269 61.5% 11.5% 48.7% 6.9 -24 7.0 45.6
John Tsimis WR 6'0, 185 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8377 33 19 188 57.6% 9.8% 51.5% 5.7 -47 6.1 31.9
Michael Burton FB
22 15 150 68.2% 6.5% 59.1% 6.8 -29 6.7 25.4
Andrew Turzilli WR
20 10 347 50.0% 5.9% 50.0% 17.4 220 19.5 58.8
Desmon Peoples RB 5'8, 175 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8591 11 8 132 72.7% 3.3% 36.4% 12.0 37 11.7 22.4
Justin Goodwin RB 6'0, 200 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8303 9 9 57 100.0% 2.7% 11.1% 6.3 -44 5.1 9.6
Paul James RB 6'0, 205 Sr. NR NR 7 4 120 57.1% 2.1% 28.6% 17.1 71 16.5 20.3
Carlton Agudosi WR 6'6, 210 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8317 6 5 32 83.3% 1.8% 66.7% 5.3 -26 5.1 5.4
Nick Arcidiacono TE 6'5, 235 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8330 4 1 11 25.0% 1.2% 75.0% 2.8 -5 2.1 1.9
Robert Martin RB 6'0, 200 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8681 2 2 25 100.0% 0.6% 50.0% 12.5 2 11.2 4.2
Ruhann Peele WR 6'1, 190 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8734
Logan Lister TE 6'5, 245 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8220
Nakia Griffin TE 6'5, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8385
Anthony Folkerts TE 6'4, 215 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8342
Rashad Blunt WR 6'2, 185 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8185

5. Toys in the toy box

Carroo hinted at a high ceiling in 2013, averaging 17.1 yards per catch and scoring nine touchdowns for an offense in desperate need of positivity. And in 2014, he eased seamlessly into the No. 1 role, doubling his catches and averaging an eye-popping 11.6 yards per target. His sub-60 percent catch rate isn't ideal, but when you average 19.7 yards per catch, you're allowed misses.

When Paul James is healthy, he's one of the nation's more exciting backs. A 205-pounder with open-field explosiveness (6.1 highlight yards per opportunity in 2013), James has averaged 5.7 yards per carry over the past two years, but he suffered a broken fibula in 2013 and tore his ACL four games into 2014.

In James' absence, two freshmen got quite a bit of work; Robert Martin and Josh Hicks combined to average 5.5 yards per carry, and Hicks erupted late: 20 carries for 114 yards against Indiana, 19 for 202 against UNC. (Martin chipped in 19 for 100 against the hapless Tar Heel defense.)

If James is at 100 percent, Rutgers has as high a ceiling at the skill positions as almost anybody in the conference. The big plays should be frequent, but Rutgers' improved efficiency is at risk.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 100.6 2.9 2.46 39.9% 66.0% 20.8% 143.5 4.4% 4.6%
Rank 70 72 117 56 75 87 22 57 20
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
Kaleb Johnson LG 49
Betim Bujari C
36
Taj Alexander RT
27
Keith Lumpkin LT 6'8, 310 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8947 26
Chris Muller RG 6'6, 300 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9164 25
Bryan Leoni LT
0
Ryan Brodie RG 6'5, 300 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8879 0
Derrick Nelson C 6'3, 290 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8222 0
Dorian Miller LG 6'3, 285 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8823 0
J.J. Denman RT 6'6, 300 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9002 0
Marcus Applefield RT 6'6, 290 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8377
Jacquis Webb LT 6'5, 310 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8425
Tariq Cole LG 6'6, 350 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8436
Zack Heeman OL 6'7, 270 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8302
Jack Shutack OL 6'6, 270 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8439
Zach Venesky OL 6'2, 285 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8438

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.97 119 IsoPPP+ 88.0 107
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 42.1% 77 Succ. Rt. + 103.9 50
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 30.2 69 Off. FP+ 101.0 51
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.5 76 Redzone S&P+ 106.3 43
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 20.5 ACTUAL 18.0 -2.5
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 100 87 54 107
RUSHING 108 90 52 105
PASSING 71 83 77 87
Standard Downs 79 47 93
Passing Downs 105 80 106
Q1 Rk 46 1st Down Rk 92
Q2 Rk 116 2nd Down Rk 70
Q3 Rk 66 3rd Down Rk 119
Q4 Rk 87

6. Remember when Rutgers' defense was awesome?

In 2012, Rutgers allowed 4.6 yards per play and gave up more than 15 points four times in 13 games. The Scarlet Knights continued the standard set by Schiano's best defenses.

In 2013, Rutgers fell from 13th in Def. S&P+ to 80th. A young secondary suffered breakdowns. In 2014, the Knights fell to 86th, with a defense that allowed 100 rushes of 10-plus yards (124th in the country).

Rutgers has wanted to remain aggressive. But if you're going to give up tons of big plays, you better have an efficiency ranking in the 20s, not the 50s. That balance has disintegrated.

Joe Rossi's first year as Rutgers coordinator was a learning experience; as constructed, RU has sacrificed size to get speed on the field, and while that helped to create a nice pass rush, it created disadvantages against the run.

It also potentially contributed to a disturbing trend: Rutgers tended to collapse as a half unfolded. RU ranked 46th and 66th in first- and third-quarter S&P+ but crumbled to 116th and 87th in the second and fourth quarters.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 96.7 3.25 3.14 45.4% 68.3% 18.2% 117.4 7.4% 9.0%
Rank 81 110 47 122 72 85 32 15 37
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
David Milewski DE
13 47.0 6.5% 9.0 4.0 0 2 2 0
Kemoko Turay DE 6'6, 235 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8085 13 20.5 2.8% 8.5 7.5 0 1 0 0
Darius Hamilton DT 6'4, 255 Sr. 5 stars (6.1) 0.9881 13 38.5 5.3% 11.5 6.0 0 0 1 0
Kenneth Kirksey NT
13 20.0 2.8% 3.5 0.5 0 0 1 0
Djwany Mera DE 6'4, 260 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8778 13 14.5 2.0% 2.5 1.5 0 1 0 0
Julian Pinnix-Odrick DT 6'5, 260 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8748 12 12.5 1.7% 2.0 2.0 0 0 1 0
Daryl Stephenson NT
13 12.0 1.7% 1.0 0.0 0 1 0 0
Quanzell Lambert DE 6'1, 250 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9039 13 7.0 1.0% 1.5 1.0 0 0 0 0
Sebastian Joseph NT 6'4, 285 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8131 13 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Myles Nash DE 6'5, 225 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8622 8 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kevin Wilkins NT 6'3, 290 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8344
Eric Wiafe DL 6'5, 270 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8208
Donald Bedell DE 6'4, 235 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8073
Jimmy Hogan DE 6'4, 225 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8224
Jon Bateky DE 6'4, 245 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8296
Marques Ford DE 6'4, 230 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9008
Kamaal Seymour DT 6'6, 290 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8392








7. Size matters?

Rutgers has its share of talent. Darius Hamilton hasn't played like the five-star he was in high school, but he's been a four-star, at least. Kemoko Turay came out of nowhere to serve as one of the better pass-rush specialists in the Eastern time zone. Linebacker Quentin Gause was able to slice into the backfield and make some plays against the run.

The problem was twofold: 1) You could add "... despite being undersized" to the end of each of those sentences, and 2) there wasn't much size elsewhere. Of the seven returning contributors, the ends average 6'4, 243, and the tackles average 6'4, 267. If you have elite speed at all positions, maybe you can make this work. Rutgers only had good speed. If the Scarlet Knights weren't making a play against the run, they were allowing one.

In terms of pure talent, there's a lot to like. Not only are Turay and Hamilton back, high-upside younger players like Quanzell Lambert, Myles Nash, Kevin Wilkins, and incoming four-star Marques Ford could play a role, and senior Djwany Mera has hinted at upside.

But if size was an issue, then unless every player on the team slaps on 20 pounds while sacrificing no speed, I'm not sure how things will improve much. Rossi might have a better idea of how to compensate for it.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Steve Longa WLB 6'1, 225 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8655 13 86.5 12.0% 4.5 2.0 0 1 1 1
Quentin Gause SLB 6'1, 220 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8665 13 61.5 8.5% 7.0 1.0 0 1 1 0
Kevin Snyder MLB
12 53.0 7.3% 1.5 1.5 0 5 1 0
L.J. Liston MLB
10 13.0 1.8% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
T.J. Taylor SLB 6'3, 200 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.7993 13 3.5 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Milito LB
1 1.5 0.2% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Devan Carter LB 6'2, 215 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8013
Brandon Russell MLB 6'1, 210 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7919
Isaiah Johnson MLB 6'2, 225 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7923
Deonte Roberts WLB 6'1, 205 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8119
Sidney Gopre LB 6'1, 205 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8660








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Lorenzo Waters SS
13 61.0 8.4% 5 2 2 1 1 0
Gareef Glashen CB
13 50.0 6.9% 1.5 0 1 9 0 0
Johnathan Aiken FS
13 49.0 6.8% 3 1 0 1 1 0
Delon Stephenson FS 5'11, 190 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8222 11 32.0 4.4% 2 0 0 3 0 0
Davon Jacobs SS 6'0, 195 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8696 13 30.0 4.2% 1.5 1.5 1 0 0 0
Anthony Cioffi CB 6'0, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8059 12 28.0 3.9% 2 0 2 2 1 0
Nadir Barnwell CB 5'11, 185 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9140 10 26.0 3.6% 1 0 0 4 0 0
Dre Boggs CB 5'11, 175 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8449 10 14.5 2.0% 0 0 0 4 0 0
Andre Hunt FS 6'0, 190 So. NR NR 9 5.0 0.7% 1 1 0 1 0 0
Brian Verbitski CB 6'0, 175 Jr. NR NR
Saquan Hampton FS 6'0, 180 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8344
Kiy Hester SS 6'0, 205 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9054
Isaiah Wharton CB 6'1, 200 RSFr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7683
Darian Dailey CB 5'11, 175 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7619
Blessuan Austin DB 6'1, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8306
Najee Clayton DB 6'2, 200 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8610
Jarius Adams CB 5'10, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8295








8. Athletic and green(ish)

The front seven has upside but lacks size. The secondary has upside but lacks experience.

At least, sort of. Rutgers will be forced to replace three starters, including aggressive safeties (Lorenzo Waters and Johnathan Aiken, who combined for eight tackles for loss) and a decent cornerback (Gareef Glashen). That's never a good thing, but at least the backups saw the field. The top four returnees are all juniors who had at least 26 tackles in 2014.

Of course, some younger players could still help. Sophomore Dre Boggs managed to break up four passes while on the field long enough to record only 14.5 tackles (that either means a high ceiling or he's awful at tackling), and four-star redshirt freshman Kiy Hester, originally a Miami signee, had a pretty good spring.

There is reason to fear what might become of the pass defense, but there is talent, and the pass rush will again be strong. If the defense ranks in the 80s, it will be because of the run, not the pass.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Tim Gleeson 6'2, 195 Sr. 32 40.3 2 6 11 53.1%
Joseph Roth 6'0, 175 Sr. 31 36.3 0 9 2 35.5%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Kyle Federico 6'0, 190 Sr. 71 58.8 17 3 23.9%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Kyle Federico 6'0, 190 Sr. 41-43 11-12 91.7% 5-9 55.6%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Janarion Grant KR 5'11, 175 Jr. 36 25.2 0
Josh Hicks KR 5'10, 205 So. 9 18.0 0
Janarion Grant PR 5'11, 175 Jr. 6 7.5 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 66
Field Goal Efficiency 47
Punt Return Efficiency 17
Kick Return Efficiency 47
Punt Efficiency 86
Kickoff Efficiency 104
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 27

9. Kick it away from Grant

Good: While Janarion Grant is still figuring out how to make a consistent impact on offense, he is one hell of a return man. The bouncy junior helped Rutgers to return efficiency ratings in the top 20 (punts) and top 50 (kicks), and even when he isn't doing very well, he's a bit of an optical illusion; you're terrified of him until his knee touches the ground.

Bad: Rutgers' coverage units made it seem like opponents also had a Janarion Grant. Rutgers ranked 58th in punt return average allowed and 95th in kick return average allowed. Tim Gleeson (an Aussie and the older brother of Ole Miss' Will) had better averages, but kicked a more returnable ball and was replaced by Joseph Roth. Either could start in 2015, though Gleeson seems to have better upside.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent 2014 F/+ Rk
5-Sep Norfolk State NR
12-Sep Washington State 77
19-Sep at Penn State 45
26-Sep Kansas 99
10-Oct Michigan State 11
17-Oct at Indiana 88
24-Oct Ohio State 1
31-Oct at Wisconsin 25
7-Nov at Michigan 54
14-Nov Nebraska 30
21-Nov at Army 121
28-Nov Maryland 62
Five-Year F/+ Rk -5.6% (70)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 64 / 48
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -2 / 4.7
2014 TO Luck/Game -2.6
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 11 (6, 5)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 6.5 (1.5)

10. The top-30 jinx might not be much of an issue

It felt like Rutgers was ranked artificially low last season. For two-thirds of the year, the Scarlet Knights were a borderline top-40 team, but their poor performances, all against very good teams, tore their ranking apart.

On the schedule, there are four more teams that ranked in the F/+ top 30; three visit Piscataway, which offers an opportunity for either a buzz-building upset or another demoralizing blowout. But if Rutgers plays at the same level against teams below the 75th percentile, the Scarlet Knights will likely win enough to bowl once more.

It is justifiable to worry about where this program stands; the strengths, weaknesses, and offensive identity all seem to change each year, and the F/+ ranking has been on the wrong side of 50. It's deal with that without ending up on the wrong side of six wins, too.

Still, Flood has sustained what has easily been Rutgers' most successful decade of football. There's something to be said for that.