The Scarlet Knights enter year two under head coach Chris Ash
, who hired Jerry Kill
(offensive coordinator), Henry Baker
(cornerbacks) and Lester Erb
(running backs) to complete the staff in the offseason. Rutgers projects to be multiple on offense with a 4-3 base look on defense.
Fifth-year senior Kyle Bolin will make the start at quarterback after earning the job in training camp. A graduate transfer from Louisville, he has played in 17 career games with six starts, completing 58.3 percent of passes for 2,104 yards and 13 touchdowns. Bolin’s career-best game came in 2014 when he threw for 381 yards in a victory over Kentucky. In addition, Bolin was voted a team captain along with fifth-year senior defensive lineman Darnell Davis, fifth-year senior offensive lineman Dorian Miller and junior linebacker Deonte Roberts.
Rutgers is set to welcome back fifth-year senior Janarion Grant to the lineup after he missed the final eight games last season. A member of the Hornung Award watch list for most versatile player in the nation, he is tied for the NCAA record for combined kick return touchdowns with five kickoffs and three punts finishing in the end zone. Grant ranks fourth in school history with 4,251 career all-purpose yards.
In the backfield, the Scarlet Knights boast three running backs who average over five yards per carry in their careers: fifth-year senior Gus Edwards (5.3), senior Josh Hicks (5.2) and senior Robert Martin (5.2). Edwards, a transfer from Miami (Fla.), enters the season with 977 career rushing yards on 186 carries and 12 touchdowns. Martin, who led the team in rushing in each of the past two seasons and owns 15 touchdowns, brings 1,822 career rushing yards and needs just 302 more to climb into the top-10 in program history.
RU is positioned to debut several freshmen in the game, including a possible trio of rookie wide receivers: Bo Melton, Hunter Hayek and Everett Wormley. Sophomore Jawuan Harris returns as the leading receiver with 39 receptions for 481 yards in 2016.
The secondary returns 66 games of starting experience with junior cornerbacks Blessuan Austin (21) and Isaiah Wharton (24) leading the way. Austin was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media last season after ranking second in the conference and 12th nationally with 1.4 passes defended per game. His 14 pass break-ups overall were the most by a Scarlet Knight since Logan Ryan in 2012. Rutgers ranked No. 18 nationally with 186.5 passing yards permitted per game in 2016, down from 207.1 in 2015 (-20.6).
Junior linebacker Trevor Morris paced the defense with 102 tackles last season, while Roberts added 95.
The kicking competition is going right up to game week, as fifth-year senior David Bonagura (10-for-14 on field goals last season) and Andrew Harte (transfer from Minnesota) are battling for the spot. Ryan Anderson was declared the starting punter by special teams coordinator Vince Okruch on Thursday. Anderson was an All-America pick at Division III Olivet College last season.