2016 Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football Preview

America East Tournament Preview
Rutgers is the longest shot at a Big Ten title in 2016.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Head Coach: Chris Ash
2015 Record: 4-8
2015 Bowl: N/A
2016 Returning Starters: 6 Offense, 5 Defense

Betting Odds:
Odds to win 2017 Championship Game: +525000
Odds to win 2016 Big Ten Championship: +60000
Regular Season over/under: over 4.5 (+115), under 4.5 (-135)

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The Rutgers Scarlet Knights finished 4-8 last season, but it will have to transform its offense in a major way in 2016. Last season, Rutgers averaged just 27.1 points and 377.0 total yards per game, ranking No. 78 and No. 84 in the nation.

New head coach Chris Ash will turn to first-year OC Drew Mehringer for the task. Chris Laviano is the favorite to start at QB after taking the lead with the first-team offense in Friday’s practice, but Zach Allen is still not fully out of the picture.

Laviano completed 187 of 307 passes last season (60.9 percent) for 2,247 yards but he threw 12 INTs with just 16 TDs. At WR, he will turn to Andre Patton who had 34 catches for 432 yards last season, while Jamarion Grant (352 yards) will also be a top target.

RBs Robert Martin and Josh Hicks will also run their fair share of pass routes. They combined for 1,437 rushing yards and 10 TDs last season. Chris Muller will start at G, but he missed spring with an injury. The OL is a work-in-progress around Muller with he and two others returning but plenty of questions on the depth chart.

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For as mediocre as the Knights were on offense last year, their defense held them back further still, allowing 34.9 points and 462.0 yards per game, ranking No. 104 and No. 111 in the NCAA and comprising one of the worst units in the Big Ten. Ash should be able to remake this defense with DC Jay Niemann, but it lost its top three tacklers from last season, all of whom were linebackers. DT Darius Hamilton will be counted upon heavily and is in his final NCAA season.

DE Kemoko Turay is a phenomenal athlete, but he missed spring with a shoulder injury. Julian Pinnix-Odrick and Quanzell Lambert will be back to keep the line of scrimmage defense up to par. The LB depth will be a problem for Rutgers this season. Najee Clayton moves from S to LB, and TJ Taylor will also be on the line.

There is solid depth behind them, and sophomores Eric Margolis and Trevor Morris will be used as the season wears on. Ash wants to do more press coverage, but it is unclear whether the CBs are up to this task. Jarius Adams will start at one corner, and Michigan graduate transfer Ross Taylor-Douglas will be at the other. Anthony Cioffi and Isaiah Wharton both will be in the secondary, though it is unclear whether they will lineup at CB or S.

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Special Teams

Rutgers has a new kicker and a new punter this season. Michael Cintron averaged 51.0 yards on three punts last season, and freshman walk-on Jared Smolar and David Bonagura will fight for place kicking duties.


Rutgers opens the season at Washington on Sept. 3 then travels home to host Howard and New Mexico in Weeks 2 and 3. Conference play begins at home against Iowa in Week 4 and Ohio State and Michigan follow in Weeks 5 and 6. That means a likely 0-3 start to Big Ten play this season for the Knights.


Rutgers still has a lot of ground to make up in the Big Ten and likely is looking at another swing and a miss on Bowl play. Improving the defense remains the biggest task and problem for this program, and the -2 turnover margin is a good place to start. Rutgers lost five of its final six games in 2015.

Prediction: 4 wins

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