Breaking down Rutgers football's offense: Who's back, who's new, what to expect in 2023
It isn't exactly a mystery what Rutgers football's offense must do better this season than it did in 2022.
Score more points.
Simply put, the 17.4 points the Scarlet Knights averaged last season (or 11.7 against Big Ten opponents) was nowhere near good enough, and it's part of what led to an overhaul of the offensive coaching staff in the offseason, starting with coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca.
Rutgers' defense has a chance to be stronger than it was last season, when it was already the strength of the team. The offense, though, has to at least come close to catching up.
So who will Rutgers be turning to?
Here's a a position-by-position breakdown of the Scarlet Knights' offense:
Gavin Wimsatt
Evan Simon, Ajani Sheppard
Depth includes…
Gavin Rupp, Raeden Oliver
WHAT TO EXPECT: Schiano put to bed any speculation about who would start the week before training camp began, giving that role to Wimsatt. Rutgers likes the progress that Wimsatt made during the offseason and in the spring working with Ciarrocca, also the quarterbacks coach. Wimsatt said Thursday that part of what they worked on was making his base more compact, which should help him be more accurate – that was an issue last season as Wimsatt had a completion percentage of 44.8 percent. Wimsatt has the athleticism and the strong arm to thrive in Ciarrocca’s system. He needs to make quicker decisions and, again, be more accurate. Simon has a lot of experience at this point, but isn’t as mobile as Wimsatt. Sheppard is a true freshman, but was an early enrollee and impressed his coaches with how he was adjusting and learning the offense so quickly.
Offensive line
Key returners
Hollin Pierce, Curtis Dunlap, Mike Ciaffoni, Ireland Brown
Depth includes
Reggie Sutton, Tyler Needham, Kamar Missouri, Kobe Asamoah, Gus Zilinskas, Emir Stinette, Bryan Felter
WHAT TO EXPECT: This is the unit that must improve for Rutgers to succeed offensively overall. It has shown progress, but it needs more under new OL coach Pat Flaherty, who brought ample NFL experience to the Scarlet Knights and has developed premier offensive linemen. Rutgers does more depth at the position – a luxury that was nearly nonexistent during Schiano’s first couple seasons back in Piscataway. Rutgers must replace JD DiRenzo, who started all 12 games last season and was the unit’s best lineman. The 6-foot-8, 340-pound Pierce, a former walk-on, is what Schiano calls one of the best stories in college football and believes he’ll play in the NFL. Schiano is hopeful that the team can find a starting five that plays together and will be able to stick with that combination. Again, that wasn’t possible in recent seasons. The line was constantly in flux. Sutton was Rutgers’ best lineman before suffering a serious knee injury before the fourth game of the 2021 season. It remains to be seen how much he’ll be able to contribute this season. Schiano mentioned Needham as a young lineman who was making a good impression and developing well.
Running back
Key returners
Sam Brown, Aaron Young, Kyle Monangai
Depth includes…
Al-Shadee Salaam, Ja’shon Benjamin
WHAT TO EXPECT: Brown is back healthy this season after missing the second half of his true freshman campaign with a foot injury, which came late in his breakout game against Indiana (101 yards, 28 carries). The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Brown is a big, physically, between-the-tackles runner – the type of Big Ten back Rutgers needs to power the running back. Having Young back fully healthy – he was limited to four games last season because of an injury he suffered in the Gator Bowl the previous season – is a boon for the offense. Young is a versatile player who can be a weapon in the passing game. Monangai is another tough, hard runner, while Salaam is a speedy, shifty back.
UP AND COMERSSix Rutgers football freshmen to watch in 2023 and beyond
Wide receivers
Key returners
Chris Long, Isaiah Washington, Christian Dremel, Rashad Rochelle
Transfer additions
JaQuae Jackson (California University of Pennsylvania), Naseim Brantley (Western Illinois)
Depth includes…
Rashad Rochelle, Christian Dremel, Dylan Braithwaite, Jesse Ofurie, Ian Strong, Max Patterson
WHAT TO EXPECT: When the offseason began, this position was a major concern for Rutgers’ offense. It lost its top receivers to graduation and the NFL, including Shameen Jones, Sean Ryan, Aron Cruickshank and Josh Youngblood. The Scarlet Knights were left with a room that was inexperienced, but had potential. Still, they needed more for new wide receivers coach Dave Brock to work with. So Rutgers turned to the transfer portal and brought in Jackson and Brantley, both of whom have plenty of experience. Jackson, in particular, has a chance to step in as the No. 1 receiver and be a dependable, reliable target for Wimsatt. Both Jackson and Brantley, though, can help take some of the pressure off the younger, developing receivers. Rochelle showed flashes of the type of weapon he could be last season, while Long boasts tremendous athleticism and can make some highlight-reel catches.
Tight end
Key returners
Johnny Langan, Victor Konopka
Transfer addition
Shawn Bowman (Maine)
Depth includes…
Mike Higgins, Logan Blake
WHAT TO EXPECT: Langan is entering his sixth season, while the 6-foot-8 Konopka is back after missing the final nine games of the season because of injury. Rutgers needed depth and production at tight end, so the addition of Bowman, a Maine transfer, was critical. Bowman caught 31 passes for 377 yards and five touchdowns for the Black Bears in 2022. He’s the type of pass-catching threat that can be a real asset for Wimsatt. Ciarrocca’s system includes heavy tight end usage, which also makes Bowman’s addition pivotal.

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