The Rutgers football outlook for 2016 season. It’s a new era with new life for the Scarlet Knights.
It’s actually possible to win at Rutgers, and now the program is banking on Chris Ash to do it consistently.
It might be impossible at the moment for the Scarlet Knights to think about winning a Big Ten championship coming from a division with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State, but they can create their own niche. They can be dangerous enough to be like the 8-5 team of 2014 in their Big Ten debut on the way to their fourth straight bowl appearance, and they can be good enough to push for at least six wins on a regular basis.
Even with the suspension of former head coach Kyle Flood suspended for three games, and even with star receiver Leonte Carroo out with a suspension of his own along with the problems with the athletic department as a whole, the Scarlet Knights were closer than it seemed to coming up with something decent. A 4-8 record doesn’t sound like much, but they pushed eventual Big Ten champ Michigan State in a seven-point loss, lose a three-point shootout against Washington State, and finished up with a wild loss to Maryland.
A more settled team at a school without all the drama goes 6-6 last year. And that’s what Ash is ready to do for a program coming off a rough and rocky season.
A rising superstar of a defensive coach who was part of the mix for the last two years at Ohio State, he’s young – turning 43 later this year – smart, energetic, and part of the house cleaning done by new AD Patrick Hobbs to jump into a true new era with a whole lot of positives.
Being a part of the Big Ten is lucrative and getting even better with the new TV deals being signed. Not that the league would ever play favorites, but it’s in the best interest to push the Rutgers regional TV market and do as much as possible to build up the Big Ten among all the massive media markets.
Ash isn’t expected to turn Rutgers into the new Ohio State, and he’s not even going to be asked to create the power that Greg Schiano did during his era. He’ll get a few years to find his own identity, start building up the talent base, and really and truly create something based on a long-term plan. To do that starts with his specialty – defense.
111th in the nation in total D last year, the Scarlet Knights fell apart over the second half of the season allowing 46 points or more in five of the last seven games and 31 or more in seven of the last eight.
It’s not going to be good enough right away to be the killer is could and should be in a few years under this coaching staff, but if the secondary can be just a wee bit better, and if the linebacking corps can be more active – not a problem under Ash – it should be enough to start the improvement around the return of star tackle Darius Hamilton up front.
The offense is going to try to spread it out a bit like Ohio State likes to do, only without the running quarterback in place. The veteran passers are there, but they need to be far more productive and efficient – that should happen with a veteran receiving corps back. With a good line returning, expect more of an emphasis on the ground game that went missing for long stretches.
Can Rutgers be two wins better and go bowling? The team is going to be more settled, the coaching is going to be stronger, and the schedule is just good enough to get to six wins.
Yes, it really is possible to win at Rutgers. And Ash will do it.