Rutgers offense
The Rutger offense is saving the school a ton on wad and saltpeter [Patrick Barron]

Fee Fi Foe Film: Rutgers 2018 Offense Comment Count

Seth November 8th, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Resources: My charting, RU game notes, RU roster, Bill C profile, CFBstats

I thought Chris Ash's first hire at Rutgers made a lot of sense. Coming from Ohio State, Chris Ash had access to Urban Meyer's offensive tree and plucked the nearly ripened slot bug zealot Drew Mehringer to run spread smurf Janarion Grant all over the place. But Mehringer left within a year to be Texas WRs coach, and Ash replaced him with Jerry Kill.

This made some sense. Kill was best known for his Minnesota offenses made out of meatball power-blocking linemen, a 6-5 running back at QB, and motioning slot receivers. Hang some muscle on whatever linemen are around, find a bowling ball for a running back (Rutgers is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the Every RB Rutgers Recruits is Good rule) and convince a tight end prospect he doesn't really have to give up QB, and the spread smurfs of the Northeast can fill in the blanks. But of course Kill couldn't last, nor make Gio Rescigno into a halfway competent FBS quarterback except for one slot fade against Tyree Kinnel that one time.

John McNulty? Uh… He's a… Well he's a former Penn State guy who cut his teeth as a Gary Moeller receivers GA at Michigan. He's spent the better part of his career as a WR (occasionally QBs) coach in the NFL. Really this 1990s pro-style offensive coach makes exactly one kind of sense: He was Schiano's OC at Rutgers.

The film: Maybe the most recent game against Wisconsin would be a better example of what they'd look like against Michigan, except Tom Allen's defense is better and more like Don Brown's. So: INDIANA! Also this is the only opponent they've faced since Texas State in which the Bill C postgame win expectancy (35% in this game) or the percentile performance (23%) for the offense climbed over 15%. Is that Michigan's next opponent? I didn't realize. One game at a time.

Personnel: So here's a good week to remind everyone that Foe Film is an exercise in relativity—dangermen and trouble spots are somewhat relative to the rest of the team. Anyway my diagram:


PDF Version, larger version (or click the image)

McNulty doesn't have much to work with, which isn't that surprising considering he's the ninth OC in the last nine years at Rutger (and the only two-termer). The closest thing to a top-250 composite player on the field is former Michigan target (and Ahmir Mitchell teammate) WR Bo Melton, who was 252nd and had even a Rutger-relative dangerman star far just out of his grasp like half the passes thrown his way. The rest of the receivers are freshmen collecting 5 yards per target or less. WR Shameen Jones is only object that at all resembles an outside receiver, and his 34% catch rate and 4.4 YPT could stand in for the whole team's downfield success rate. True freshman WR Eddie Lewis has better stats but 111 of his 173 yards came against Texas State, Kansas, Buffalo, and Illinois. The only consistent targets are the star running back, who doubles as a slot receiver, and senior TE Jerome Washington.

That running back though. RB/Slot Raheem Blackshear is the Rutger offense. Since he's tiny, returns kicks, and runs all over the field, grad transfer backup RB Jonathan Hilliman gets a lot of run, especially near the goal line. Hilliman had 2,000 yards as the plowhorse for Boston College before a certain Michigan decommit usurped his job. Third RB gets as many carries as #2; true freshman QB convert ATH Isaih Pacheco is a Chris Evans type right down to the listed weight that seems 15 pounds too high.

True freshman QB Artur Sitkowski started last year for IMG so he's more polished than your usual 18-year-old, but that's Rutger-relative: the guy has already thrown 15 picks this year and given how many balls he flung at defenders in this one he's insanely lucky that's not 20.

He's also standing behind that awful offensive line. Light-footed LT Tariq Cole is closer to a cyan than the NFL prospect PFF made him out to be a few years ago. RT Kamaal Seymour is still a some-run no-pass pro problem they're stuck with. Ditto C Michael Maietti, who's no better at line calls this year. RG Jonah Jackson is the only guy the Rutgers beat has any confidence in, and that confidence disappears after they're done talking about his run blocking.

The other guard spot has been a disaster. LG Mike Lonsdorf is a good enough guess if you're trying to peg the worst starter on a Power 5 team this year. Despite getting pulled all the time, DORF is unkillable due to the state of his backups. Top-150 sophomore Micah Clark is taking a redshirt after failing to solve the Seymour problem last year, preseason competition Sam Vretman is out for the season, and the starting career of Nick Krimin lasted one week in September. This week Rutgers will try OL Zach Venesky, who's fresh off getting owned by Wisconsin's DEs (remember them?) DORF is also the only guy they have if a tackle goes out.

[the rest of the breakdown, after THE JUMP]


Spread, Pro-Style, or Hybrid? Pro-Style, and finally I'll allow you to take that phrase and imagine it like it's 1995. Sorta.

Formation   Personnel   Playcall
Down Type Gun Pistol Ace I-form Avg WRs Pass PA Run
Standard 15 2 10 6 2.42 16 1 16
Passing 24 1 1 2 2.93 23 2 3
Total 64% 5% 18% 13% 2.59 62% 5% 33%

The "I-form" always has the fullback motion, usually ending in an offset:

Those gun numbers are distorted by being down two scores in the 4th quarter. The real identity of this offense is pre-snap movement, though nowhere near Matt Canada levels. Old Harbaugh though definitely.

They do it less than they would like to, according to Glen Mason at least, because Sitkowski is more likely than the defenses to get confused by all of it.

Basketball on Grass or MANBALL? They're a mostly zone team with a smattering of Pin and Pull and Power.

Hurry it up or grind it out? They huddle. Bill C has them 94th which is national average, but when you're Rutger the endgame hurries begin early.

Quarterback Dilithium Level (Scale: 1 [Navarre] to 10 [Denard]): Sitkowski didn't run at all. He just took very big dropbacks and tried to draw roughing the passer penalties by throwing uncatchable things when he was about to get hit.

Zook Frames Janklin Factor: It's official. Also I need a week off after Franklin's in-game coaching decisions to recalibrate myself to what normal coaches do.

/remembers that Penn State is playing Wisconsin and Paul "Turtle" Chryst this Saturday

Maybe two weeks.

Dangerman: There is no other candidate, and there never has been since RB/Slot Raheem Blackshear lit up last year. He has twice as many carries as anyone else on the roster, ten more catches and 100 more yards than any other receiver. He's a slippery little bugger he is:

He's only getting 4.4 YPC this year because everyone knows he's their best chance to move the ball. His yards per target—just 9—have a lot of dumpoffs in them because that's often the best opportunity for yards:

But his receiver numbers should not be treated as screens and the like. He's also regularly lining up as an H-receiver and motioning out to the slot, running receiver routes:

Indiana's linebackers couldn't stay with him—they finally got him under control in the second half when "Husky" (#hybridspaceplayerterms) Marcelino Ball returned from a targeting sentence. The rest of IU's secondary is…

Sorry sorry. Here's more Blackshear:


Artur Sitkowski Good   Neutral   Bad   Ovr
Indiana 3 9(3) -   3 3   - 4(1) 8****(1) 4*   43%  48.5

It was harder to grade this because so many events could be filed into so many things, and I don't know all the rules. Do we count biffing screens against the QB's downfield success rating? What if he chucks it way high after waiting too long for a route to develop and is about to take a big hit?

Throwaway? Inaccurate-X? Batted?

The one thing I can say is the interceptions are absolutely earned. He's already throwing into coverage because his receivers can't get open. He's making it worse by being highly inaccurate, and not in the way you can get away with. He throws behind his drag routes and slants all the time, hitting defenders in trail position in the chest. Eventually the defenders start thinking of themselves as receivers and pick things off. Will that throw them off the rest of the year?


This offense is statistically worse than the one from 2016. Michigan's defense just throttled three ranked teams in a row, the last headed by Trace McSorley. A pick-happy true freshman QB and a porous line with a new desperation starter on it are not things you want to bring to a battle with Don Brown, especially after your students put magnets on a field #revengetour.

There are three ways Rutgers might be able to move the ball on Michigan. One is connecting with Bo Melton downfield:

Melton isn't big but he's a handfighter in a league that doesn't call OPI unless you slam into a guy on a Mesh route. Those throws tend to fall harmlessly to the turf but you never know when a throw like the one above could turn into a long TD reception instead of a pick.

The second is if the defense gets Blacksheared. IU started getting cocky later in this game, bringing safeties down to ABSOLUTE DISRESPECT range. Blackshear quickly shook loose; if Sitkowski doesn't leave this short…

The third is Harbaugh starts playing the offensive 3rd teamers on defense because he's out of travel roster. Peter Bush is no Devin Bush.


Ali G Bomaye

November 8th, 2018 at 10:49 AM ^

Knowing absolutely nothing about Rutgers this year, I'm going to go under (i.e., there are more on offense). Rutgers' defense is 99th in ppg allowed - terrible for a P5 team, but only on the edge of embarrassing. Rutgers' offense is 130th in points scored - that is, dead last in the country. It would be tough for any unit to be worse than their offense.


November 8th, 2018 at 11:29 AM ^


 I feel a bit sorry for Sitkowski. As I remember he was recruited heavily by several top programs (including us). I thought he had better programs to choose from. Why do you think he chose Rutger? Just because he was from NJ? He'll either be a good 4 year starter by the end or continually on the injured list from a sieve-like OL.



November 8th, 2018 at 12:13 PM ^

Zook is a little bit of a dated reference at this point. And IIRC he only made indefensible punt/go for it decisions  right?

We're seeing some really...interesting...decision making from some B1G coaches lately:

"Ice my own kicker"

"Call time out to give our opponents another drive before the half"

"Don't call a play to start the drive, so burn a timeout"

"Burn a timeout to save 5 yards...on our own punt"

"Call 2 timeouts to set up the most vanilla play call that I have"

You know, I'm starting to see a trend here...

Let's not forget this gem from Chryst: "Have Jonathan Taylor, not gonna use Jonathan Taylor"


November 8th, 2018 at 10:25 AM ^

Man.  When I first came to these parts, I got a chuckle out of Brian referring to Delaware as Baby Seal U.  Little did I know that BSU would be part of our conference schedule every year.  Thanks, Jim Delaney!


November 8th, 2018 at 10:33 AM ^

I love the backdrop in the photo ... there isn't a Rutger jersey or shirt to be seen as it's all maize and blue fans.  This will not be like the typical away game in the B1G.


November 8th, 2018 at 10:47 AM ^

He didn't start against PSU. He's right there in the rotation, but Kemp and Mone got the first series. I don't think Solomon has started a single game--I don't remember what the lineup was for MSU, but he didn't start against Wisconsin or ND, the only other games he played.

It's not anything to worry about. Uche and Paye and Watson aren't up there, either, and they... are pretty key guys.


November 8th, 2018 at 10:41 AM ^

Sparty will finally get their wish. After this game, the entire Michigan team will be criminally charged with destruction of property, assault and battery, and child endangerment (for any kids in attendance who get subjected to this snuff film).


November 8th, 2018 at 10:42 AM ^

Reading this preview, I almost feel like we could see a few alternate rutgers - More interceptions for Michigan than passing yards for Rutgers.  More pick sixes, more safeties, and more sacks than passing yards for Rutgers?  


November 8th, 2018 at 11:51 AM ^

It doesn't quite seem possible, but somehow, when you look back at the 2016 boxscore, Michigan held Rutgers to 2 completions and 5 total yards passing on 18 attempts.

I don't see that happening again, but if it does, 5 interceptions is not completely out of the realm of possibility?

Perhaps interceptions or sacks > rushing yards is more likely, given the number of sacks and TFLs the defense will generate.

Michigan 78 - Rutgers 0 Box Score


November 8th, 2018 at 12:13 PM ^

Maybe in the first half.  It's the 4th quarter that's in question.  In the 78-0 game, Michigan forfeited some "Rutgers" to play guys at the end of the bench.  All it would take is a single completion against our backups' backups to wipe out many unprecedented Rutgers-ings, and I doubt anyone on the coaching staff will care.

But seriously, first priority is avoiding a letdown.  We probably win comfortably even if we kept the entire starting 22 at home, but literally the only way Michigan loses this game is with complacency.


November 8th, 2018 at 12:18 PM ^

We have nine interceptions in nine games.  Five in one game?  Not out of the question but our best DBs probably won't go the whole way.  

Rutgers' running game is somewhat functional and as they'll most likely be facing our second/third string much of the game, I could see them finishing with 50-100 rush yards.


November 8th, 2018 at 10:44 AM ^

Wow - the amount of of push Indiana was able to get on the pass attempts does not bode well for Rutger against us.

I remember the last rivalry game in NJ and my daughter said, "I feel bad for Rutgers." Looking at the personnel chart almost made me feel bad for Rutger too. Bring on the cyan circles.


November 8th, 2018 at 10:45 AM ^

My usual comment on these posts is something discussing how the things that they do well make me nervous and what my reasons for worry are for a game.

I don't want to sound overconfident, but if Michigan were to lose this game, it would be the worst loss in program history, and probably the biggest upset in the history of college football. And we know what we're talking about.

I mean: Nice RB they've got there. Meet Devin Bush.

Nice true freshman QB you've got there. He throws inaccurately and drops back too far in the pocket, protected by a baaad OL.

Meet Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary and Josh Uche. Or, you know, Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson. 

The worry is injuries. Devin Bush will probably play three quarters, because Brown keeps him out there. Stay healthy, Devin. 

Ali G Bomaye

November 8th, 2018 at 10:45 AM ^

I feel bad for Sitkowski. He appears to be on the Devin Gardner memorial career path toward having gelatinized ribs, except maybe on an accelerated pace.

That said, he's partly to blame. He drops back so far that Winovich and Uche might not need to even turn the corner at eight yards - they can just run a straight line to the QB.


November 8th, 2018 at 11:12 AM ^

I can't fully blame Sitkowski for his current situation - dropping back that far, throwing to crappy targets, etc.  I mean, at one point last spring he was a 4* (or high 3) Michigan target that Harbaugh was high on - so there's something there to work with.  Coaching also has to be considered - well, the lack of coaching, to be specific.

Ash was hired when Durkin was, and I looked at the staff's that each brought in and immediately figured that Maryland would be the better team.  DJ hired a much better (more experienced, more successful at bigger schools) group of assistants than did Ash.  But the depths to which Rutger coaching has fallen is unreal!  I just can't believe those guys are teaching the game (fundamental technique, positioning, footwork, hands drills, etc) to a level befitting an NAIA team!

I'm sure Vegas already has an over/under on when Ash gets relieved of his duties...