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:
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.
|Down Type||Gun||Pistol||Ace||I-form||Avg WRs||Pass||PA||Run|
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:
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.