Key RU takeaways from the Howard win – Coaching

The second game is less of a crap shoot, and RU was moving at half speed compared to their opponent in the first quarter … again. After that they just wore down the FCS opponent.

We will finish our report card reviews with coaching. Overall a D+. Lucky to avoid ESPN CFB nation biggest faceplant in the B1G … again.

Chris Ash: B+. His intensity was partially responsible for the team waking up as he got in many players faces on the sideline after the initial deficit. His persona, the team’s will, and intense off season workouts seemed to pay off.

Drew Mehringer: B+. You don’t blame the coach when you are down 14-0 and the lone offensive play was a pick thrown behind a receiver that ricocheted. His unit grinded it out and though more points would have been nice in the first half his game plan did work. Making Laviano a game manager was unfortunate because it would have been nice to try to get him going early in the season, but you play to win the game which he did. He also played Gio and Oden to get their feet wet even though all they did was run the ball or hand it off.

Jay Niemann: B+, They did not allow a point after midway through the first quarter. The second TD came after a one play break on the sidelines where he did not even have time to coach up his unit. I also never get upset when a team allows a TD on the opening drive because no matter who you play, their offense has been practicing for that drive all week. Tackling took a step back from a week prior, but the saltiness, desire, and toughness at Niemann’s previous stops showed up today.

Vince Okruch: B+, clearly the special teams units were not ready to go in the first game but they were today. It’s not the coaches fault when it’s his first season and the team doesn’t have personnel to touchback kickoffs or make 41 yard field goals.

Rutgers report card and key takeaways from the Howard win – Special teams

The second game is less of a crap shoot, and RU was moving at half speed compared to their opponent in the first quarter … again. After that they just wore down the FCS opponent. Overall a B-.

Kicking: C.

Smolar (C-) wasn’t great on his kickoffs, but they didn’t get returned really. Cintron (B-) was better other than his one touchback, as he had two inside the 20. Bonagura (C-) missed a 41 yarder as the first half expired and made a 28 yarder. He needs to be better because if RU wins another game this season, it will probably be a close one.

Coverage: B+

This unit played a lot better making punt returns obsolete and kickoff were returned for less than 20 yards each despite no touchbacks. This unit will need to keep it up because Rutgers will need to win the special teams battle. Stevens was the standout.

Return game: B.

This unit can do even better than an 84 yard TD that stifled the momentum from the FCS foe. It was a thing of beauty.

Rutgers report card and key takeaways from Howard win – Backers and D backs

The second game is less of a crap shoot, and RU was moving at half speed compared to their opponent in the first quarter … again. After that they just wore down the FCS opponent.

We will shift to the linebackers and defensive backs.

Note, there may have been guys who had a few plays including special teams that may be omitted. The special teams aspect applies more to LBs and DBs than any other position group.

Linebackers: B- (Jones B+, Clayton B, Roberts C+, Morris C, Maddox-Williams Inc.)

The linebackers did just enough in this game. The defensive line was occupying a lot of blockers (again) and the linebackers did respond with plenty of tackles. Morris and Roberts played better, but not even close to the championship level desired by Niemann. Greg Jones is a mauler, this guy loves football and it shows. Clayton should move to another position because he looks like the second best backer on the squad but is just behind arguable the team’s best defensive player through two weeks.

Defensive backs: C (Hester B-, Cioffi B, Douglas D, Wharton B, Austin B-, Stevens B+, Hayes B+, Campbell Inc.) Unit synergy C.

The defensive backs had a little more chemistry than in week 1, but still have a lot of room for improvement. They only allowed 103 yards passing which is solid, even though it felt like more. The communication was not bad as there were no super blown coverages.

On an individual scale at corner, Wharton, Austin, and Hayes (who also had a nice sack) subbing in for Douglas after he surrendered a long bomb played significantly better. Hope for continuous improvement. Hester did not play as well as week ago as the small quick Howard receivers presented match up problems in single coverage for he and Cioffi. After being trucked early in the game, Cioffi woke up and had 5 tackles (second to Wharton’s 6 in the DBs). The biggest surprise was Stevens who after shocking everyone by making the two deep was all over the field on special teams. he only had two tackles but disrupted many more plays.

Rutgers report card and key takeaways from Howard win – Trenches

The second game is less of a crap shoot, and RU was moving at half speed compared to their opponent in the first quarter … again. After that they just wore down the FCS opponent.

We will continue with the most important groups on the team, the linemen.

As noted last week, these grades will get more accurate as we understand what the team is trying to do on the O line schematically as the season progresses. Also, for the lines there may have been guys who had a few plays including special teams that may be omitted.

Offensive line: A- (Cole B, Miller A-, Nelson A, Muller A-, Denman A, Applefield B, Heeman B, everyone else C)

The offensive line allowed one sack, but when you have 375 yards rushing, it’s usually a testament to the big boys. Everyone played better than last week, especially Muller and Denman who consistently overpowered the players on the other side of the ball. Less commentary on the offensive line is a good thing and that’s true here. A number of the younger players including Jonah Jackson and Kamaal Seymour who recently converted to offensive line where throwing their weight around.

Defensive line: A- (Hamilton A-, Davis A-, Lambert B, Pinnix-Odrick A, Joseph C, Wilkins C, rest B+: Nash, Wiafe, Bateky, Hogan)

Hamilton cannot be blocked by one man who is smaller than him. Pinnix-Odrick had a much better game than last week with two sacks and leading the team in tackles with 6. Everyone played better than last week with the exception of Quanzell Lambert who was still steady, but did not make as many tackles as you expect. Joseph will play better against New Mexico.

The most encouraging sign was how the reserves were able to rotate in and the team did not miss a beat. This allowed everyone to stay fresh on a super hot day (130 on the field??!?!?!?!)

 

Rutgers report card and key takeaways from Howard win – Skill positions

The second game is less of a crap shoot, and RU was moving at half speed compared to their opponent in the first quarter … again. After that they just wore down the FCS opponent.

We will start with the glory guys and the offensive skill break down.

Quarterback: C (Laviano C, Wild Knights A (Grant, Oden, Rescigno)

Laviano was his usual self, making a few plays that make you scratch your head and being super conservative otherwise. .. Yes, the exact same as a week ago throwing a horrible INT but otherwise being an effective game manager for three quarters which is what the team needed.

This week it was still Grant  that jumped off the page leading the team with over 100 yards rushing, PLUS it was Oden and Gio. The Bison did not respect any Rutgers QB throwing the ball really which will catch up to RU eventually, but wow. Oden looked like Colin Kaepernick, just a young deer out there. He took one good pop but you can see the potential. Gio also looked like a truck, running through 3 tackles on a tremendous TD run.

Running back: B (Martin B+, Goodwin C+, Hicks B, Sneed C+)

 

As expected, this unit wore down an undermanned defense. Martin showed his potential, but can surely play better, Hicks was his usual self over 6 yards per carry. Goodwin got decent playing time but this rotation will likely remain with about this breakdown. Sneed had a few carries that were ok, but what can you expect when the defense knows you are going to run and you don’t have the full starting offensive line in there.

Receivers: C+ (No individual grades this week as no one caught more than 2 passes), WR blocking A-

 

WR blocking improved dramatically from the first game which allowed the team to run for so many yards and not need to throw as many passes. That said they did not get great separation, in fact Patton’s touchdown was a wrong route but his chemistry with Laviano helped them get 6. The chemistry with all other receivers looked poor (other than Harris) and the receivers did not get as much separation as you would have hoped. Part of that could be attributed to so much engagement in blocking so regularly, the WR-CB battles were raging.

Harris scored a nice TD and will surely be needed as a deep threat moving forward because teams simply do not respect RU’s passing game at all.

Rutgers report card and key takeaways from the whooping v UW – Coaching

The first game is always a crap shoot, and RU was punched in the mouth several times before they could recover.

We will finish our report card reviews with coaching. Overall a D+. Lucky to avoid ESPN CFB nation biggest faceplant in the B1G.

Chris Ash: C-. He left the play calling to his coordinators and the headset issue in the first half did not seem to be his fault. The team played hard and he maintained an even keel even after the game publicly. That said, they got demolished and the team was simply not ready to play in any phase of the game which falls on the head coach. Everyone knew there would be days like this so we’ll just have to see how they bounce back.

Drew Mehringer: D+. (we think) Did they really run the same play 3 times in a row to start the game then have to burn a timeout on a 4th and 1 from deep in their own territory? As the game progressed Drew and his staff seemed to get a better feel for what personnel was in there and making more appropriate play calls, but the offense could not get the defense any rest in the first quarter and didn’t score a single TD until garbage time. The lack of downfield throws has been beat to death but it’s difficult to know how much of that is coaching and how much is the QB. The excuse that they were trying to get first downs to give the defense rest went on deaf ears because that didn’t work either.  We also don’t know how much authority Laviano has to audible at the line as several times Rutgers play call was completely wrong and blew up in their faces. This coaching staff made the same QB assessment as the previous one, so perhaps we will see Tylin Oden in there this season especially after Maryland started Pigome, RU’s other primary QB target in week 1. He was without his starting tailback (and most productive offensive player) but the whole point of this offense is that they should be able to move the ball and put points on the board especially when trailing and the opponent is playing conservative, that did not happen.

Jay Niemann: C-, There were very few instances (only 1 i can remember) where RU totally called UW bluff on a play and blew it up due to scheme. It was a blitz where two DBs were in the backfield resulting in a sack. That said, the group was resilient and did keep battling and in the second half allowed only one score and that was when UW was given the ball inside the 5. There was absolutely no pressure with the front 4, partially for reasons already described, but the bottom line is RU will need a better game plan. It’s not the coaches fault entirely when players simply don’t execute, but when Andre Hunt is chasing slot receivers that is a scheme issue. Niemann has a good track record so I expect him to learn a lot from his unit’s performance and continue to improve. Tackling which was an issue all year last year wasn’t bad and when players did miss tackles it was usually it was for running too hard which is better than not.

Vince Okruch: D, clearly the special teams units were not ready to go and neither were the tight ends (who he also coaches). I won’t give him an F because the decisions on whether to go for it, field goals, etc is made by the head coach. His kicker did make both attempts.

Rutgers report card and key takeaways from the whooping v UW – Special teams

The first game is always a crap shoot, and RU was walloped.

We will finish the players reviews with special teams. Overall a D.

Kicking: C.

Smolar (D+) wasn’t great on his limited kickoffs but it was his first game and wasn’t helped much by the cover team. Bonagura (B) made his kicks, but the lack of confidence in him did impact the game plan. Cintron (C-) could get better but wasn’t done any favors by the cover team.

Coverage: F.

Did they even have a cover team? The kick and punt coverage units were pretty bad each allowing a TD and luckily can’t be any worse. Ross is a tremendous return man, but Michigan, Maryland, whomever OSU sends out there, and other opponents have some pretty good guys too.

Return game: D.

Grant had two 32 yard returns, but was stuffed on the opening kick which had an effect in momentum. One of the 32 yarders should have been bigger, maybe even a TD, but two blockers failed on a double team where a great individual effort by the UW individual busted it and made the tackle.

Rutgers report card and key takeaways from the whooping v UW – Backers and D backs

The first game is always a crap shoot, and RU was not up to the task.

We will shift to the linebackers and defensive backs.

Note, there may have been guys who had a few plays including special teams that may be omitted. The special teams aspect applies more to LBs and DBs than any other position group.

Linebackers: C (Jones A-, Clayton B-, Roberts C-, Morris C, Maddox-Williams Inc.)

The linebackers did not do enough in this game. The defensive line was occupying a lot of blockers meaning the backers should have been free to make some plays. Jones was the only one who jumped out in this area as he should based on the RU scheme where the SLB is the playmaking position unlike past defenses where it was the weak side as described in detail on NJ.com. Jones would have an A if he could have come up with the INT that may have been a pick six or at least put RU in FG range. Clayton did not start but blew up a receiver trying to block him on the play Hampton was injured and appears to be a football player. Roberts and Morris weren’t totally horrendous but were blocked too easily many many times without being able to keep one arm free. They will need to improve. Tyreek in his debut played on special teams. For all these guys being former DBs, their coverage has to get better.

Defensive backs: F+ (Hester B+, Hampton C-, Cioffi C+, Douglas B-, Wharton D+, Austin D+, Hunt C-, Stevens D, Campbell Inc.) Unit synergy F.

Niemann’s strategy to not blitz (other than a few nice DB blitzes by Austin, and one where Douglas and Hunt got half sacks) therefore maintaining maximum coverage did not work in this game, period. The individual grades are higher than the sum because in some instances it was hard to tell which DBs fault certain plays were. For that reason I threw in a unit grade of an F. I give the plus because as Niemann did point out, UW was 3 for 12 on third down. That said, many of those were after the game was out of reach and UW did not need to throw deep.  The tight end for UW (#15) had a few drops luckily because he could get open every time it seemed. That will need to be addressed.

On an individual scale, Wharton, Austin, and Hunt were burned several times and Browning was able to capitalize. In Hunt’s defense, he is a converted RB/LB and should not be chasing a guy alone that runs a 4.4 (flashbacks to Kevin Snyder). I give them all props for competing though and swarming the ball shedding blocks on runs. Douglas seemed ok on a few plays and like he can be a serviceable slot corner, he also showed needed poise and leadership in a blowout. Cioffi had his moments including an INT but he was burned by TEs a few times, and for RU to have had a chance needed to make a pick in the end zone in the first quarter that he dropped. Stevens and Campbell were on special teams and part of the break downs.

Hampton had an uneven game before getting injured, making a few mistakes but at least he was making them at full speed rather than acting like this was 2013 all over again. He did show signs and will get plenty of playing time even though his starter role may be lost due to Hester’s excellent performance. Hester showed room for improvement in coverage but he sure seemed around the ball a lot reflected in his stats. As a former 4 star recruit the now redshirt soph’s range is desperately needed for a team that still hasn’t recovered from the loss of the talent (Barnwell/Stephenson) and pure athleticism of Boggs/Peele 54 weeks ago.

The only reason for optimism is that this coaching staff has more to offer the defensive backs than any other position group so there could be improvement coupled with the possibility that they won’t face a better aerial attack all year (let’s hope).

Rutgers report card and key takeaways from the whooping v UW – Trenches

The first game is always a crap shoot, and RU was not up to the task.

We will continue with the most important groups on the team, evidenced by captaincy and them riding first class on the cross-country flight.

Note, these grades will get more accurate as we understand what the team is trying to do on the O line schematically as the season progresses. Also, for the lines there may have been guys who had a few plays including special teams that may be omitted.

Offensive line: D+ (Cole B-, Miller C, Nelson C-, Muller F, Denman D, Applefield B)

The offensive line did not do enough in this game. The run game didn’t have big enough holes for backs, the creases were more phone booth. Too many immediate quarterback pressures resulted in negative plays or broken ones. Captain Chris Muller acknowledged his play was so poor he was benched in the first half one play where he was bull rushed into the ground and QB sacked. JJ Denman was beat a few times and committed a crucial 3rd down false start that may have put the Knights out of field goal range on their first sustained drive. Cole was left on an island most of the game and did a decent job in his first start and any time your left tackle doesn’t get the QB killed multiple times, he deserves a decent grade. Applefield also performed well, especially in the run game (though this coincided with Hicks getting more carries). Nelson had a crucial (not for the win, but for respectability) bad snap and Miller both had too many plays where they seemed to be standing around looking at a tackled teammate. You want to see OL engaged and blocking someone in the other jersey as much as possible rather than waiting for a fumble to squirt out. UW didn’t blitz much, but the assignments were picked up reasonably well, sacks came on individual efforts more than scheme.

 

Defensive line: B- (Hamilton A-, Davis A-, Lambert B+, Pinnix-Odrick B-, Joseph D, Wilkins C, Nash F)

Niemann praised Hamilton at a championship level despite his 1 tackle and after re-watching the game that seemed true. Hamilton was constantly double teamed but seemed to be at the center of the action enough. His grade will go up if he can improve production in the context of the doubles. Davis in limited action made some plays, his fresh legs will be needed. Lambert was around the ball a lot but too many times that was downfield, Pinnix-Odrick impacted a few plays, but he Joseph, and Wilkins spent too much time not impacting the game.

The lack of pressure from the front 4 did not bother me as much as others because there were very few obvious passing situations where they could really tee off due to the score. Also Washington kept max protection coupled with the QB getting the ball off on time which makes it hard for D line to get in there at all. One exception was Myles Nash. I have high hopes he can be a Turay style player though not quite as explosive, but he looked lost and was manhandled a few times. It was his first meaningful game at DE really so he should improve, but this team really needs Turay back to make an impact.