Rutgers is coming off a season that saw them win four of their 12 games. They fell short of a bowl game, which resulted in the firing of head coach, Kyle Flood. They hit a home run when they hired Chris Ash, who was the assistant defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Ohio State prior to heading over to be the head man for Rutgers.
Their biggest problem a year ago was keeping opponents out of the end zone. That is likely why they hired a defensive minded coach in Ash. Ash has already had an impact on the program considering they got a commitment in the middle of April from the seventh ranked offensive tackle in the country in Micah Clark.
The 2016 recruiting class isn't going to offer much though, it was ranked 13th out of 14 Big Ten teams by Scout.
Rutgers got their lone conference win last season against an Indiana team that also struggled to keep opponents out of the end zone. The final score of that game was 55-52. They played well at home against the eventual Big Ten champs, the Michigan State Spartans, as they only lost that game by seven.
They are likely headed for another year of missing out on a bowl game, but with the hiring of Ash, I think Rutgers is headed in the right direction.
They lose a big time wide receiver in Leonte Carro, who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the third round of this past year's NFL Draft. Carroo caught 39 balls for 809 yards last season, which was good for an average of 20.7 yards per catch. He also reeled in 10 touchdown catches. That's a lot to replace on the outside.
Chris Laviano is the likely starter at the quarterback position, but I expect there to be some sort of QB battle considering the coaching change. Hayden Rettig is the other quarterback that could wind up challenging Laviano for the starting role, although Laviano does offer a lot more experience.
They return their leading rusher from a year ago in Robert Martin, who will likely be the starter this fall. He carried the ball 141 times for 763 yards and six scores a season ago.
The biggest question mark is going to be who is catching passes now that Carroo is in the NFL. They'll have two seniors in Andre Patton and Janarion Grant, who could step up big time and fill the void that Carroo left. That duo combined for 69 catches and 784 yards last season.
This is their biggest question mark by far. Their defense allowed nearly 35 points per game last season, which was good for 105th out of 128 FBS teams. In steps Ash. Ash was on the coaching staff that won the 2015 National Championship game against Oregon, so he has experience in big games.
He also comes from a school that is known for producing NFL talent and his ability to recruit was a big reason Rutgers went after him. He's already showing the ability to recruit in the class of 2017.
Ash has some work to do with this bunch and they should improve some, but I don't see a drastic change on the defensive side of ball for Rutgers. Not until Ash can get his own players in there.
They'll have to deal with a talented and experienced Iowa offense on September 24th, and that is going to be their first real test of the season. We'll see if Ash has his guys prepared for it.
Rutgers is certainly on it's way up with the hiring of Chris Ash, but Rome wasn't built in one day. This is going to be a three or four year process for Ash.
This shouldn't be too much of a headache for the Hawkeyes, but it is on the road and it can be hard to win Big Ten games on the road. Michigan State last season is a perfect example.
Rutgers will give Iowa a little resistance, but not much in this one. I like the Hawkeyes to defeat the Scarlet Knights by a score of 34-20 and move to 4-0 on the young season.