Monday Practice Report: Rutgers Build to 2017

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers coaches Chris Ash and Jay Niemann examine how freshman playing time is important, even if the production is not where it needs to be.

The Headline – While players like Tylin Oden and K.J. Gray do not have massive roles as true freshmen, their experiences in 2016 create a foundation.

Oden's progress is not where it needs to be, but like Blessuan Austin and Isaiah Wharton in last year's secondary, any experience can be a positive.

“They're much better football players this year because of it,” coach Chris Ash said. “I think there are several players on the football team that this may have been their first year of playing, whether they're true freshmen, sophomores, whatever the situation may be. That through physical development, mental development, maturity, that if most of our players can make the same type of improvements that those players have, then I think we'll have an improved football team.”

Defensively, Rutgers gave significant playing time to true freshmen at cornerback, safety and outside linebacker.

When we get to next fall and fast forward, they're going to be much more seasoned and prepared to play, a lot like Isaiah and Bless,” said defensive coordinator Jay Niemann. “They were in the same role, I wasn't here, but I would assume [it was] something similar to that a year ago. They're more polished as young players in the program as a result of that, so obviously we would hope we would gain that same benefit from those guys.”

Worth Noting – Rutgers expects Tyreek Williams to be available against Maryland after an injury against Penn State. If he regresses, Brandon Russell steps into the starting SAM linebacker spot.

Quote of the Day – “Everyone wants to point to the quarterback, but there are certain things that you want to be able to do. But if it's not getting blocked right up front or on the outside, things don't look quite as good. When you look at the Minnesota game, that was probably the best game our offensive line had played. As a result, what happened? The quarterback threw better because he was protected.” – Ash.

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