As the injury bug ravages through the Rutgers football team, one particular position group hit hard by it is the wide receivers.
The Scarlet Knights are numbered at the position for Saturday's spring game.
To wide receivers coach Jafar Williams, it opens up opportunity.
“It gives them live evaluation,” Williams said. “A lot of times, younger guys are watching what’s going on. They’re not really engaged in practice because they’re not getting any reps, but they don’t have a choice now.
“It’s been good. You look at a guy like (red-shirt freshman) Prince (Taylor). Prince has really made a lot of improvement, and I think he’s going to be a guy that’s going to help us in some capacity this season.”
Rutgers welcomes six signees from its 2017 class for June enrollment. Williams welcomes the reinforcements.
“I hope all of them (can make an impact),” he said. “We graduated five guys last year, so tell the freshmen, ‘Don’t come in expecting to redshirt. Come in expecting to play.’ We get reports back from their high school coaches. Those guys are working hard. They’re up here a ton and it’s great, so I expect them all to come in and compete.”
Bo Melton leads the pack as the top-rated recruit at wide receiver.
“It’s a lot to learn as a freshman coming in, but he’s an explosive guy, probably similar to Janarion type of player,” Williams said. “When he gets the ball in his hands, he can be very dynamic. But again, it’s a learning curve. He’s got to come in, he’s got to get around our strength staff, around our players.”
When healthy, Grant is proven as the top playmaker for Rutgers. His rehabilitation progressed through the spring.
“He’s been great,” Williams said of Grant. “He does a lot of individual stuff right now. Biggest thing is just getting that guy to the game. The thing about Janarion that’s really impressive is he’s a very football-savvy guy, so he’s out here watching signals, watching what’s going on. He’s engaged in practice, but he’s been doing great.”
In the absence of Grant and Ahmir Mitchell, Arkansas graduate transfer Damon Mitchell emerged in the eyes of Williams.
“He’s a guy who’s improved,” Williams said of Damon Mitchell. “It’s hard when you’ve played as many positions as he has because he’s been in so many different meeting rooms. The positive is he has a really good understanding of football because he’s been on defense, because he’s been as a running back.
“Now, it’s just a matter of polishing up the receiver stuff. He’s improved. He was dinger a little bit, but he’s improved every day. He’s a guy that’s going to go extremely hard, which we obviously need.”
While Jawuan Harris did more this year as a participant in spring practices once every week, his season with the baseball team runs through late May. Dacoven Bailey and Mohamed Jabbie were limited participants throughout camp.
With injuries in mind, coach Chris Ash said Thursday that Rutgers could go with a “thud tempo” in the spring game. With the limitations at the position, Williams keeps his Saturday expectations for the wide receivers simple.
“The spring game, I just want, one, everybody come out healthy and obviously make plays when we have the opportunity to make plays for the fans,” Williams said. “Just go out there and really stay healthy.”