After Greg Schiano left the program for the NFL in 2012, Rutgers football hit a steep decline. In the years Schiano was away the Scarlet Knights went 36-63. They became the laughing stock of college football and surely needed a change. What better change to make than bringing past success back? That’s right, Schiano returned after some time in the NFL and Ohio State. In his first season back he began to put the team back on the right track, a task he’s used to now after having done the same back in 2001.
Here’s who to look out for when Syracuse takes on Rutgers in September:
Running Back – Isaih Pacheco #1
Going into 2021 there’s some serious talent on this roster. In three years, Isaih Pacheco has proven his ability as a feature back. The New Jersey native averaged 4.5 yards per carry over three seasons along with 2019 yards from scrimmage. In ‘21, Pacheco will likely improve, as the offense won’t have to rely on handing him the ball every play. At 5-11, 210 lbs, Pacheco is an absolute bowling ball. The Syracuse linebacking core better be ready to deal with a formidable running game.
Pacheco will of course look to improve next season. He won’t have to worry about overuse, as Rutgers QB and WR play have improved, and they’ve added a new face to the arsenal.
Quarterback – Noah Vedral #0
Let’s start with the field general, Noah Vedral. 2020, was Vedral’s first season in Rutgers, his fourth in college football. The Nebraska native started his career playing UCF, but after his freshman season, transferred to his hometown Cornhuskers. After he didn’t start in his second season at Nebraska, Vedral made the move to his third school, Rutgers. He got his first chance as a starter, and in that role played….fine. 1,200 yards, 9 passing touchdowns – 8 interceptions on 62% completion. Though with a year under his belt and another season under Greg Schiano on its way he poised for improvement.
Vedral can’t get the job done on his own. He’ll of course rely heavily on those he’s throwing the ball to. Good news for him, his top options will be joined by an excellent transfer.
Bo Melton, Aron Cruickshank, and Shameen Jones were solid for the Scarlet Knights in 2020. Between the three of them, there were 118 catches for 1,255 yards and 10 touchdowns. All three, along with the rest of the roster will return in 2021, plus they’ll be joined by Kansas St transfer Josh Youngblood. Youngblood was exclusively a kick return specialist at KState. It’s unclear whether that will be the case at Rutgers, but with intense speed and maneuverability, he’ll be special wherever he is on the field. Expect the Rutgers offense to get much better, with more experience and more talent they’ll take a step up from where they were a year ago.
Defensive Back – Christian Izien – #12
With so much talk about scoring it’s easy to forget this defense was top-20 in the country last season in forced turnovers. That was due in part thanks to the play from Junior DB, Christian Izien, who snagged 4 interceptions and grabbed four fumbles. The Rutgers defense wasn’t anything special as a whole, but the individual talent was certainly there. Izien being a huge example.
Date: September 11th, 2021
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse NY
Where Can I Watch: ACCN
This could be a pretty close game. Two teams with plenty of room to grow and plenty of question marks. It’ll ultimately come down to which team can take advantage of the other’s defense.