The longer Rutgers went without a roster, the more speculation grew about what it would look like when it was revealed. Or more specifically, who would – and would not – be on it.
The hype and suspense ended Monday when the Scarlet Knights finally released the thing, 10 months after Greg Schiano returned to the program for his second stint as head coach. And, to the relief of Rutgers fans, it was largely anticlimactic.
There was a surprise addition with the unexpected return of Elorm Lumor, but Schiano did not sneak another star transfer or two onto the roster. There were names missing – offensive lineman Mike Lonsdorf the biggest one – but all indications are Schiano was able to sway most of the other players who may have initially opted out back into the fold.
The roster looked like about what we expected. It just took a very long time for confirmation.
Here is a closer look at what we learned after the Scarlet Curtain was lifted:
Lonsdorf is the most impactful opt-out. Rutgers was not hit hard by opt-outs due to the novel coronavirus on the whole, but the Scarlet Knights did not go unscathed. Lonsdorf is a smart, versatile player with 12 starts under his belt at guard and tackle over the last two seasons. He was slotted as the starting left guard on most projected depth charts this summer and would have been the first guy off the bench at worst.
Between Lonsdorf’s opt-out and the absence of backup center Owen Bowles – it is not clear if he is an opt-out or simply moved on – the Scarlet Knights are extremely thin at the interior line spots. They may have no choice but to play true freshmen Tunde Fatukasi and Bryan Felter this fall. Maybe Brendan Bordner fits in somehow after switching to the offensive line in an attempt to kick-start his career after seeing little time on the defensive line so far.
The other missing names are not earth-shattering. Wide receiver Everett Wormley had already announced his decision and Schiano said defensive lineman Matt Thomas, who played sparingly in his first two seasons, also opted out. The others players of note no longer on the roster are linebacker Nihym Anderson, offensive lineman Anton Oskarsson and defensive back Donald Williams, who had suffered an injury. Anticipated William and Mary transfer Marquis Morris is also not on the roster.
Peyton Powell is a defensive back. There was some mystery surrounding Powell, but this is not much of a surprise. The Scarlet Knights did not seem terribly high on the idea of the Baylor transfer playing quarterback when he signed last December. Schiano initially said he would get to try the position in spring practice, but it never felt like he was a serious contender at the spot. And once the spring got wiped out by COVID-19 and Nebraska transfer Noah Vedral arrived, the ship truly sailed.
But Powell is still a tremendous athlete who can make an impact for the Scarlet Knights, and he has been put in a place where they desperately need one. Whether he plays cornerback or safety, Rutgers needs all the depth and playmaking ability it can get in the secondary. It’s a unit that regressed last season and has since seen plenty of attrition. Powell also gets to work directly with defensive backs coach Fran Brown, who was a driving force in getting him to Rutgers.
Lumor’s return is big, but don’t get carried away. Lumor was the best pass rusher the Scarlet Knights had the last two seasons, but that still only meant seven sacks in 22 games. Rutgers has had an abysmal pass rush for years now and Lumor alone is not going to fix that, even with the defensive coaching and scheme greatly improved. There is also the durability question, since Lumor has battled injuries in his time at Rutgers, especially in 2018. But he is a valuable piece with experience and defensive line coach Jim Panagos will be able to get more out of him than the former staff.
Jay Butler’s impact is illustrated. The heights and weights on a football team’s roster are not exactly certified by a governmental authority, so you cannot take a year-over-year comparison of measurables as gospel. But after scanning last year’s roster and this season’s, it appears most returning Rutgers players have lost somewhere around 3-7 pounds since Schiano brought back Butler to run the team’s strength program, with some big changes in both directions standing out.
Linebacker Zukudo Igwenagu has gained 22 pounds since last season and is now listed at 6-foot-4 and 242 pounds. His Twitter checks out accordingly.
Nose guard Julius Turner is down 15 pounds to just 265 pounds (although the earlier figure feels a bit inflated). Tight end Johnathan Lewis and linebacker Drew Singleton have dropped 11 and quarterback Johnny Langan is down nine. Offensive lineman Reggie Sutton has gained 11 pounds, as has defensive end C.J. Onyechi. Defensive lineman Brian Ugwu is up nine pounds.
There are some surprises with freshmen positions. The biggest one is Shawn Collins being listed as a defensive lineman, not a tight end. The Montclair product undoubtedly has the size to play in the trenches, but he just seemed like the best incoming recruit for a tight end room that needs depth. Victor Konopka and Tahjay Moore are listed as tight ends, but they seem more like project players at the spot.
Jamier Wright-Collins at running back was also a bit of a surprise, just because you don’t often see many backs listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds. But the Paterson Kennedy product is a tremendous athlete. St. Peter’s Prep product Isaiah Wright is listed as an offensive lineman after a lot of talk about him potentially being a defensive lineman.
Watch for Chris Long and Robert Longerbeam. The freshmen are both listed as wide receivers after either could have been defensive backs. That could be a sign Rutgers wants to get their speed onto the field quickly. Wide receiver has been a major weakness for years now despite the Scarlet Knights regularly adding bodies to the room each recruiting cycle. That will create a lot of competition where few, if any, returning players are guaranteed anything. It is certainly possible to envision young players rising to the top of the depth chart.
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James Kratch may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us your coronavirus story or send a tip here.