Junior wide receiver aims to build on performance in Big Ten opener
The pieces of the puzzle are finally beginning to fit together for Carlton Agudosi.
The talent possessed by the Rutgers football team's junior wide receiver was never in question. But his ability to perform consistently on Saturdays remains unanswered.
Before the Scarlet Knights suited up for their spring game back in April, Agudosi vowed he would be a more polished player this season, saying the mental aspect of the game was no longer distracting him from performing on the field.
“I think I’ve improved a lot,” Agudosi said in April. “It wasn't necessarily just catching (the ball), it was just — my mind would be in a thousand places. ‘What’s the play? Do I know what I’m doing? Do I know the assignment?’ I wasn’t really focused on just playing football."
One week after making those comments, the Franklin High School (New Jersey) product reintroduced himself to the Rutgers fan base with a breakout performance in the Scarlet-White game. “Dos,” as he’s known to his teammates, tallied four catches for 91 yards, hooking up with sophomore quarterback Chris Laviano for two touchdowns.
“I just have to take it day-by-day and keep working hard because you don’t win spots in April,” Agudosi said.
Fast-forward to this fall and No. 13 was the starter for the season opener against Norfolk State, although he didn’t see a single snap against Washington State the following week.
But Agudosi announced his arrival to the Big Ten at Beaver Stadium Sept. 19.
In the 28-3 loss to Penn State, the split end from Somerset hauled in six receptions for 80 yards. Last fall, Agudosi managed five catches for 32 yards in total for the season.
His career night in Happy Valley also landed him team-highs in catches and receiving yards, also firsts for the junior wideout.
“I had a lot of confidence going in," Agudosi said of his breakthrough performance against the Nittany Lions. “I’m looking to take another step in the right direction. I mean, I think I’m ready, I’m just upset that we got the loss. We got a lot of work to do. We have Kansas coming in (this) week. I’m just trying to get better and try to do a better job.”
At 6-foot-6, Agudosi has the length and expanded catch radius to stretch the field. His Megatron-like frame gives him the advantage over even the most athletic cornerbacks the Big Ten has to offer.
He said he put on an extra 10 pounds in the spring, up to 220, which the junior feels has made him a more explosive player. Rutgers currently lacks explosiveness due to the indefinite suspension of preseason All-American wideout Leonte Carroo, the player whom Agudosi studied under as a backup in 2014.
Before he began his three-game suspension, head coach Kyle Flood weighed in on how the offense plans to pick up the slack at wide receiver.
“Carlton Agudosi's role is going to get bigger,” Flood said. “I don't know that you can replace (Carroo) with one person, but we've got a talented group of people. I think we'll be able to do it."
Agudosi hasn't seen any noticeable change in reps or drills in practice, saying it has been no different than the workouts when Carroo was still with the team.
“As far as practice, it was kind of the same thing. It wasn't any different,” Agudosi said. “I don’t think the offense changed at all. We had the game plan in, we just didn’t execute.”
Down 14-0 with 7:15 left in the second quarter, the Knights faced a third-and-two at their own 31-yard line. At the snap, Agudosi released off the line, crossing the face of his defender and turned to present a target to Laviano. The sophomore signal-caller hit Agudosi right in the chest and the crisp execution of the skinny post route was good for 12 yards to keep the drive alive.
That is the potential Agudosi provides — he can serve as a safety blanket for a quarterback who’s been sacked six times in three games.
The Lions lived with eight defenders in the box last week, bringing safeties down to the line of scrimmage to help protect against Rutgers running attack. But the Knights were unable to keep Penn State honest with the passing game.
“We preach (running) the ball, so they tried to stack the box against us," Agudosi said. "I guess they were doubting our downfield ability. But I think that, given the opportunity, we can definitely make plays downfield. I think presented with that again, I think we’re gon’ make plays.”
Agudosi is not alone when it comes to picking up the slack for the suspended Carroo. Junior wide receiver Janarion Grant has played in all three games for the Knights in 2015, helping to bear the load in the absence of the school’s record-holder in all-time receiving touchdowns (22).
Interim head coach Norries Wilson knows he will need multiple receivers to shoulder the burden of production Carroo usually provides.
“We are confident in the receivers that we have,” Wilson said. “Andre Patton and Carlton Agudosi, we are confident — and I can't think of his name now — No. 1, Janarion Grant. Any deficiency we have in the pass game, other people are ready to step up and take the slack out.”
Penn State certainly remembered his name. PSU did a masterful job of negating the return threat Grant has posed in 2015.
But a week after he took a punt and a kickoff back for touchdowns, en route to setting the school record for all-purpose yards (339), Grant was a non-factor against the Nittany Lions, managing two total returns for a combined seven yards.
“They did a pretty good job of just containing me, making sure I didn’t get the ball," Grant said.
The Trilby, Florida, native said he doesn’t feel the need to prove anything against Kansas, but every opportunity he gets to touch the ball is another chance for Rutgers to score.
“I’m always hungry, each and every game,” Grant said. “It all depends on what the other team does … if they decide to kick it to me or keep it away from me. Either way, if I have a chance to get the ball, I’m gonna try to do something with it.”
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