Juniors step up for Rutgers in senior's absence
Sprinkled throughout the Rutgers football team’s wide receiving corps, the complementary talents of juniors Carlton Agudosi and Andre Patton are obvious.
For Patton, there’s the reliability of a consistent possession receiver who has shown the ability to find his footing from sideline to sideline. For Agudosi, just a brief glance shows the type of deep threat he could be at a long 6-foot-6 and 220-pounds.
Further down the line, Janarion Grant’s speed — especially on the returning end of kicks — is unquestioned. The junior spoke all training camp long about his offseason work ethic to improve his physicality and understanding of the playbook entering the 2015 season.
Given those respective strengths and attributes, the contributions to the Scarlet Knights’ offense for this year was almost inevitable.
But now, with senior captain and Rutgers’ returning receiver Leonte Carroo serving a suspension for the first half of the team’s season opener against Norfolk State on Saturday at noon, the expectations spiked earlier than initially imagined.
“It could be Andre Patton, could be Carlton Agudosi, although he’s gotta get a little bit better right now,” head coach Kyle Flood said of the wide receiver position without Carroo. “… I’m excited about the way Janarion’s (Grant) playing. We’ve got some people that can do it.”
After returning from injury in the last nine games of the season, Patton came on strong towards the end of last year. His career-high night came in the Knights’ 41-38 comeback at Maryland, where he grabbed eight passes for 101 yards and two scores, set the stage for a solid finish.
With Patton bumping up to the top receiving spot in Carroo’s absence, all eyes will be on the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder in the No. 1 slot. But he hasn’t let it affect his preparation.
“As a team, as a whole, as one of the leaders on the team,” he said, “I feel like as though we should just stay focused and try to go out and be 1-0.”
Agudosi, meanwhile, has been waiting to breakout since his freshman year when the comparisons to former Rutgers wide out Brandon Coleman surfaced.
As much as the physical frames show a resemblance, the stats have yet to do the same. Despite hot stretches in spring camp and training camps of the past, the Franklin, New Jersey, native tallied just 32 yards on five receptions in 2014 with a long of 18 coming at Nebraska.
“I’m really just trying to work, come out here and hope for the best. But I really do feel like it’s a year where I can contribute to the team a lot more than I have been, so I’m definitely looking forward to this year and I think it’s gonna be my best year.”
Starting with Saturday, Rutgers hopes that Agudosi makes that statement come true.
Aside from Carroo, junior wide receiver John Tsimis has been out with a lower body injury since the first week of training camp. Tsimis emerged in the slot with 19 receptions for 188 yards and three receiving touchdowns last fall.
Clearly, with Patton anchoring the position for at least the first half of the opener and talent scattered around in the receiving corps beyond him, the Knights will need a collective effort to help out sophomore quarterback Hayden Rettig in his first collegiate start and Rutgers debut.
But it’s hard to see that happen without the emergence of an athlete like Agudosi. If there’s any time for the fourth-year junior to take advantage of that opportunity, it’s now with a clean slate for the new year.
Based on his own expectations, Agudosi seems ready.
“I want them to say that he goes hard every play,” he said. “That he’s a downfield threat — intermediate threat — that he’s helped us win games, that he’s a good teammate and that he had one of the best seasons as a Rutgers wide receiver.”
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