Receivers, defensive backs coming along for Rutgers near end of camp
There are now less than two weeks out before the start of the 2018 season for the Rutgers football team, and yet, there still hasn't been an official starting quarterback named this deep into training camp.
The three-way race between fifth-year senior Giovanni Rescigno, sophomore Johnathan Lewis and true freshman Artur Sitkowski has seemingly been at a standstill all summer long. But, the race now seems to be a two-man race between Rescigno and Sitkowski, with Lewis stepping away from first-team reps sometime last week, according to On the Banks.
But no matter who starts at quarterback for the Scarlet Knights on Sept. 1 against Texas State, they will need the right group of receivers to throw to if the team hopes to succeed this season.
The receiving core is coming off a tough season, where they only ran in 7 touchdowns off 135 completed catches and 1,387 yards. A measly 7 touchdowns over a full season isn’t going to be enough to get the team many wins this year, let alone get it into a bowl game.
Wide receivers coach Lester Erb spoke to the media after practice in the Hale Center, and addressed some concerns that were brought up about his group of players.
“They’re improving every day and that’s a big thing,” Erb said. “We have our days where we are being a little bit inconsistent, but I think as a group they’ve really grown. They’ve bought in to, you know, going out and playing hard and playing at a certain standard, and we’re improved. We’re improved.”
Rutgers has an extremely young group of receivers on the roster this season with only one upperclassman in junior Cole Murphy. This season will be a big test for the young guys who will be given a heavy workload this season.
Someone who has a lot of experience already after playing in all 12 games last year is sophomore Bo Melton, who caught four passes for 83 yards during the 2017 campaign.
“I think he’s really locked in,” Erb said. “You know, I think he’s taken the next step in a maturity level as far as preparing the right way, practicing the right way. And obviously you expect that out of a guy that’s played a lot of football in his freshman year.”
Although there are a lot of questions about the Knights up-and-coming offense under new Offensive Coordinator John McNulty, their defense, especially the cornerbacks, has looked great this summer.
The cornerbacks are led by first-year coach Cory Robinson, who joins the Rutgers sidelines after a year as the cornerbacks coach at Temple in 2017, when they were the No. 1 ranked passing defense in the American Athletic Conference.
Robinson tapped senior Blessuan Austin and fifth-year senior Isaiah Wharton as the two key guys in the backfield for the Knights this season, and has seen great progress from them both this summer.
“Really pleased with the output of Blessuan Austin,” Robinson said. “Just continuing to work back and get back to 100 percent, full stride, doing everything that we ask him to do.”
Austin is coming off a tough 2017 season, which saw him only play four games before tearing his ACL at Nebraska in late September.
Wharton was recently named a captain for Rutgers, which Robinson said has been really big for their locker room to have someone recognized not only as a leader in the defensive backs locker room, but also for the team overall.
“It’s a lot of balls being thrown, a lot of balls being played, and we want to have guys to be ready to play winning football,” Robinson said. “That’s our goal here.”