Energized C.J. Onyechi hopes to break Rutgers single-season sack record
"The year of the Ceeje"
That is the branding that junior linebacker C.J. Onyechi has put on his 2019 season, a season in which he has set the lofty goal of breaking the Rutgers football team's single-season sack record.
The current record is held by alumnus Nate Toran, who set the program-high mark at 19 in 1974. Since the turn of the century, no Scarlet Knight has tallied more than 10 in a season.
"I call this year the year of the Ceeje," Onyechi said. "This year I really have a mission … I want to beat the Rutgers sack record, which is 19 right now. It's just to be helpful to the team in all aspects, I want to get on all the special teams that I can."
Onyechi will be looking for his first collegiate sack next Friday night against UMass. But, the quarterback he'll be pursuing in that game is still a mystery as the Minutemen have yet to name a starter for week one.
Beyond that, the quarterback list that Onyechi will face this season is still an incomplete one. He is all but certain to get a chance at Iowa's Nathan Stanley, Boston College's Anthony Brown, Michigan's Shea Patterson, Liberty's Malik Willis, Ohio State's Justin Fields and Michigan State's Brian Lewerke.
UMass, along with 2019 Rutgers opponents Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois and Penn State all have yet to name their starting quarterback, leaving several of Onyechi's future victims a mystery.
Regardless of who he will be chasing down in backfields this season, Onyechi's odds at this goal are largely dependent on how he fits into the defensive schemes of new defensive coordinator Andy Buh.
"Coach Buh really brings the energy every day," Onyechi said. "He always tells us to fake it 'till we make it, and that's what he instilled in us, so every day we just come out here with the drive and energy to go out and play."
In addition to Buh, the defense will feature several other newcomers in the front seven that Onyechi will be working with to create that quarterback pressure with and compete with for the vaunted 19 sacks. These players include transfer junior linebacker Drew Singleton and true freshman lineman Malachi Burby.
"Their induction to the team was very beneficial, they bring a lot of energy," Onyechi said. “It's what we need right now coming from a poor season last year. We need an energy change in the locker room and that's what they brought."
He will not only look for energy from his coach and teammates, but also the stands. He and the other pass rushers on the defensive front seven will look to feed off the energy of the crowd next Friday night and subsequent home games in 2019 in his pursuit of the Knights' single-season sack record.
“Don’t let past years affect this year,” Onyechi said in a statement to the Rutgers student body. “We need y’all, you bring the energy just as much as we do.”
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