Finally, a road game. After starting off the 2022 season with the first three games at home, the Hawkeyes start their Big Ten slate in Piscataway, N.J., against Rutgers.
After a disastrous era under former head coach Chris Ash, last year the Scarlet Knights really started to make some progress under now-Rutgers head football coach Greg Schiano. The Ash era included an 8-33 overall record, a 3-27 mark in Big Ten play and three of his four seasons were winless conference campaigns. Now, Rutgers is starting to become somewhat respectable again with Schiano back at the helm.
While 5-7 overall and 3-8 in Big Ten games aren’t the most glamorous records in the world, they are miles better than previous years for a Scarlet Knights program that has really struggled to adjust to the Big Ten. They still weren’t that good, but certainly don’t appear close to as bad as the squad that lost 78-0 at home against Michigan in 2016.
While 2021 was one of the more respectable years in program history, Rutgers lost some key players on offense. Wide receiver Bo Melton and running back Isiah Pacheco both were selected in the 2022 NFL draft and will be big losses for the Scarlet Knights.
Schiano is starting to build something in North Jersey, bringing in two four-star recruits in the 2022 recruiting class, but it is yet to be seen whether or not they can take another step forward this coming season. Here are the opposing players to watch during Iowa’s first away game of the season against Rutgers.
Noah Vedral or Gavin Wimsatt at quarterback
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Ah yes, the classic conundrum surrounding the quarterback position for the Scarlet Knights. It has been very bad in recent years. Rutgers is consistently one of the worst teams in the conference at the position.
Noah Vedral is back for one more season for the team, but it is unknown whether or not he will be the starter for the season. He has been one of the better Rutgers starting quarterbacks in recent years, but that really isn’t saying anything. This is the team that saw Artur Sitowski throw 18 picks to only four touchdowns in 2019. Vedral’s numbers are nothing to write home about: 16 touchdowns to 15 interceptions and a completion percentage around 60%, but he has the lockerroom’s respect and knows the offense.
Gavin Wimsatt is the future of Rutgers football, though. At least that’s what everybody in Northern New Jersey is hoping. The first four-star recruit since 2017, Schiano hopes he has his quarterback for the foreseeable future.
Wimsatt is only a redshirt freshman without any real game time. He entered school early and is still really young at 18. The 6-foot-3, 220 pound signal-caller might not be quite ready to start yet, and they might not want to risk hurting his confidence either. However, he does offer much more upside than Vedral. The Rutgers quarterback controversy is one to monitor heading into the season and might even change by week four.
Taj Harris, wide receiver
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The Rutgers passing attack has been dreadful in recent memory, but it hasn’t always been the fault of the receivers. Bo Melton showed enough potential to be drafted this past year and some solid contributors do return. Taj Harris, a transfer from Syracuse, is one to certainly keep an eye on. A prolific receiver for the Orange, with 733 yards and five touchdowns in 2020, Harris immediately projects to start for the Scarlet Knights.
Max Melton, cornerback
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Max Melton could be a breakout star for the Scarlet Knights in 2022. Despite some off-the-field issues, Melton showed some serious star potential with three interceptions in 2021.
The younger brother of new Seattle Seahawk Bo Melton, Max Melton is only in his second year at Rutgers, but he is currently listed as a freshman due to COVID-19 regulations. Recently, Melton was featured in RJ Young’s defensive breakout candidates.
Kyle Monangai, running back
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The loss of running back Isiah Pacheco is a big one for Rutgers. While the newly drafted Kansas City Chief’s stats never jumped off the screen, a lot of this had to do with some poor line play.
He still led the Scarlet Knights in rushing over the past three seasons, and nearly equaled leader Raheem Blackshear’s total in 2018. Redshirt freshman Kyle Monangai appears to be the next in line for Rutgers, showing some serious potential in 2021.
A former three-star recruit, Monangai scored four times last year for Rutgers and has received a good amount of praise this offseason.
The offensive line
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The offensive line will once again be a massive storyline this year for Rutgers. It has not been great and has severely hampered the Scarlet Knights’ offense.
They will be relying on a couple of transfers to start, including former Louisiana-Monroe Warhawk Willie Tyler and former Colorado State guard Mike Ciaffoni. Center Gus Zillinskas is a former three-star recruit and right guard Reggie Sutton is the only returning starter.
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