While the veterans will be rightly relied upon to lead Rutgers to a win against Northwestern on Sunday, there are some younger players that can make an impact as well. Here are five first or second year players that I think could be real factors in the outcome of the season opener for the Scarlet Knights.
While Rutgers hasn’t named a starting right guard yet, my gut tells me Asamoah will get the first crack in the season opener. He started the last three games of the 2022 season as a true freshman at left guard. With Curtis Dunlap switching sides, Asamoah has the most upside at the other guard spot. The Ohio native is big, strong and physical which is what assistant Pat Flaherty needs out of his offensive line. The game plan will Likely be run heavy against a Northwestern defense that struggled slowing teams down last season. They have an inexperienced defensive line coming to Piscataway. Asamoah has a chance to make an impact if he can generate space in the middle for the running backs to run through.
No true freshman has been discussed by the media more this preseason than Ian Strong. The wide receiver could see several targets in the season opener as quarterback Gavin Wimsatt looks to establish reliable targets in the passing game. The 6’3” Strong has the speed and size to become a key contributor for the offense this fall. Look for his number to be called multiple times on Sunday.
As David Anderson pointed out on The Scarlet Faithful podcast previewing the game, Patel could have many field goal opportunities in this matchup. After winning the starting place kicking job early in training camp, Patel has earned trust with his consistency in the preseason. With a new look Rutgers offense against a rebuilt defense of Northwestern, there could be plenty of drives that produce field goal chances for Patel. His accuracy could easily be the difference between winning and losing on Sunday.
The former high 3-star recruit from Delran and true sophomore played in 11 games as a true freshman. He finished strong, producing a sack in the each of the last two games against Penn State and Maryland. The play of the defensive line is a major key to Rutgers beating Northwestern and Fletcher should have an opportunity to make an impact off the edge. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s used on special teams as well. He could become a true breakout player this season for the defense.
Former 4-star linebacker Moses Walker is back after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. While Deion Jennings and Tyreem Powell are the starters and will receive the bulk of the snaps, Walker could see some action on defense. Even if he doesn’t, it seems likely he’ll be utilized on special teams. Whether it’s for return coverage or the blocking unit, his talent and athleticism make him an exciting player to root for. I think Walker will be a contributor in some way this season and Sunday is his first chance to make an impression in his Rutgers debut.
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