Arguably the biggest position of need for Rutgers football is at wide receiver heading into the 2023 season. The Scarlet Knights are losing their top three receivers from this past fall. Sean Ryan, Aron Cruickshank and Shameen Jones are all out of eligibility. While Chris Long, Isaiah Washington and others return, Rutgers still needs to add talent and depth at the position. Rashad Rochelle could potentially play a dual role as well after transitioning more into a running back
It was certainly an area of need that the coaching staff addressed with the 2023 recruiting class. Of the 19 high school recruits who signed with the program, three are wide receivers. In addition, Rutgers signed several others listed as athletes and not designated for a specific position. It’s very likely at least one of them is added to the receiver room before next season.
Overall, the it makes wide receiver the most intriguing position group that the staff was able to sign for in the 2023 class.
Famah Toure is the younger brother of current Rutgers linebacker Mo Toure. The 6’3” incoming freshman has the potential to be the best receiver of this class. At 6’3” and 195 pounds, Toure could work his way into the receiver rotation next season. He’s a physical pass catcher who isn’t afraid to run routes into the teeth of the defense. Toure can make plays in open space and has the potential to become a reliable blocker. In addition, his familiarity with the program and having his brother to help with his transition to the college game is key.
Jesse Ofurie and Dylan Braithwaite are the other receivers who signed with Rutgers this cycle. Ofurie is 6’2” and 195 pounds so he could be physically ready to compete for a spot next fall as well. Braithwaite at 5’10” is best suited as a slot receiver which will give him a chance to earn playing time next fall as well.
One signee in particular who I think could develop into a productive receiver for Rutgers is Davoun Fuse. He is big (6’4”), fast (runs track) and his athleticism is off the charts. While Fuse could project as a edge rusher or linebacker as well, I hope based on the current needs of the roster that the staff considers him at receiver if Fuse is willing to.
Another very intriguing player is athlete Deondre Johnson. At 6’8” and with good speed, Johnson was elusive at the high school level. He could bulk up and be a dangerous tight end as well. Of course, the defensive staff is probably frothing at the mouth for the possibility of adding someone with his athleticism at linebacker or in the trenches.
Another possibility is 5’11” Vilay Nakkoun. While primarily a quarterback in high school, he was recruited to Rutgers as an athlete. He’s played some receiver before and if he can refine his route running, Nakkoun has potential as a receiver.
There is no doubt that Rutgers added much needed speed and athleticism to the roster with their 2023 recruiting class. No position needs it more and was benefited more by the arrival of this class then the wide receiver group.
The biggest question mark moving forward is who will be the next offensive coordinator and how will he envision using the potential pieces that Rutgers added on Wednesday.
While the development of Gavin Wimsatt at quarterback is crucial to having success next season, finding playmakers who can catch and run are vital as well. Rutgers needs receivers who can create separation, prove reliable catching the ball and then having the burst to make plays in open space.
Finding that type of help is going to require help in the transfer portal as well as developing returning receivers as well. However, Rutgers made recruiting athletes and receivers with speed a priority in the 2023 class for a reason. Of course, it’s a long term need just as much as in the short term. It would be rare to have multiple true freshman receivers playing significant roles in the Big Ten. That being said, Rutgers needs more talent and athleticism lining up wide on Saturdays.
The wide receiving core has been a weak spot for years now. There have been some good ones for sure, but as a group the overall talent and depth has been lacking. While some of the signees also have potential on the defensive end, there needs to be a balance. The defense is working from a position strength while the offense is the complete opposite. You don’t want to force players into roles that they aren’t comfortable with but for some the quickest path to making an impact could be helping a barren offense into a competent one.
It obviously depends on the offensive system implemented by whoever becomes the new OC, but I think multiple players I mentioned above can contribute next season. If Rutgers operates a true spread offense next season and beyond, the new coordinator will have some promising options to consider within the freshman class.
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