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Rutgers countering inexperienced wide receiving group with veteran NFL coaches



Chris Long has a lot of potential but is one of many receivers without much experience entering next season. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Training camp for Rutgers football is just over a month away. The biggest reason for optimism in regard to the Rutgers offense entering the 2023 season is the coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca brings plenty of experience and a history of adapting his system to the personnel that he has to work with. In addition, head coach Greg Schiano and Ciarrocca hired Dave Brock as wide receivers coach and Pat Flaherty as offensive line coach. As an offensive coaching trio, the group has a tremendous amount of NFL and power five coaching experience. Assistants Andrew Aurich and Damiere Shaw shift to tight ends and running backs but offer continuity within the program.

While the development of the quarterback and offensive line are obviously critical, Rutgers is the least experienced at the wide receiver position.

Rutgers relied heavily on its top three receivers last season. Sean Ryan, Shameen Jones and Aron Cruickshank were the main contributors by a wide margin. The trio caught 84 combined receptions last season, accounting for 50% of all completed passes. They also combined for 1,077 receiving yards, which was 58.3% of the entire team’s total. RU averaged just 154 yards passing last season. Of that, 89 receiving yards per game came from those three receivers. All three had big moments at times, but they are all gone now after exhausting their eligibility.

While Rutgers has talent at wide receiver entering next season, they are mostly unproven at the power five level. The coaching staff has done a good job of adding two quality receivers through the transfer portal.
Naseim Brantley led Western Illinois (FCS) with 53 catches and for 893 yards and nine touchdowns. He was named offensive player of the year for the Leathernecks. He was also the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) newcomer of the year and a First Team All-conference selection. Phil Steele also named Brantley a Second Team FCS All-American.
JaQaue Jackson was an All-American for Division II California University of Pennsylvania last season. He finished 77 catches for 1,178 receiving yards for 15.3 yards per reception along with 13 touchdowns in 11 games last season. In 10 games in 2021, Jackson registered 58 catches for 744 receiving yards for 12.8 yards per reception and 8 touchdowns.
While both have impressive resumes, neither has played at the FBS level, let alone at the power five level.
Rutgers does return Chris Long, Isaiah Washington, Rashad Rochelle, and Christian Dremel. Long showed real flashes last season. Washington has contributed over multiple seasons. Rochelle has a lot of potential but didn’t play much at receiver last season. Dremel stood out in the spring and could be a factor in the slot. However, none are proven starters.
There are also several true freshmen who could emerge in roles next season. They include Famah Toure, Ian Strong, Dylan Braithwaite, Jesse Ofurie, and Davoun Fuse.

Again, there is talent, speed, big play potential and versatility with this group. But their development this offseason is crucial towards taking a step or even two forward next season.

That’s where the strength for Rutgers comes in….coaching.

Dave Brock is one of the most decorated wide receiver coaches in college football. His experience is top notch having developed Marques Colston at Hofstra, Hakeem Nicks at North Carolina and Jordy Nelson at Kansas State. More recently in the NFL, he was coaching Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and former Rutgers standout Mohamed Sanu with the Atlanta Falcons.

In addition, Rutgers has brought back John Perry, who served as a quality control coach on offense during the 2021 season. He is serving as a quality control coach once again, this time working with the wide receivers under Brock. Perry previously worked under Brock at Delaware, who was the head coach, where he served as the Blue Hens’ quarterbacks coach during the 2013 season.

Prior to his first stint in Piscataway, Perry spent seven seasons coaching in the NFL with the Houston Texans. He was the wide receivers coach from 2017-2020 where he coached DeAndre Hopkins for all the three seasons that he made First Team All-Pro.

Last month at his charity golf outing, head coach Greg Schiano spoke about the experience of both Brock and Perry.

“You think about it, there’s not many college programs, if any, in the country where the receivers coach and his QC both have extensive NFL experience in coaching receivers,” Schiano said to reporters. “Certainly, I think it’s something that’s helping in recruiting, but more importantly or as importantly, helping on the field. We went through spring practice and now summer training and I can see that group getting better and better and better.”

For the Rutgers offense to show major improvement this fall, every position group has to make progress. Having Kirk Ciarrocca as offensive coordinator means game plans will be geared towards putting the personnel Rutgers has in the best positions for them to succeed. For the wide receivers, they’re development under Brock and Perry will be a key. Quarterback Gavin Wimsatt’s development is crucial for the passing game to take a step forward. However, developing consistent targets for him down the field is critical. The high potential receiver group is inexperienced. That being said, they certainly have veteran coaches in place to help get the most out of them next season.

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