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Rutgers has three positions that need major production replaced from last season



Nov 26, 2022; College Park, Maryland, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive back Desmond Igbinosun (4) forces a fumble caught by Maryland Terrapins tight end CJ Dippre (18) in the first quarter at SECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brent Skeen-USA TODAY Sports

There are plenty of questions to be answered for Rutgers football in how the 2023 season will ultimately play out.

Can the offense improve and by how much under new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca?

Will Gavin Wimsatt emerge as a competent starting quarterback?

Are key players returning from injuries able to be reliable contributors this season?

Can the defense take another step forward and become a legitimate top half Big Ten unit?

Will the offensive line improve?

These are all major factors in how this season will turn out for Greg Schiano and his program.  However, on top of Rutgers getting better in certain areas, they also need to replace major losses at three positions.

It’s not just about getting more production from certain groups, but also finding a way to keep three positions from declining in a significant way. And it’s not just three positions, but six spots overall.

While Rutgers football hopes to improve in multiple areas this season, replacing major production lost from last season is a must. Doing so is crucial in making progress overall this fall.

Here is a review of what was lost and the outlook in regard to properly replacing production in those areas.


As much as Adam Korsak was appreciated by Rutgers fans, there is a good chance that it will kick into a higher gear at times this season. The daunting task of replacing  the greatest punter in Rutgers history and current Ray Guy Award winner is Flynn Appleby. The former professional rules footballer from Australia has a similar background to Korsak. He certainly received a full apprenticeship last season, his first at Rutgers. However, coming close to the production of Korsak is going to be a difficult task.

Korsak led the nation minus 11 return yards against last season along with 32 punts downed inside the 20. He had 41.5% of all his career punts downed inside the 20. The Aussie wonder also went multiple seasons with 150 combined punts without a touchback and only had seven total over five seasons. Korsak never had a punt blocked or returned for a touchdown.

Despite those incredible stats, it was Korsak’s consistent impact on the game in one crucial area that will be truly missed. As offensively challenged as Rutgers has been in recent years, Korsak was a master in turning field position into a positive for Rutgers. Think about how many times Korsak was punting deep in the opponent’s territory and flipped the field for the defense to have some breathing room. While we all hope the offense improves this season, it’s even more important when considering that the safety valve in having Korsak is gone.

Rutgers has to hope that Appleby can become a solid punter this season. He doesn’t need to come close to Korsak and it’s not fair to expect him to. However, he has to be competent and limit mistakes. Otherwise, the defense is going to be put in a lot more difficult positions then they have over the last few years.


Rutgers lost two staples in the back of the defense in Christian Izien and Avery Young. Izien played 50 games over the last five seasons and started 41 of them. Young started a program record 54 games in 57 appearances, including 24 at safety the past two seasons after converting from cornerback.

During spring practice, safeties coach Drew Liscari spoke about the process in replacing Izien and Young.

“Chris and Avery certainly leave big shoes to be filled,” Liscari said. “But the way that coach Schiano runs this program, it is a developmental program. I think we do a great, great job of taking our younger guys and preparing them so that they can be ready when their moment comes and I am really excited about the direction we are going.”

With Rutgers typically playing three safeties, the good news is Desmond Igbinosun returns after starting nine games last season. He had 55 tackles and a forced fumble in 10 games while battling through an injury.

Michael “Flip” Dixon is likely in line to take one of the starting safety spots available. The Minnesota transfer is a big, physical safety who seems built to fill Izien’s role. It won’t be easy to do, but Dixon has 30 Big Ten games and six starts under is belt. He also has played for Rutgers defensive coordinator Joe Harasymiak and that should help his transition into the lineup.

Shaquan Loyal, Thomas Amankwaa, and Elijah Mack are likely competing for the third spot as well as snaps behind Igbinosun and Dixon. Loyal did show promise at times last season, including the pick six in the win over Temple.

Rutgers has some solid options at safety although it may take time to develop the best rotation. Sure tackling and limiting big plays is a must for this group if the defense is to take a step forward this fall.

Wide receivers

Rutgers relied heavily on its top three receivers last season in Sean Ryan, Shameen Jones and Aron Cruickshank. The veteran 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, but the three former players averaged 89 receiving yards per game. All three had big moments at times, but they are all gone now after exhausting their eligibility.

“We’re going to put ourselves in a position to develop the players that are here and get them in a position to play at a high level so we can win,” veteran receivers coach Dave Brock said during spring practice. “That’s the challenge, that’s the goal. I think that ultimately will be the result.”

That was before Division II All-American receiver JaQuae Jackson transferred into the program. FCS all-conference receiver Naseim Brantley was recovering from an injury during spring practice. Both receivers have a huge opportunity to fill major roles for Rutgers this season.

Chris Long showed a few flashes last season and could emerge as a steady contributor. Christian Dremel has surprised some in the slot role as he appears ahead of Rashad Rochelle heading into training camp. Rutgers would be happy if both players were productive this fall.

Isaiah Washington is the top returning receiver with 49 receptions. However, inconsistency has plagued him over the years. Can this be the year he puts it all together? Max Patterson had a big spring game and could battle his way to meaningful snaps this season.

There are several intriguing freshman who could make an impact as well in Famah Toure, Dylan Braithwaite, Ian Strong, Davoun Fuse, and Jesse Ofurie.

There are plenty of options for Rutgers at receiver this season. However, they without a proven one at both the FBS level and within the Big Ten. It’s a major concern. Brock is a very good receivers coach and he’ll certainly be earning his salary this season. For the offense to take a meaningful step forward, the receiving core at a minimum has to produce 2-3 reliable options. While Ryan, Cruickshank and Jones were not a top half of the Big Ten receiving core, they were steady despite injury issues and inexperience at quarterback most of the season.

It’s possible this season’s receivers can amass more production. If it happens, it would be a major win in player development. As it stands, this remains the biggest position group in question entering this season.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. thevinman

    July 23, 2023 at 3:23 pm

    Passes to RBs and TEs should help ease concerns about the lack of WR experience.

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