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True Freshmen who contributed in win over Wagner

There were several rookies who made their debut in the stat sheet on Saturday.



Photo credit Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

One benefit of a blowout win over an FCS opponent is the opportunity for Rutgers to get younger players reps during game action. In Saturday’s 52-3 win over Wagner, Rutgers was able to get many players who seldom see time right now the chance to get game reps. Many of the true freshman were able to register their first statistics of their career. In addition, there were a few rookies who continued to build on solid freshman campaigns.

Saw some younger players in the fourth quarter. That’s always good,” Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said after the win. “We have some really talented young guys. We’ve just got to develop them.”

Here is a complete summary of which freshmen made contributions on Saturday.

Ja’shon Benjamin

The rookie running back had another good game with seven carries for 57 yards and a touchdown. He’s averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has totaled 159 yards rushing, a 33 yard catch and two touchdowns in four games as a true freshman. The future is bright for the 5’9″ sparkplug from Pahokee, Florida.

Ajani Sheppard

With Rutgers up big in the fourth quarter and backup quarterback Evan Simon listed as questionable entering the game, rookie Ajani Sheppard led Rutgers on the final drive of the game. Sheppard represented well. He completed both pass attempts for 23 yards and had one rush for 10 yards. The drive ended on an Aaron Young touchdown run. It was a nice collegiate debut for Sheppard, who Rutgers hopes can develop long term.

Ian Strong

Maybe it’s hard to remember that Strong is in his first season because of his first catch was so impressive, but he continues to work his way into the receiver rotation. After his touchdown against Northwestern, Strong didn’t register a catch his next two games. After an 18 yard reception against Michigan, Strong followed it up with a 17 yard grab on Saturday. It was another highlight reel worthy catch getting a foot inbounds. His ceiling is very high and he’s working his way into becoming a reliable target long term.

Dylan Braithwaite

One of three true freshmen to make their first career reception in the win over Wagner. The 5’10” Braithwaite made a nice 10 yard grab from Sheppard to get into the red zone. Hopefully its the first of many to come for the New York state native.

Jessie Ofurie

The 6’2″ freshman caught a 7 yard pass from Gavin Wimsatt on the second drive of the game. He has a ton of potential and has fought through a minor injury that kept him out of last week’s game. Great to see him get an early opportunity and register the first catch of his career.

Famah Toure

The 6’4″ brother of Mo Toure arguably has the highest ceiling of any of the freshman receivers. He made a 13 yard reception including 4 yards after the catch on the final drive. He also has battled a minor injury and it was great to see him show up on the stat sheet for the first time.

Davoun Fuse

Also a wide receiver, Fuse made a special teams tackle on the last kickoff of the game. That’s how you find a role and get noticed even if its not within his own position group. He played until the last whistle and that’s a good sign for a young player.

Abram Wright

The Florida linebacker made a tackle along with Timmy Ward on a third and seven to force a Wagner punt late in the game. Wright could be a fixture in the middle of the defense for Rutgers in the future.

Jake Eldridge

The long snapper from Texas has been solid all season and as all players in his position, he hopes he doesn’t get mentioned much the rest of the year.

In addition, two true freshman made their collegiate debuts on Saturday. They were defensive lineman Djibril Abdou Rahman and wide receiver Deondre Johnson.

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  1. thevinman

    October 1, 2023 at 1:06 pm

    Always nice to see the kids get some live action. I was impressed at how poised Sheppard looked at QB, how fast he ran and how accurate his 2 passes were.

    • pj43

      October 2, 2023 at 3:35 pm

      I’m thinking that Sheppard is the real deal with a high ceiling. His high school tapes suggested both talent & a high football IQ.

  2. Henry Rutgers

    October 2, 2023 at 7:51 am

    When the team is so far ahead late in the game you kind of don’t notice the names of the players entering with clean uniforms unless they are in featured positions. I was unaware of the number of freshmen that contributed to the Wagner win.

    I was very impressed with Ajani Sheppard. It didn’t hurt that his RB was Young. I’d have to look at the replay of the game (which I have no intention of doing) but it seems to me he did everything right. He looked fast, accurate and managed the series he played well. It’s nice to see that level of depth building up on the team.

  3. pj43

    October 2, 2023 at 3:41 pm

    I’m very high on the young talent that’s on the roster and what’s coming in with the ’24 class. We’re getting a little taste this season, with next year being the breakout year in terms of development starting to come to fruition. Schiano is “filling the pipeline” nicely with size, length and speed and the coaching is in place to develop it.

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