Coach: Chris Ash (2-10 entering second season and overall)
2016 record: 2-10, 0-9 Big Ten (seventh, East)
Offensive starters returning (6): OL Tariq Cole, WR Janarion Grant, WR Jawuan Harris, OL Dorian Miller, QB Gio Rescigno, OL Kamaal Seymour
Defensive starters returning (8): DB Blessaun Austin, DL Darnell Davis, DB Saquan Hampton, DL Sebastian Joseph, LB Tyreek Maddox-Williams, LB Trevor Morris , LB Deonte Roberts, DB Isaiah Wharton
Specialists returning (3): K David Bonagura, P Michael Cintron, K Jared Smolar
Returning statistical leaders: Rushing, Robert Martin 121-625; Passing, Gio Rescigno 86-163-5-889-5; Receiving, Janarion Grant 20-210; Tackles, Trevor Morris 102; Interceptions, KJ Gary 1 .
Janarion Grant: Returns from a broken ankle suffered in a game against Iowa to provide a true speed threat at wide receiver. The 5-foot-10 senior who received a medical redshirt year caught 20 passes for 210 yards before his injury after grabbing 35 passes during his junior season. He has scored eight touchdowns on special teams, matching the NCAA career record.
Robert Martin: Led Rutgers with 625 rushing yards last season and the 5-11, 210-pound senior is the most experienced back among a deep group of possibilities that includes returning senior Josh Hicks. Miami grad transfer Gus Edwards and Arkansas grad transfer Damon Mitchell will get a look in the backfield.
Deonte Roberts: A junior middle linebacker, Roberts recorded 95 tackles a year ago, including three tackles for a loss. The Scarlet Knights return all three linebackers and eight defensive starters from a defense which will look to improve on the 5.7 yards per carry it allowed opposing rushers last season.
On the rise
Kemoko Turay: The senior has returned from shoulder surgery to position himself to compete at defensive end this season. The 6-5, 255-pound Turay recorded seven of his 11.5 career sacks as a freshman before dealing with injuries. He is healthy again after recording two sacks among the three tackles he had a year ago in limited snaps in eight games.
Jerry Kill: Former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill is the Scarlet Knights’ new offensive coordinator, bringing to Rutgers a history of turning around programs at every stop during a coaching career which includes time at Saginaw Valley State, Emporia State, Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois before he led the Golden Gophers. He’ll bring multiple formations to an offense which rated as the Big Ten’s worst last season. One of his first tasks will be settling on a starting quarterback. Gio Rescigno returns, but is facing competition from Louisville graduate transfer Kyle Bowlin and true freshman Johnathan Lewis.
The big number
Number of games the Scarlet Knights failed two score two touchdowns in during a 2016 season which saw the team shutout four times.
“For us, 2016 wasn’t fun. It was awful, but we’ve moved on. It’s behind us and we’re a lot better football team because of what we went through a year ago. We went through a lot of adversity, a lot of tough times, a lot of challenges. They all brought our team closer together. We hit the reset button in December, when it was over, and we are a very committed football team right now.’’ – Chris Ash
Sept. 1 – Washington
Sept. 9 – Eastern Michigan
Sept. 16 – Morgan State
Sept. 23 – at Nebraska
Sept. 30 – Ohio State*
Oct. 14 – at Illinois
Oct. 21 – Purdue
Oct. 28 – at Michigan*
Nov. 4 – Maryland*
Nov. 11 – at Penn State*
Nov. 18 – at Indiana*
Nov. 25 – Michigan State*
*-- East Division opponent
Where Rutgers ranked in the Big Ten in 2016:
Scoring offense: 15.7 (14th)
Rushing offense: 144.2 (12th)
Passing offense: 138.3 (14th)
Total offense: 282.2 (14th)
Scoring defense: 37.5 (13th)
Rushing defense: 264.2 (14th)
Passing defense: 186.5 (Fourth)
Total defense: 450.7 (14th)
The Scarlet Knights’ record over the last five years:
Eye on Iowa
Iowa 1, Rutgers 0
Record in the only previous game against the Hawkeyes:
2016: Iowa 14, Rutgers 7