Rutgers football camp preview: 5 Scarlet Knights X-factors in 2021 Leave a comment

The question seemingly came out of left field.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano was in the midst of his Big Ten Media Day interview session when he received a strange question from the back row of the media’s seating area.

Olakunle Fatukasi, the Scarlet Knights’ star linebacker, did his best reporter impression by pressing Schiano on whether the team might get a one-day reprieve from training camp.

“Can you comment on the rumor that the Rutgers football team will be going to Splish Splash during training camp?’’ Fatukasi asked.

“I think someone has been feeding you bad information,’’ Schiano said with a laugh.

“A bird told me,’’ Fatukasi said.

Schiano then dropped the mic, quipping: “I think you probably need to send the bird back to the zoo.’’

While Fatukasi and teammates Bo Melton and Noah Vedral were all smiles at Big Ten Media Day, they know the hard work is about to begin. Schiano’s first season back as the Scarlet Knights coach was anything but normal, a Big Ten-only, nine-game schedule that included daily COVID-19 testing.

Flash forward to this month and Schiano is hopefully the Scarlet Knights will have a normal training camp.

That means daily conditions will be anything but a day at the waterpark.

“That’s my hope unless something changes,’’ he said. “But if we’ve learned one thing it’s we have to be ready to pivot. And we will be.’’

While Schiano knows Fatukasi will be among a handful of impact players, the Scarlet Knights coach will use training camp to learn about the players who will be counted on to build on a 3-6 campaign.

Here are 5 X-factors in the Scarlet Knights’ success this fall:

Adam Korsak

Selected last week to the Ray Guy Award watch list for a fourth straight year, Korsak will once again look to show why he’s among the nation’s top punters this fall. The Australia native helped Rutgers to a 42.27 net-punting average — the second-best mark in the Big Ten and the eighth-best total nationally — last season. Overall, Korsak’s 43.0 yards-per-punt average was the fourth-best punting average in program history. For his career, Korsak has averaged 43.2 yards on 202 career attempts, downing 75 inside the 20 with just five touchbacks, and has recorded 30 punts of at least 50 yards, including a 79-yarder in 2018 against Northwestern.

Mike Tverdov

A 6-4, 275-pound senior defensive end from Union, Tverdov enjoyed the best season of his career last fall, recording 10.5 tackles-for-loss. Included in that total was a three-sack performance in a win at Maryland, which made him the fourth player in program history to record three sacks in a game and the first since 2008.

Julius Turner

An honorable mention All-Big Ten pick by the coaches and media last season, Turned opted to return for a sixth-year of eligibility. The 6-0, 270-pounder from Mississippi has played in 45 games along the defensive line for Rutgers since 2017, totaling 137 tackles, 15.5 tackles-for-loss, and two blocked kicks.

Nick Krimin

A sixth-year senior, Krimin is arguably the most important player on the Scarlet Knights’ offensive line considering he can play either guard spot or man the center position. After starting all 12 games at right guard in 2019, the 6-5, 315-pound South Amboy native started all nine games at center, helping Rutgers tally a program-high 26.7 points per game in a Big Ten season.

Isaiah Washington

When we last saw this 6-3, 210-pound third-year sophomore from Jacksonville, Fla., he was sprinting his way to a 65-yard touchdown to highlight the Scarlet-White scrimmage. Washington earned rave reviews from his coaching staff and quarterback Noah Vedral afterwards, and now figures to play a prominent role in the Scarlet Knights’ offense this fall. After starting 11 of 12 games as a true freshman in 2019, Washington played in all nine games last fall. For his career, he has 368 yards on 27 receptions.

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Keith Sargeant may be reached at Tell us your coronavirus story or send a tip here.

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