Craig Has The Scout - Rutgers 2019
Quick Note before the review. I have been out of the country for work, and didn't have the chance to pull the Rutgers-Liberty game before I left. The videos for that game are pretty choppy, but I hope you can get the gist of what I was seeing
Who: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
When: 2:30 pm - November 2nd, 2019
Where: Home Sweet Home
Head Coach: Nunzio Campanile. Campanile is essentially Corey Patterson for the Scarlet Knights. He was a very successful high school coach in New Jersey, and started the season as the TE coach. With the firing of Chris Ash and his OC John McNulty, Campanile took over both roles. This was an impossible feat he took over, and is 1-2 so far as the man in charge. He has a decent shot of staying over to the next staff.
Offensive Style: Shotgun spread with an emphasis on just trying to get yards. Campanile is his own OC right now, and seems to be calling an offense that looks similar to those I've seen in local high schools. And I mean that as nicely as possible. Langan doesn't have a great arm, but can run. The offense will grind out yards any way it can.
Defensive Style: A 3-3-5 with a Cover 2 Shell. Andy Buh moved to Rutgers from Maryland in the offseason, and has locked in on a 3-3-5 look. Against Iowa and Michigan, they tried to stay in a Cover 2 shell but were schemed into a single high safety. Against Liberty, they mixed coverages including a Man zero and stacked the box. They are 82nd in defensive SP+ and I think they are developing defenses every week for the opponent. That is a recipe for failure.
Specialists: Vince Okruch. He makes a return trip to Champaign as the Special Teams Coach.
Three Things to Watch
Illinois against a mobile QB. Rutgers is missing its top two QBs, best RB, and top receiving threat grad transfer TE. Johnny Langan is a redshirt FR QB who has taken over, and has added a little life to the offense. Langan is not afraid to call his own number in the read option and had 118 rushing yards against Liberty.
Illini Explosive Run Plays. The Scarlet Knights were torched by the Liberty Flames multiple times last week in the ground game. Liberty, against a stacked box, was able to break multiple big plays. Illinois needs to do the same to build a lead and put Rutgers away early.
The Illinois Pass Defense. Langan again is the 3rd string QB. The Illini should be able to get a pass rush against him as well. It is imperative the Illini take away the easy throws and make Langan beat them deep and along the sidelines.
Scouting Review - Offense
The most coherent offensive gameplan Rutgers had offensively this year was against Iowa. It was not good, but it was coherent. As the season has progressed, Rutgers has dropped more talent and now is trying to find something as it plays out the season. Last week against a lower talented squad in Liberty, the Scarlet Knights went very basic and out-schemed the Flames.
The Rutgers OL is one of the worst I've seen this season. The guards are adequate, but the tackles are a serious issue. The receiving corps is meh, but Isaih Palceco is a solid RB.
I suspect Rutgers will try and replicate last week's success. If I were Campanile, I would start with the exact same gameplan. The play they best last week, and frightens me a bit, is the read option. Unlike the last few Illinois opponents, Langan has some wheels at the QB position. Rutgers runs a few different versions of the read option. They mix it in with a pure inside zone run with it. Here is the pure inside zone.
They ran this against Iowa, who was running a 4-3 against Rutgers. It was also run with the old OC, so no idea if Campanile will recycle that gameplan.
They use the same action for the read option.
I'm not sure I saw Langan keep on this play. I'm sure Langan will keep it at least once against Illinois to keep the DEs honest on the play. He may also do it because Jamal Milan is killing it inside.
They run an outside version of the read option that Illinois should be more concerned about. The outside zone is the play Langan likes to keep on the read, and they have more wrinkles in this action. Additionally, it allows the Scarlet Knights to attack the Illini DEs more directly, while mitigating the strength of the Illini DTs. Here is the basic Outside Zone Read.
Against Liberty, they used a Z motion to run the same play, using the RB as a lead blocker.
The other counter on this look was an RPO look.
This suite of plays should give Rutgers the best chance for success. Minnesota recently loaded 8 in the box, and went press coverage on the edges with a 2 deep shell. They shut down the Scarlet Knights, but the DEs also stayed home all day.
They have a little wrinkle in this read option attack. They pull a guard in the Power blocking scheme while running the Read Option Outside Zone look in the backfield.
This is a two back look, and Langan decided pre-snap where this ball was going. Actually, I believe Langan likes keeping out of this setup.
He kept it a majority of the time with this blocking scheme. It is an old Urban Meyer Q trap look, and can be devastating. Disruption at the line is the key to stopping this play.
Rutgers runs another play that is unique to the Scarlet Knights. It is a Power Blocking scheme with speed option to the edge. The QB is pitching quickly in every instance, but they had some nice gains off the play. Here is the base play.
Liberty was crashing hard with the DE here, so the Guard essentially jogged downfield and was not sealing any LBs from flowing to the play. When the Guard gets to the 2nd level, he seals the flow and isolates the back on the edges.
Langan at will run it as a true option. When their 1st and 2nd string QBs were on the field, it was basically a pitch and negated the pulling action as well.
Again, the quick pitch negated the pulling guard.
Langan has the option to keep on this play, and with his speed he takes advantage of the opportunity.
The Liberty DE sold out on this play, which put the OG into play. Krimin, the guard on the play, still was out for a stroll and blocked nothing.
When everything is working correctly, the play looks like this.
Krimin is still out for a stroll, but Pacheco got the edge and took it off.
They run a variant of the outside zone where the QB has the option to get wide. They use an H-back to create a read block for Langan should he keep it. The read is the backside Nickel, and Liberty brought him leading to the give.
Illinois will get a steady diet of the read option. Langan has some wheels, and this will allow Rutgers to create motion to force the Illini to react to the looks. Keeping it simple for the OL is the best bet for the Scarlet Knights.
Outside of the read option, Rutgers has a base set of run plays they will trot out. Primarily, they run inside zone.
They will also add gaps by extending the line, and open up the zone blocking scheme off tackle.
The Scarlet Knights can create this exact same look against the Illinois 4-3 with a motion pre snap. Illinois will set the DL pre-snap, and will not bounce the DL after motion. The bunch formation will lead to a LB walking down on the LOS. In shorter yardage situations, expect Rutgers to use this type of formation.
The final run play to watch out for is the pure power. With the Power option look above, the straight power run will keep the LBs from cheating
I don't think this play will be for big yards, but it opens up the playbook for Rutgers in other ways.
The passing attack is a train wreck. The first play to look at will show you why.
This is a nice sideline route by Hunt, and Woods ran a route to the exact same place. Woods has his depth wrong, ruining a big play opportunity. The play action look on this is going to be the challenge for the Illini LBs.
The above play is more indicative of the Rutgers pass offense than those that follow. The Scarlet Knights struggle to get open, and the QBs have taken a beating as a result.
When facing a zone defense like Illinois, they will run a set of zone beating routes. The first is a simple sit hitch route.
The route is a staple of most offenses. The fear is the long wind up of Langan on his throws. The wind up is the clearest signal the ball is coming, and in zone the defenders can break on the move.
The way to combat the defenders jumping routes is the play action and getting them to scramble back to position.
Langan was still almost picked, and Liberty had eight defenders in the box when he threw. Teams have gotten incredibly aggressive against the run, and until Rutgers establishes Langan in the passing game, they will continue to do so.
The other way to open up the passing game is the crossing route. The crossing routes require the LBs to communicate and pass off the receivers.
The Scarlet Knights have two receivers running a pick on this to open up the receiver coming the other direction. When the LBs are holding zones, they have a nice little route they drop in between the gap in LBs on the next level.
Illinois will be susceptible to these routes. The LBs struggle handing off, and the eye candy crossing their face will open up the deeper routes.
Pacheco is the best player with a red helmet on the field, and as such they will try and isolate him when possible. One cool way they have done it is motioning him out of the backfield to run routes against LBs. Here is a sideline mini-wheel route.
This is a nice design, and a really nice job of getting your best player in space.
Rutgers is in an impossible situation. The coaching staff will have the team ready to play, but every game they have faced early adversity, they have folded. Campanile had a nice game plan against Liberty, and a similar plan will be on display Saturday. Campanile will try and slow the pace of the game. The key for Rutgers is to stay out of 3rd and long situations, which means they will do everything to establish the run in this game. The Rutgers tackles struggle, and the middle of the line is only adequate. If the Illini DL gets penetration, the game is lost for Rutgers.
Scouting Review - Defense
It is fitting the DC is named Buh (pronounced Boo) for the Halloween week game. If you are a fan in Piscataway, the defense has been downright terrifying. The defense was torched by Liberty, allowing the independent to score 34 points last week. They really struggled containing big plays against the run. The Illini running backs should be licking their chops.
I mentioned earlier that Rutgers appears to be making defensive schemes based on opponent, so I'm a little unsure what to expect. I suspect they will load the box and make Peters beat them through the air.
Here is the base look.
Buh prefers the Cover 2 shell as I mentioned above. Iowa went empty often, and forced them into a single high safety. They started selling out on the run blitz against Minnesota and appeared to have Cover 0 multiple times.
The Cover 2 shell is pretty easily exploited. The Cover 3 has been porous. Iowa ran a nifty little play against it.
The TE out route was jumped by the safety who appears to be a Robber. That left a gaping hole in the defensive secondary for an easy TD.
When they blitz, the Scarlet Knights like to stunt the DL. They were bringing the DE inside against Liberty, with the extra LB spying the QB
The DT Willington Previlon is the only major disruptive force in the box. Both corners are adequate. The LBs are weak, and the safeties are out to lunch quite often.
Illinois needs to contain Previlon, and get the guards to the second level. If Green and Petitbon are able to move up to the second level, the offense is going to explode in the rushing attack. The Scarlet Knight defense is schematically interesting, they lack the horses to pull it off consistently though. In order to take advantage, the Illini must not become one-dimensional. Rod Smith has done that a bit this season.
What does it mean?
Rutgers is UConn bad. And Illinois struggled with the Huskies earlier in the year. The Scarlet Knights are playing out the season for pride and as an experiment for what they have next year. Liberty got up early on them last week, and the Scarlet Knights didn't give up. Instead, they fought to a pretty convincing victory, and did so as a home dog. Campanile will have them ready to play, but will have to overcome a talent disparity made worse with the injuries.
For Illinois to Win:
The Illini offense needs to show up in a way last seen against Akron. The Illini offense has been effective in spurts, but have not had a complete game in a while. Rod Smith should be able to focus on the basics and move the ball. This is not a week to get cute.
Defensively, the Illini need to be assignment sound. The key this week will be to avoid allowing explosive plays from the Scarlet Knights, and force a few more turnovers. This feels like a good week for Jake Hansen to set a record.
For Rutgers to Win:
Turnovers would be a big part of this. Rutgers will need to get on the board early and build a lead. Should they get a multi score lead, they can slow down the pace of the game. The Illini offense has not been strong this year, and a lead will allow Rutgers to sit in Cover 4 and stifle the Illini rushing attack. Illinois is prone to mistakes on the backend with Play Action, so if Rutgers can get that going early they have a chance.
Rutgers is really struggling on both sides of the ball this season. Offensively, the Scarlet Knights have struggled to score points. Defensively, they give up points in bunches. This is a huge home game for Illinois, which puts the pressure on the Illini.
The Rutgers game plan will be a weakness of the Illini, and Illinois has not convincingly shown they can stop it. Illinois will most likely sit in the 4-3 Cover 2 shell and give up yards to prevent big plays. I think Lovie plays this conservative, and the Scarlet Knights cover.
I'm now picking against Illinois covering the rest of the season. Illinois is 5-3 against the spread, and 4-1 at home. My hopes are a little too high, and I'm going the other way to keep my personal feelings in check.
YTD Against the Spread: