clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Talkin’ Big 10: Rutgers’ Best Kept Secret

Senior Janarion Grant is Rutgers’ best chance to become relevant again. Even it’s just for moments at a time.

Michigan v Rutgers Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Remember this guy? Even when Michigan was miles ahead of Rutgers in overall talent, Janarion Grant was able to gash the Wolverines on special teams with 237 return yards and a score back in 2015.

Of course, being the best player on the worst team is similar to being the smartest Kardashian, the best post-2005 Adam Sandler movie, or the tallest of the seven dwarves. There is not much prestige in this, but for those of you who don’t know Janarion Grant, it is time to pay attention.

I wonder if an Adam Sandler movie with Kim Kardashian, the seven dwarves and Janarion Grant would be any good. Might be hilarious, actually...

After earning a medical redshirt last season after getting injured four games in, Grant returns to Rutgers as an NFL-type athlete - and just four kickoff return touchdowns short of the NCAA record. Four may seem insurmountable in one season, but for Grant, this is well within his reach.

After all, in the four games he was able to play last season, he only returned six kickoffs, but still managed to return one for a touchdown, and only returned 13 punts - but one was a touchdown. With as many points as Rutgers allows, Grant will have plenty of opportunities to leave his mark on the record books.

And, despite playing only one-third of the season, Grant still led his team in rushing touchdowns - on only 16 carries. Yeah, Rutgers was the worst, but Grant is no laughing matter.

Originally, Grant was just a three-star recruit, seemingly lost in the fold from the mass amount of talent always available in Florida. In his first three seasons at Rutgers, Grant was primarily a return specialist who also played some wide receiver (think a Devin Hester prototype).

It’s easy for anyone to predict that his talent will ultimately transcend special teams (and for comparisons sake, Hester ultimately had three 500-yard receiving seasons in the NFL and 3,311 total), but because of Janarion’s injury last year, he hasn’t had an opportunity yet to put up really eye-popping numbers on offense. He’ll get every opportunity, though, for a team that badly needs his talent to put up any kind of points.

Rutgers has not won a football game since September 17, 2016, and with their first two games against a very formidable opponent (Washington) and a credible MAC team (Eastern Michigan), it is possible they go 364 days between wins. (Rutgers plays Morgan State on September 16 in what should be a victory.) Rutgers was outscored 346-79 from week 5 onward. If this doesn’t make you sympathize with Grant’s situation just a little bit, you have a smaller heart than the Grinch before saving Christmas.

There are countless problems surrounding this team, but getting Grant back - and adding a transfer quarterback from Louisvile - should help. However, the addition of former Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill as offensive coordinator could be the biggest thing to help steer the program towards success.

Minnesota v Colorado State
Coach Kill has a career winning percentage of .536% as head coach of major schools (Northern Ilinois 2008-2010, Minnesota 2010-2015).
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Coach Kill (the best coaching name in sports history) is not in the most ideal position at Rutgers, but if the writing appears on the proverbial wall for head coach Chris Ash, Kill could take over the entire program.

Many remember his run-heavy, power teams at Minnesota, but he should find some common ground with Ash’s preference for a more spread-out attack. After all, former quarterback Philip Nelson once called Kill’s preferred offense “Wisconsin and TCU mixed on drugs.” Plenty of power run, but plenty of sweeps and perimeter game, too.

"Coach Kill does a great job of playing to his players' strengths, but he definitely likes a tough quarterback who can tuck it down and run and give you that threat on the ground as well as being able to air it out," Nelson said.

The duo of Jerry Kill and Janarion Grant could immediately make Rutgers a contender in a lot of games they lost last year (going 2-10 and ending on a 9-game losing streak). Not even Barry Sanders could make this team a real threat, but the combination of a new quarterback, some tweaks on offense and a fresh perspective could give the Knights some good momentum - and give Grant his breakout season.