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Michigan’s 2023 football opponent previews: Rutgers

Will Rutgers’ new offensive coordinator be able to elevate one of the Big Ten’s worst offenses?

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Michigan State
Greg Schiano on the sidelines at Spartan Stadium
Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

Today, we’re continuing our series previewing each of the teams Michigan football will face in 2023. After wrapping up non-conference play against East Carolina, UNLV and Bowling Green, Michigan faces its first Big Ten opponent, Rutgers, in Week 4.

Here’s what’s happened this offseason in Piscataway and how those changes might manifest against the Wolverines.

Week 4 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • 2022 Record: 4-8 overall, 1-8 in Big Ten
  • Head Coach: Greg Schiano, fourth season
  • Key Losses: QB Noah Vedral
  • Key Additions: OC Kirk Ciarrocca

The Rutgers offense was second-worst in the Big Ten last year, which led to the Scarlet Knights bringing in a new offensive coordinator. The biggest question for Rutgers this spring is who’s going to start at quarterback. Vedral, their starting quarterback in 2020 and 2021, missed all but four games of the 2022 season with an injury. That said, despite his absence, Rutgers juggled two quarterbacks, with neither emerging as a bona fide starter.

In order to succeed in 2023, Rutgers’ offense will need to be vastly improved. Gavin Wimsatt started six games and appeared in eight for the Scarlet Knights in 2022, throwing for 757 yards and five touchdowns, and rushing for 63 yards. Evan Simon started two games and appeared in nine, throwing for 777 yards and four touchdowns.

Wimsatt seems to have more trust in the coaching staff and is believed to have the inside track on the starting role, but both Wimsatt and Simon had starting reps in the spring. Rutgers also hired a new full-time offensive coordinator who coached in the same role at Rutgers with Schiano from 2008-10.

Ciarrocca recently led a successful offense in Minnesota and will look to similarly upgrade the Scarlet Knights’ offense to make them more competitive in the Big Ten. Minnesota used its running backs, like 2022 Big Ten rush leader Mo Ibrahim, heavily. Rutgers’ top running back last year, Kyle Monangai, rushed for just 445 yards in 12 games, 20th-best in the conference. Rutgers doesn’t have an Ibrahim level talent, but if Ciarrocca can establish a stronger run game, that could take pressure off an uncertain quarterback room.

Ciarrocca also helped develop Tanner Morgan and Joe Flacco in college, and his ability to elevate the quarterback play at Rutgers will be crucial in any possible success this year.

But will those upgrades be enough for them to topple a national title contender? Probably not, but Rutgers will be a big step up in competition after Michigan’s relatively easy non-conference schedule.