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5 key questions for Rutgers football after Big Ten restart: Will Greg Schiano make this year all about development?

NJ.com logo NJ.com 9/16/2020 By James Kratch, nj.com
a man standing in front of a crowd: Rutgers coach Greg Schiano walks the sidelines during the second half of the NJSIAA South/Central, Group 2 Regional Championship football game between Cedar Creek and Hillside at Rutgers in Piscataway, NJ on 12/8/19. Hillside won 25-3. © Chris Faytok | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/Chris Faytok | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/nj.com/TNS Rutgers coach Greg Schiano walks the sidelines during the second half of the NJSIAA South/Central, Group 2 Regional Championship football game between Cedar Creek and Hillside at Rutgers in Piscataway, NJ on 12/8/19. Hillside won 25-3.

The longest offseason in Big Ten history has come to a stunning end.

a man holding a stop sign in front of a building: Rutgers coach Greg Schiano walks the sidelines during the second half of the NJSIAA South/Central, Group 2 Regional Championship football game between Cedar Creek and Hillside at Rutgers in Piscataway, NJ on 12/8/19. Hillside won 25-3. © Chris Faytok | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/Chris Faytok | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/nj.com/TNS Rutgers coach Greg Schiano walks the sidelines during the second half of the NJSIAA South/Central, Group 2 Regional Championship football game between Cedar Creek and Hillside at Rutgers in Piscataway, NJ on 12/8/19. Hillside won 25-3.

The conference’s council of presidents and chancellors are expected to announce a restart to the 2020 football season on Wednesday, reversing its initial decision to punt on the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic. That means Rutgers and head coach Greg Schiano - who moved forward quietly over the last five weeks while almost everyone else in the league lost their minds - suddenly find themselves a month away from kickoff and the official start of Schiano’s second tenure with the Scarlet Knights.

Greg Schiano standing in front of a building: Rutgers coach Greg Schiano watched parts of the second half of the NJSIAA South/Central, Group 2 Regional Championship football game between Cedar Creek and Hillside at Rutgers in Piscataway, NJ on 12/8/19. Hillside won 25-3. © Chris Faytok | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/Chris Faytok | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/nj.com/TNS Rutgers coach Greg Schiano watched parts of the second half of the NJSIAA South/Central, Group 2 Regional Championship football game between Cedar Creek and Hillside at Rutgers in Piscataway, NJ on 12/8/19. Hillside won 25-3.

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There are many questions following the Big Ten’s sudden about-face. Here are five key ones on the Rutgers front now that there is going to be football this fall:

Who is on the team? Rutgers has not updated its roster since the end of last season. Raheem Blackshear was still on it as of Wednesday morning. The pandemic hit right before the start of spring practice, when the program presumably would have produced a fresh roster, and it has been status quo since. We know who has been added in the 2020 recruiting class and we have a pretty good idea of who has left the program, but there are still some question marks and potential surprises, particularly because more players than are confirmed publicly are believed to have opted out prior to the Big Ten’s initial decision.

What will the schedule look like? Rutgers figures to drop one or two crossover matchups, or at least have them altered, with its third schedule of the season. You have to imagine the Scarlet Knights would be pleased to know that bonus game against Wisconsin will likely fall off the schedule. But what about Nebraska? No matter what, Rutgers is likely looking at a brutal slate and a potential winless season. But it may not be as tough as the first conference-only schedule, and if the league does divisional standings pairings at the end of the year, as has been rumored in some corners, it could add another manageable opponent to the schedule.

a sign in front of a building: Rutgers coach Greg Schiano walks the sidelines during the second half of the NJSIAA South/Central, Group 2 Regional Championship football game between Cedar Creek and Hillside at Rutgers in Piscataway, NJ on 12/8/19. Hillside won 25-3. © Chris Faytok | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/Chris Faytok | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/nj.com/TNS Rutgers coach Greg Schiano walks the sidelines during the second half of the NJSIAA South/Central, Group 2 Regional Championship football game between Cedar Creek and Hillside at Rutgers in Piscataway, NJ on 12/8/19. Hillside won 25-3.

How quickly will the Scarlet Knights be ready? This will be one of the first questions for Schiano: Does he feel the roughly four weeks between the decision and the first game will be enough to get his team safely prepared? Will it be a heavy lift, or has Rutgers been doing enough in its practices and training since returning to campus that it will be easy to flip the switch? Also, how has the program been handling the virus since its outbreak in July?

Who will be the QB? We know Artur Sitkowski and Noah Vedral will be in the mix. Will Johnny Langan be a serious contender as well? Will the additional teaching time for Evan Simon allow him to be more of a factor than most true freshmen? What about Cole Snyder? And will Peyton Powell still get a chance at the position?

How will Schiano and staff handle this season? The NCAA’s unprecedented blanket eligibility waiver, which more or less gives players a free season of competition no matter how many games they play during this academic year, could be a huge benefit for Rutgers. The fact every player’s clock has been frozen gives the coaching staff options. Rutgers is going to play to win each week, obviously. But can it do so while placing a greater emphasis on roster development? No one expects this to be a terribly successful season in terms of the results. But it could be an invaluable period to evaluate the program and figure out who can and can’t help the rebuild move forward into 2021 and beyond.

a man standing next to a plane: Rutgers coach Greg Schiano walks the sidelines during the second half of the NJSIAA South/Central, Group 2 Regional Championship football game between Cedar Creek and Hillside at Rutgers in Piscataway, NJ on 12/8/19. Hillside won 25-3. © Chris Faytok | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/Chris Faytok | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/nj.com/TNS Rutgers coach Greg Schiano walks the sidelines during the second half of the NJSIAA South/Central, Group 2 Regional Championship football game between Cedar Creek and Hillside at Rutgers in Piscataway, NJ on 12/8/19. Hillside won 25-3.

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James Kratch may be reached at jkratch@njadvancemedia.com.

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