In this installment of the Rutgers football roster breakdown, The Daily Targum takes a look at the wide receivers and predicts the top four on the depth chart for the 2021 season. The Scarlet Knights recorded over 1,700 receiving yards in 2020, with the top six in terms of yards returning to the program for the new season.
Starter: Bo Melton
Melton has appeared in all 45 games since stepping foot on campus and is returning for his final year of eligibility. The senior has been placed on the Biletnikoff Award watch list for the last two years, an award which is given to the top wide receiver in college football. Melton has led Rutgers in receiving yards the past two seasons and also led the program in all-purpose yards in 2020.
“I take a lot of pride in being a versatile player,” Melton said. “I never want to be in the same spot. Being versatile is my game.”
In addition to catching passes, the honorable mention All-Big Ten receiver also returns punts, taking one back for a touchdown against Ohio State last season. Melton will look to contribute both on and off the field, as he is a returning team captain who will likely retain that role this upcoming season.
"I just want to continue to work on my awareness and explosiveness on the field," Melton said. "Every year I want to progress and be better than the previous year. That has always been my goal, and I feel the best I have ever felt."
Second wide receiver: Shameen Jones
Like Melton, Jones returns to Piscataway for his final year of college eligibility. The senior was second on the team in receiving yards last season and finished third in terms of receptions. He saw a huge uptick in his production after catching two passes for 15 yards in 2019.
In 2020, when the Knights played well, Jones followed suit. His biggest performance was in the comeback win against Purdue, scoring two touchdowns on eight catches for 88 yards. Jones went over 100 yards in the overtime thriller against Michigan and scored a touchdown in the season-opening victory against Michigan State.
Third wide receiver: Aron Cruickshank
After spending two years at Wisconsin and making highlights on the national stage, Cruickshank transferred to Rutgers and made an immediate impact in 2020. The junior finished third in receiving yards, and added his first receiving touchdown of his college career.
While Cruickshank is poised to be involved in the passing game, his greatest impact will come on special teams. Multiple media outlets have selected the receiver as a First Team Preseason All-American kick returner, and he was one of four players in the nation with two kickoff return touchdowns last season. He also led the Big Ten in return yards last season and will look to keep making the special teams game an advantage for the Knights.
Fourth wide receiver: Joshua Youngblood
Like Cruickshank, Youngblood came to the Banks through the transfer portal and will look to make a statement in his debut season. The receiver holds more similarities to Cruickshank, as his biggest impact looks to come from special teams.
In his freshman season at Kansas State, Youngblood led the nation with three kickoff return touchdowns and was named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. He did not appear much in 2020, leading to him entering the transfer portal and ending up in New Jersey. Youngblood hopes to return to his freshman year form in his new home.
With a wide receiver unit being led by program legend and wide receivers coach Tiquan Underwood, Rutgers hopes to expand and improve the passing game in 2021.
“Our chemistry is unbelievable,” Melton said. “Our unit is truly like a family.”
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