PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Myles Nash is ready for Rutgers to install its own version of the “18-Wheeler” package.
Nash is a 6-foot-5, 254-pound redshirt junior defensive end for the Scarlet Knights. It’s possible he will see more playing time in the coming weeks because one of the two starting defensive ends, Quanzell Lambert, is out for the season with an injury.
Lambert is one of two key starters the Scarlet Knights lost this past Saturday with season-ending injuries in a 14-7 defeat against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Nash would also like to help replace his other missing teammate, wide receiver Janarion Grant.
Besides being the team’s top wideout and one of the nation’s best at returning kicks and punts, Rutgers has used Grant at quarterback in its version of the Wildcat.
“At the time, it was really specific to [Grant’s skill set],” Rutgers offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer said when asked if the Wildcat will be continue to be part of the offense. “There’s a couple other dudes. We’ve even had a couple guys like Myles Nash be like, ‘Coach, I used to play quarterback.’
“I know there are a few guys that want to do it. If there is a good fit, then certainly, but it’s got to be the right guy. I think it something that we’re definitely going to explore.”
Mehringer mentioned that Nash might need to figure out his situation on defense, and maybe an increased role leaves no time to explore a potentially creative solution to a big problem for Rutgers. Grant was one of the most dynamic athletes in the Big Ten, and a huge part of the offense.
Grant is 17th in the nation and second to Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel in the conference in all-purpose yards at 163.8 per game. He is the only player in the country with at least 100 rushing, receiving, kick return and punt return yards.
His 20 receptions are 12 more than anyone else on the team. His three rushing touchdowns lead the team. He even threw a touchdown pass two weeks ago.
“If you’ve got a guy like Janarion Grant, you find ways to get that ball in his hands,” Mehringer said. “He was getting, I think, somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-20 touches per game and rightfully so. For us, it is going to be how do we get these different guys in space?”
Freshman Jawuan Harris is tied for second on the team with 8 catches, and could be the best candidate to replace Grant on special teams and assume more targets in the passing game. It will likely be a by-committee approach, though.
Seniors Andre Patton, Carlton Agudosi and John Tsimis will all be expected to contribute more. Another freshman, Dacoven Bailey, could work his way into the offense more. He’s been dealing with a cast on one of his hands and spending time on defense because of it, but coach Chris Ash said he’s been fitted with a new type of cast that will let him catch the ball better.
Running back Robert Martin is off to a strong start with 358 yards despite missing a game, and the Scarlet Knights might lean on him, Justin Goodwin and Josh Hicks in the running game even more.
That still leaves the lingering question about the Wildcat, or some version of it. Nash, who was listed at 205 pounds when he signed the Scarlet Knights in 2013, played linebacker, defensive end, wide receiver and, yes, quarterback in high school.
He’s been lobbying for a chance to help on offense since long before Grant was injured.
“I talked to Coach Mehringer about that before the season, and then I talked to him more seriously before the season after I watched Texas play and I saw [Tyrone] Swoopes come in and have some designated QB runs in some situations,” Nash said. “I’m the same body type. I played QB. I can throw the ball. It’s definitely something I could do, if we need short yardage, things like that.”
Texas introduced the “18-Wheeler” package last season, but it earned national recognition when the Longhorns defeated Notre Dame 50-47 in overtime on opening weekend. Swoops, who is listed at 6-foot-4, 249 pounds and sports the No. 18, rushed for three touchdowns against the Fighting Irish, including the game-winner.
Rutgers played well for long stretches against Iowa, particularly on defense. Generating offense against the best teams on the schedule was going to be a challenge this season, and that was before Grant’s leg got stepped on this past Saturday.
Maybe turning to a defensive lineman to play quarterback in short-yardage situations is the type of unconventional idea that could help the Scarlet Knights manufacture offensive production without their best player.
“I definitely think that is something I could do,” Nash said. “I know how physical a runner I am. I a confident in my ability to do it. I don’t know if [Coach Mehringer] took it seriously or not. If he gives me the opportunity, I’ll definitely take advantage of it.”