PISCATAWAY – So far, the insights have been clear.
Rashad Rochelle is just beginning his career at Rutgers. As a true freshman, the Springfield, Illinois native has worked to earn more playing time, an expanded role within the offense. He took the chances that came his way, displaying the speed and athleticism that helped him become a star quarterback in high school and now a versatile threat to the Scarlet Knights.
For an offense that needs improvement going forward, Rochelle has shown he has the potential to become a much-needed weapon for Rutgers, who end their season Saturday against Maryland (noon, Big Ten Network) at College Park.
“I think his potential is limitless,” said coach Greg Schiano. “Not just because of his God-given ability, but because of the kind of worker he is. He is an incredible worker, his attention to detail is special.”
Most of the playing time Rochelle has gotten this season has been on special teams, but he’s taken some wildcat snaps at quarterback and was recently used as a running back.
Rochelle had three carries for 18 yards early in the first quarter last week against Penn State and helped set up a Rutgers field goal.
So far this season he has rushed for 87 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown.
“Really anywhere they need me,” Rochelle said. “When Coach Schiano came to me and said: ‘Hey, we need you as a running back.’ i did this He came back, ‘I need you to play receiver.’ i did this Wherever they need me, I will fill that position and do it to the best of my ability.”
Rochelle was a dynamic quarterback at Springfield High School who threw for 6,519 yards on 75 touchdowns while rushing for 2,911 yards and 56 points. As a senior, he threw for 1,733 yards and rushed for 1,003 yards.
Ranked a three-star recruit and No. 9 overall in Illinois for the Class of 2022, Rochelle had power 5 offers from Illinois, Purdue, Duke and Rutgers. Ultimately, he brought his skills to Piscataway – partly after speaking to Gavin Wimsatt and deciding on their plans.
“When we both got the scholarship offer, I put him through (direct message) and I was like, ‘Hey, how do you think?'” Rochelle said. “We both sort of agreed, ‘Yeah, that’s what I want to do.'”
Rochelle’s background as a quarterback has helped foster his versatility.
“As a quarterback, I was able to understand more positions because I kind of had to know a lot in high school,” Rochelle said. “But with a running back in the backfield, it’s not like it’s alien to me. I’ve now seen what I’ve seen before in the backfield. With the receiver, I just knew where Gavin needed me because I knew where I needed my receivers. Being able to keep that in mind helped.”
For the past three seasons, Rutgers has had a versatile weapon in Aron Cruickshank — both on offense and as a returnee on special teams.
Cruickshank saw some of himself in Rochelle after Rochelle joined the program as an early participant. He gave some important advice.
“I kind of got closer to (Rochelle) when he was first in the receiver room,” Cruickshank said. “I just noticed that he’s a fast guy like me. But he had more than that, he’s not just fast. I was just trying to tell him, ‘Hey, don’t let everyone intimidate you that you’re just a fast guy.’ Now he’s in the running back room and has been taking snaps of QB during games. I’m just trying to tell him, ‘Hey man, you’ve got a good thing, keep going and keep improving so you can get more.'”
Rochelle could have a chance to play a far bigger role in 2023, especially after another off-season working with sporting director Jay Butler.
Rutgers loses several wide receivers including Cruickshank, Sean Ryan and Shameen Jones.
Rochelle also proved he can help in the running back room.
He has shown glimpses of this “boundless” potential.
His goal for the off-season?
“To build on what I’m doing now,” Rochelle said. “Wherever they need me, just like I’m doing right now. If you need me somewhere, fill that role. If they need me with someone else, fill this role. Whatever they ask of me, I will do it to the best of my ability.”