2023 NCAA Lacrosse Rankings: No. 10 Rutgers (Men)

PHOTO BY GREGORY A. SHEMITZ

Shane Knobloch begins the second half of his college career as one of the Big Ten’s most established midfielders.


The 2023 college lacrosse season is almost here. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USALaxMagazine.com each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

NO. 10 RUTGERS

2022 Record: 15-4 (4-1 Big Ten)
Final Ranking (2022): No. 5
Coach: Brian Brecht

TOP RETURNERS

Shane Knobloch, M, Jr.

Fresh off helping the United States to a gold medal last summer in the U21 world championships, Knobloch begins the second half of his college career as one of the Big Ten’s most established midfielders. He scored 32 goals last season and will be a fixture on the Scarlet Knights’ offense.

Ethan Rall, LSM, Sr.

Arguably the nation’s top long pole last season, Rall is back for a fifth year after leading the Big Ten with 31 caused turnovers. A pivotal piece in Rutgers’ transition game, he’ll provide even greater value as the Scarlet Knights sort out an overhauled group of short stick defensive midfielders.

Ross Scott, A, Sr.

The breakout star of Rutgers’ first final four team, Scott had 50 goals and 25 assists last season and will join Knobloch at the top of opposing scouting reports. “His game is transformed,” Brecht said. “He’s a little more dynamic of a dodger. A little more body control. He has two hands, and he’s not shying away from doing the right play and taking advantage of the situation he’s in.

KEY ADDITIONS

Ryan Decker, SSDM, Grad. (Colgate)

The Chatham, N.J., native returns to the Garden State after playing four seasons at Colgate and serving as a captain for the Raiders last season. He’ll slide right into the rope unit, an area that’s particularly wide open since Rutgers saw its top four short sticks depart after last spring.

LaJhon Jones, D, Sr. (Bryant)

Jones played the last three seasons at Bryant before joining midfielder Jon Miller on the Smithfield-to-Piscataway transfer path. Jones led the Bulldogs in caused turnovers, and there are openings on the Rutgers close defense after the graduation of two starters.

Shane Murphy, M, Fr.

There’s usually a cast-of-thousands feel to the Rutgers midfield, in part because of the tradition of relying on transition. It also means freshmen can claim a role relatively early in their careers. Both Murphy and Ryan Palmer could do precisely that as they make their college debuts this season.

KEY DEPARTURES

Graduations: Mitch Bartolo, A; Bryant Boswell, D; Tommy Coyne, SSDM; Zackary Franckowiak, SSDM; Ryan Gallagher, M; Ronan Jacoby, M; Jaryd Jean-Felix, D; Colin Kirst, G; Brennan Kamish, SSDM
Transfers: Cole Daninger, SSDM (Jacksonville)







STORYLINES TO WATCH

Who’s the goalie?

Rutgers enjoyed great success with Colin Kirst as a graduate transfer over the last two seasons and went that route looking for his replacement.

Enter Kyle Mullin (.508 save percentage last season at Harvard) and Anthony Palma (.510 at Stony Brook), who between them own 56 career starts.

Brecht didn’t tip his hand after fall practice, suggesting both veteran newcomers, along with freshman Cardin Stoller — an Under Armour All-America selection — will vie for the job in the preseason.

“There’s been a great goalie room,” Brecht said. “Having Kyle Mullin and Anthony Palma mentor and be around is going to help Cardin Stoller. The three of them have been great all fall, and it’s been fun to watch them gel and develop.”

How will another transfer influx help?

Rutgers has integrated transfers into its program as well as anyone over the last few years, particularly those who already have an undergraduate degree. There might not be an established name like a Kirst or a Mitch Bartolo in this year’s haul, but the Scarlet Knights did pick up nine transfers, and some of them figure to play significant roles.

“These graduate students, they are saying, ‘I’ve been here three months and I feel like I’ve been here three years,’” Brecht said. “That’s a direct correlation of how the locker room is and how the guys are treated amongst each other sitting around in the apartments and driving back and forth to practice, on the field, in the locker room, in the weight room, having a bite to eat in the cafeteria. I like to think we have a special thing, and it’s too bad more people don’t know about it.”

Is David Sprock ready for a belated senior year?

In retrospect, one of the more remarkable elements of Rutgers reaching the NCAA semifinals for the first time was that it lost a three-year starter at midfield to injury in the preseason. David Sprock had 17 goals and 10 assists in 2021, and his return provides an obvious answer for a team trying to replace Ryan Gallagher and Ronan Jacoby in the midfield.

Sprock wasn’t on the field during the fall, except for non-contact and shooting drills. Nonetheless, he could prove to be one of Rutgers’ most valuable additions in 2023.

“There’s no need as a fifth-year senior to rush him, but everything is going well,” Brecht said. “He’s in good spirits. He’s really found his voice as a leader.”

ENEMY LINES
WHAT RIVALS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE SCARLET KNIGHTS

“Should be good again. Brian did a good job in the portal and have a lot of guys back. They had a really good season last year. They had a really good goalie, and they replace him with a really good goalie. Knobloch is about as dynamic a guy as there is in our league. You have a guy behind the goal who’s as dynamic as anybody in the league. There’s a lot you can work with there, for sure.”

BEYOND THE BASICS
POWERED BY LACROSSE REFERENCE

23.2%

As an outside observer, it’s always dangerous to ascribe statistical outcomes to coaches emphasizing a certain aspect of the game. And frankly, given the turnover on rosters, it could always just be that a different mix of players produces different profiles in the numbers. But the trend in Piscataway since the end of the 2019 season is begging for some sort of explanation. The Scarlet Knights finished that season with a 28.5% turnover rate. In the COVID-shortened season of 2020, that number was 26.3%, then 24.3% in 2021. Last year, they finished with the lowest turnover rate in the country at 23.2%. That’s a big part of the reason that the offense finished eighth despite having just the 16th-best shooting percentage.

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