Sure, there’s some competition. But let’s be honest, Leonte Carroo is entering the 2015 season as the Big Ten’s best wide receiver.
Carroo caught 55 passes a season ago for 1,086 yards and 10 touchdowns, ranking second in the conference in receiving yardage only to Michigan State’s Tony Lippett — who was named the Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year — and ranking third in touchdown catches to Ohio State’s Devin Smith and Lippett.
He provided a terrific target for fourth-year starting quarterback Gary Nova, accounting for nearly half of Nova’s 22 touchdown passes, which ranked third in the conference. And Carroo had some just massive performances, too. He went for a season-high 151 yards in the season-opener against Washington State. He had 140 yards and three touchdowns against Tulane. And he had four triple-digit receiving-yard days during Big Ten play, including 127 yards and a touchdown against Nebraska, 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Indiana and 104 yards and two scores against Maryland.
Alongside Penn State’s DeSean Hamilton, Carroo is being viewed as a nearly unanimous pick on just about everyone’s preseason All-Big Ten team.
But more important than his star rising in the league and as a potential NFL Draft prospect, Carroo’s return will prove huge for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have a new offensive coordinator and a new starting quarterback, and they lost their other top target in tight end Tyler Kroft. Carroo could’ve bolted for the NFL, too, but he opted to return, which has obviously made Rutgers very happy.
"I was really excited,” head coach Kyle Flood said last month at Big Ten Media Days. “The football coach in you is so excited when a player of his caliber comes back because you know what it does for your football team. Leonte is a great player in his own right. But by being on the field, he elevates everybody else around him because of the attention that he draws.
“But I was excited for him as well because I think it showed a maturity in him that he was able to look at his situation and say, 'There's things that I want to work on to be a better football player. There's things that I came to Rutgers to do that I haven't accomplished yet. And because of that, I'm going to come back.' And I think ultimately on the back end of this when he does make that transition to the next level, not only will he be more prepared, he'll be a better football player. And, ultimately, I think that's going to help him as he goes through his career."
While Rutgers competing for a championship in a loaded Big Ten East division that features College Football Playoff contenders Ohio State and Michigan State might sound a tad unrealistic, Carroo is using that as a motivator and a reason for his decision to come back to the Knights for one more year.
“Coming into Rutgers as a freshman, me and (defensive lineman) Darius (Hamilton) made a lot of promises to people that we would win a championship and bring our first championship back home to Jersey,” Carroo told Big Ten Network during Media Days. “As I was thinking about leaving for the NFL, I talked to my closest friends and family members and also Darius, who’s a longtime friend of mine. And he told me, ‘Let’s finish this out the right way,’ so that’s what we’re going to do.”