We all had expectations for the season and a few players we thought might shine. However, I doubt any of us predicted the impact these three guys would have. Here are the biggest surprises of the 2014 season.
1. Sherman Alston
When he committed, Alston seemed like a nice player to round out the recruiting class. He showed good speed and smarts, but didn't project to a true position in college (mostly because of his size). Here was a New Jersey player that Rutgers didn't recruit. Yet as soon as he got on campus, the rumblings began. Addazio and his staff realized they had something. They just didn't know what he was. And with that they did what ever they could with him, using him on punt returns. as a WR and most effectively as a Split End getting the ball on jet sweeps. Alston proved most effective when he got a little bit of daylight. Once he got some space, he could use his speed and elusiveness to turn little plays into big ones. His breakout game was USC, but he drew attention anytime he got on the field. In fact a common complaint as the season wore on was that we were using him too often as a decoy instead of getting him the ball. Other players had bigger years, but Alston was the biggest bonus since so little was expected.
2. Justin Simmons
In August did you expect Justin Simmon to lead the team in tackles? The junior had a nice career prior to this season, but nothing to indicate that he would make such a huge jump in productivity. Simmons wasn't just a pile jumper getting lots of tackles. He saved the Wake game with a critical INT and also got to the QB when asked to blitz. Simmons also showed versatility as he split his time between corner and safety. He wasn't our best defensive player, but he was the guy who made the leap during a crucial transition season.
3. Aaron Kramer
An after thought who had never started a game, Kramer was thrust into the spotlight when Harris Williams went down against UMass. It seemed like our Offensive Line might crack, but Kramer played well against UMass and then followed the solid play throughout September. He might not have been as consistent as some of the other starters and had some tough games later in the season, but overall Kramer played well and much better than most of us would have expected.