NEW BRUNSWICK — Bo Melton arrived at Rutgers University with plenty of expectations for the 2017 college football season.
The Mays Landing resident weighed 168 pounds as a freshman.
Two years later, the expectations are still there.
But the Cedar High School graduate now appears physically ready to fulfill them.
The junior wide receiver weighs 192 pounds.
“I’ve gained a lot of weight,” Melton said at the Rutgers media day this month. “My numbers in the weight room have gone up. It’s looking good.”
This will be a pivotal season for both Melton and Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have begun training camp and open the season Aug. 30 at home against Massachusetts. Rutgers finished 1-11 last season.
“I feel like I needed my freshman year and my sophomore year to know this is how you play in the Big 10,” Melton said. “I’ve learned from the mistakes I had in the past.”
Few Atlantic County high school football players had a better career than Melton. He led Cedar Creek to the 2015 South Jersey Group II championship and the 2016 final.
Melton dominated games on offense, defense and special teams at Cedar Creek. A 21-20 win over Collingswood in the 2015 South Jersey Group II semifinals showed his versatility. He ran for two scores, threw a touchdown pass and blocked a potential winning field goal on the game’s final play. Melton was the 2016-17 Press Male Athlete of the Year.
But when he arrived at Rutgers, he found himself matched against more physical, older Big 10 cornerbacks.
“Let’s face facts,” Rutgers wide receivers coach Lester Erb said. “Bo played here as a true freshman. The Big 10 is different. You’re lining up against 22-year-old men every week.”
Melton caught four passes for 83 yards as a freshman. He caught 28 for 245 yards as a sophomore.
“Bo has had two years of experience now,” Erb said. “There’s no substitute for experience. I really expect Bo to take a big jump this camp and this fall because he can rely on everything he’s learned the past two years. He’s really built his body up in the offseason.”
Melton said the biggest change he had to make from high school to college was adjusting to the speed of the game.
“Everything is faster,” he said. “You have to make your moves quicker.”
Rutgers needs the speedy Melton to maximize his big-play capability this season. The Scarlet Knights averaged 13.5 points per game last season, which was 130th — last — in the nation among Football Bowl Subdivision schools. Rutgers threw for 132.2 yards per game, which ranked 124th in the country.
There are some promising signs for the offense. For the first time in several seasons, the Scarlet Knights will have some continuity with sophomore quarterback Art Sitkowski and offensive coordinator John McNulty returning.
“I really feel like this is going to be a good year,” Melton said. “I’m always on the positive side of everything. Our program is coming up. We’re just growing. We don’t know what the season holds, but we’re going in the right direction.”
Take a look at Bo Melton’s career (tncms-asset)7a23bf3a-baef-11e9-83ad-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)