Rutgers uses bye for leisure, preparation
When DePaul Catholic (N.J.) High School defeated Don Bosco (N.J.) Prep on Saturday, 35-25, Leonte Carroo was there to see his former team lose its third game of the season. The Rutgers football sophomore wide receiver admitted it was not the Don Bosco’s best performance.
Head coach Greg Toal allowed Carroo to give a pregame speech to his former teammates, along with junior quarterback Gary Nova, who also played for the Ironmen.
“I was able to talk to the team and get them going,” Carroo said.
It is an experience only the Scarlet Knights’ bye week could allow, as head coach Kyle Flood gave his players a few days off at the end of last week to go back home.
For Carroo and Nova, that meant traveling to their high school roots, an added benefit to staying home to play collegiately. Nova went 24-0 in two seasons as Don Bosco’s starting quarterback.
For Nova, it was good to finally get back to see his old team.
“It was a good experience to go back and see the coaches,” he said. “It was good to just be back and see a lot of familiar faces.”
While checking out their former high school was a joy for both players, Nova said the bye week was crucial for improving the Scarlet Knights’ fundamentals.
Practices are structured differently during the bye week, as game-week preparation practices give way to drills on techniques.
Younger players also receive more attention when it comes to reps, while coaches can get a better look at position battles that have yet to be settled.
“It kind of has a training camp feel to it,” Nova said. “You’re not preparing for the next team quite yet. You’re putting some things in but not the full deal.”
Nova said some of the older players also benefited from stepping away from the game for a few days, but realized there are always added distractions with the time off.
While the coaches were out recruiting this past weekend, the players had no organized activities beginning Friday and the team had to report back Sunday.
“You’re away from football, so you don’t want to eat bad foods and obviously you don’t want to be out partying and things like that,” Nova said. “So you have to stay focused and want to be sharp for the first practice. But I think we’ve done a good job with that.”
The focus now shifts to Southern Methodist, Rutgers’ first AAC game.
While the Mustangs (1-3) have not had ideal results, Flood is well aware of what they possess on offense. Quarterback Garret Gilbert, a former Texas signal caller, ranks ninth in the country in total offense, while SMU’s offense is attempting nearly two passes for every one run.
“They have got an excellent quarterback, and I think he’s top10 in the country right now in terms of the yards and completions and those type of things,” Flood said. “They have four different receivers that all are in double digits in terms of receptions. They spread the field.”
Rutgers has had more time to focus on developing a game plan to stop SMU’s offense because of its bye week.
And even with the added free time that came along with it, Carroo was quick to point out the main benefit from the extra practice time.
“We just attacked. We used the time to the best of our advantage,” Carroo said. “We’ve practiced hard and got better so we could focus on being 1-0 against SMU.”
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