Flood stays noncommittal to Nova
Seeking a “consistent level of high play at the quarterback position” entering the Big Ten next season, Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood has all options open.
He left no doubt before last year’s spring practice that Gary Nova was the team’s starting quarterback, despite a porous showing in a 13-10 Russell Athletic Bowl loss to Virginia Tech.
But following a mediocre 6-7 season in which the junior was benched for the final three games, Flood made no promises that the soon-to-be senior will retake his starting job with the graduation of Chas Dodd.
“We’ve got a lot of quarterbacks on our roster right now,” Flood said Jan. 6 in his season-ending teleconference. “Every one is them is going to get more than enough snaps this spring so that we can figure out who the starting quarterback will be as we go into next season.”
The main candidates along Nova include oncoming redshirt freshman Chris Laviano, sophomore Blake Rankin and junior Mike Bimonte. None ever took a game snap for Rutgers.
Each was a three-star recruit out of high school, according to Rivals. Former Rutgers four-star quarterback Tyler Wiegers de-committed Nov. 17.
Flood said the criteria for starting includes ball security, decision-making and throwing accuracy.
Even with heightened pressured on the program going into the Big Ten, Flood insisted experience at the position, namely Nova’s 28-career starts, will not transcend those three factors.
“I will be more than comfortable playing the quarterback who does the best job of protecting the football, making the right decisions that we coach him to make and then locating the football the best he can,” Flood said. “Experience is great as long as you’re improving, but ultimately right now at that position, we need to find the quarterback on our roster who can do those three things better than the other quarterbacks.”
Flood added he will wait until the team gets closer to the start of spring practice to put out a depth chart.
Left guard Kaleb Johnson will put off entering the NFL Draft for another year and return for his senior season, Rutgers announced Jan. 14 in a statement.
Johnson said Dec. 28 he was “50/50” on leaving the program, while Flood said Jan 6. that Johnson was waiting to receive a draft grade from the NFL Advisory Committee.
The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder ranks as the eighth-best guard in his class, according to NFLDraftScout.com.
Johnson said in the statement that his decision to return is not strictly football-related.
“Academically, I will be in position to graduate next spring, which was an important goal when I committed to play at Rutgers,” he said. “When reviewing all the options to stay or head to the NFL, my heart was to finish what I started with my family here at Rutgers.”
Johnson has started a team-leading 37 straight games along the offensive line, including all 13 contests at left guard this season.
Junior running back Savon Huggins will not transfer after meeting Jan. 8 with Flood, according to The Star-Ledger.
The former four-star recruit was considering doing so following a season in which he lost his starting job after one game. Huggins averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on 86 attempts after slipping down the depth chart.
Flood still anticipates roster changes before the spring.
“There are always going to be players who are looking for a friendlier depth chart,” he said Jan 6. “Right now, I don’t have any names. But I think it would be naive to think that there would be zero [transfers]. I think there’s always going to be some of those when you play football at the highest level.”