Bimonte impresses Flood with decision-making, makes case to start at quarterback
Through spring practice and August training camp evaluations alone, Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood might be hard-pressed to enter the Big Ten with someone other than Gary Nova as the starting quarterback.
With 28 career starts, the senior remains the Scarlet Knights’ most proven commodity and arguably Rutgers’ most talented player at the position.
But if any signal caller has a legitimate chance to unseat Nova in the Aug. 28 opener at Washington State, Mike Bimonte fits Flood’s criteria for the job.
The 6-foot-4, 225 pounder from Manalapan, N.J., has yet to take a game snap in three seasons. What the fourth-year junior does have, though, is plenty of practice reps under his belt and a firm grasp of Rutgers’ pro-style offense.
That has given Bimonte an advantage over redshirt freshmen Chris Laviano and Devin Ray.
“Just being a part of game planning and things like that, you’re prepared for a lot more situations,” Bimonte said yesterday post-practice. “We played in two different conferences [the last two years], so we saw a lot of different defenses and just going through the different weeks of preparation [helped].”
Flood, who calls Bimonte a “very smart football player,” has placed a premium on decision-making and ball security in the spring quarterback competition.
Bimonte is happy to oblige.
“I feel comfortable enough with the offense that I feel like I know where to go with the ball,” he said, “and now it’s just a matter of executing and making sure we’re all on the same page.”
Nova’s stigma during his time in Piscataway has been sporadic execution and poor decision-making, eventually resulting in his demotion to backup for the final three games last season.
Bimonte, meanwhile, is showing poise in the pocket but remains a work in progress from a mechanical standpoint.
Through 10 spring practices, Flood sees promise in both.
“I think Gary still continues to perform like a guy who has a lot of experience, and I think Mike Bimonte continues to make plays,” Flood said. “He made some [yesterday] in those two-minute drills. It’s been a fun competition to watch so far.”
The third-year head coach gave no indication of a change in the distribution of reps for the final five spring sessions, including another scrimmage Saturday and the April 26 Scarlet-White game. Nova, Bimonte and Laviano have mostly split first-team reps to this point.
Bimonte, who considers his knowledge of the game his biggest asset, admits mental errors from all the quarterbacks have come with installing a new offense.
But while the bulk of new coordinator Ralph Friedgen’s playbook is still under development, Bimonte likes its direction.
“You could definitely tell that [Friedgen] knows his stuff,” Bimonte said. “His main goal is just to do what we do best and try to play to our advantages. That’s really what he wants to focus on and that’s what he’s told us. He doesn’t want to really try to form us to a certain scheme, but he wants to use the scheme that we best fit.”
With several key offensive players currently out or limited, Rutgers’ quarterback competition is likely to drag on into training camp.
After three years of waiting his turn, Bimonte feels a sense of urgency to seize the moment.
“I feel like this is the best opportunity and the biggest one I’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out and just going to continue to work and get better.”
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