Inexperienced QB shines in first spring scrimmage
It was only the first scrimmage of the spring, and film will reveal more, but Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood was impressed Saturday with what he saw from the naked eye of Mike Bimonte.
One of three quarterbacks working with the first-team unit, the junior threw 6-for-8 for 108 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown and another rushing score, according to an unofficial stat count.
In an open competition largely viewed as a battle between senior Gary Nova and redshirt freshman Chris Laviano, Bimonte made his case for more first-team snaps.
“I think you put a lot of stock into it,” Flood said of Bimonte’s touchdowns. “The quarterback who operates and ultimately takes the team down the field and puts it in the endzone, we’re always going to take that into consideration. Mike is a very smart football player and somebody who has always been able to go in there and operate for us, and today I thought he did a good job.”
Still, it is hard to draw too much from a run-heavy scrimmage with many key players unavailable. Eleven were out of action, including leading junior receivers Leonte Carroo and Tyler Kroft. Seven others were limited.
Nova and Laviano both completed about half their passes in snaps with the first team. Sophomore Blake Rankin and redshirt freshman walk-on Devin Ray failed to complete a pass in limited play with the second unit, with Ray throwing an interception.
Flood said he expects Nova, Laviano and Bimonte to continue taking snaps with the first team this week, but again insisted the Knights need to start finding more rhythm on offense.
“I thought [Bimonte] and Gary both had some good plays,” Flood said. “I thought Chris struggled, which doesn’t surprise me because he’s had less experience than any of them. Again, we’re only six practices into it, but I think we’re going to have to tighten this thing down as we go.”
All of the quarterbacks will be available to the media for the first time this spring after tomorrow’s practice.
Under new offensive and defensive coordinators, the Knights expressed pleasure with the direction of both units after the first scrimmage.
Sophomore weakside linebacker Steve Longa said Rutgers is running a similar defensive playbook to last season, but with simpler terminology and a greater emphasis on getting hands on receivers in pass coverage.
Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi also stresses understanding assignments and detail, Longa said.
“Coach Rossi, he’s a detail guy,” Longa said. “When he has a play, he tells you why you’re running it. ... You’ve got to know what the guy in front of you is doing so you could fill in off of him. He’s very, very detailed. It helps us understand the way our defense runs and it’s easier on us because we know where to be.”
Senior fullback Michael Burton said offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen, who most recently head coached at Maryland for 10 years and brings over 40 years of experience, makes calls that are “player friendly.”
Flood and Friedgen expressed back in February wanting to find more consistency running the ball, as Rutgers averaged fewer than 4 yards per carry last season.
“I really like his schemes. They’re smart,” Burton said. “He’s a very, very intelligent, smart guy, and the thing about him is he puts us in the best position to be successful running the ball.”
In a continuing trend from the past two seasons, Rutgers lacked consistency kicking field goals in Saturday’s scrimmage.
According to an unofficial count, juniors Kyle Federico and Nick Borgese went a combined 1-for-6 on attempts under windy conditions. Flood had both attempt extra kicks at the end of practice behind the encouragement of teammates.
“We need to make kicks,” Flood said. “When you miss the amount of field goals that we missed today, and we had a little bit of a comeback in the competition in the end, but it was disappointing to see us miss some of those kicks in the red zone.”
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