Nova shows signs of improved decision-making in scrimmage
At this point in the year, there is little Gary Nova can do to ease concerns about his ability to play at a consistently high level for the Rutgers football team.
Until the senior quarterback puts together a more complete season, doubts about the mental aspect of his game will likely continue to linger. Head coach Kyle Flood insisted Saturday he is not ready to name a starter for next season anytime soon, despite Nova’s impressive spring.
Still, after Nova outshined his quarterback competition in the Scarlet Knights’ second scrimmage featuring more play action and shotgun than a run-oriented first session April 5, Flood notices improvement in his decision-making.
“It’ s never been an issue of whether or not Gary can make the throws,” Flood said. “We knew he could do that. He’s got a lot of arm talent. I thought he’s done an excellent job this spring as a whole of really making good decisions and putting the ball in great locations.”
With junior Leonte Carroo limited and sophomore Ruhann Peele out for the spring, Nova has mostly worked with a less experienced receiving corps. But it is showing benefits.
The senior is building a rapport with sophomores Carlton Agudosi and Andre Patton, who figure to play more significant roles next season.
Both possess wiry frames, and Nova especially sees the 6-foot-6 Aguodosi as a viable red zone threat.
“He has all the ability, so once he gets the reps and the mental part of the game down, I think he can be a huge weapon for us down in the red zone,” Nova said. “Last-minute situations where you put it up there for him, he can go get it.”
From a decision-making standpoint, Nova is shying away from forcing passes into tight coverage, instead making a habit this spring of spiking the ball or throwing it away if an opening isn’t there.
But most of Rutgers’ scrimmage consisted of situational plays and not game-like drives, and with much of the offensive playbook still under development, Nova isn’t satisfied.
His key remains sustaining composure.
“You create the habits in practice, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to do it in the game,” Nova said. “I’ve got to have better carryover from what I do in practice to the game.”
With only one season left with Rutgers, Nova says his urgency is at an all-time high.
Going into the Big Ten, he has extra help in graduate assistant and former Knight Mike Teel, the Knights’ career leader in touchdowns and passing yards.
“I couldn’t ask for anyone better to be on the sideline with me, a guy who’s basically been through the same journey as me,” Nova said. “Every time I come off [the field], I’m talking to him. He’s helping me, talking me through it. We meet afterwards. It’s just great.”
With sophomore outside linebacker Quentin Gause ruled out for the remainder of spring last week with a shoulder injury, sophomore L.J. Liston and redshirt freshman Myles Nash received significant first-team reps in Saturday’s scrimmage.
Flood, who said he needs to take a closer look on film, had mixed impressions from the naked eye. Rutgers is looking for both to provide depth at a premium position in the Big Ten.
“I thought L.J. had a pretty good day,” Flood said. “I think Myles is still learning about the way we play defense. He’s flashed some spectacular stuff this spring, but I’m not sure he’s ready just yet.”
Liston, who recorded 16 tackles in limited action in 12 games last season, flashed a fierce tackle for loss on sophomore running back Desmon Peoples.
He said coaches pointed out minor corrections in his assignments, but overall reaped benefits of working with the starting unit.
“I look at it like this: Going up against [offensive linemen] Kaleb [Johnson] and Betim [Bujari — people like that, those guys are like the other guys on the other teams,” Liston said. “Getting reps with the 1s is a big thing for me.”
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