Scout player mimics Navy QB in game prep
There was a media swarm of three cameras and nearly a dozen reporters after practice.
Several teammates ran over once they saw who it was being interviewed and snapped imaginary photos, wanting to participate in the hype.
He wasn’t really good enough to be recruited at the FBS level collegiately — some of the only offers he received were from FCS schools, and he was all set to go to Colgate University — but this week that player being interviewed will have one of the biggest roles of all for the Rutgers football team.
The star of the media availability is a quarterback, but not senior Gary Nova. He’s also a sophomore defensive player, but it’s not standout middle linebacker Steve Longa. He’s a walk-on, but not preferred like Paul James or Michael Burton.
The man who stood in front of media was sophomore safety Brian Verbitski, this week’s scout team quarterback.
Verbitski is tasked with trying to replicate Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who, according to head coach Kyle Flood, is the best Navy option quarterback the Scarlet Knights have prepared for since Flood came to Rutgers in 2005.
In his first few practices in the role, Verbitski has already turned heads.
“He looked excellent. I think Brian does a really good job,” Flood said. “He has a little quarterback in his background from high school. He’s a high-intangible guy, a detail-oriented guy. That’s exactly what you have to have at that position running your scout team because they are certainly going to have it on Saturday.”
Senior fullback Michael Burton said the team has noticed Verbitski’s performance.
“He’s obviously doing a great job. Coach Flood said he did a really good job after practice today, and that’s awesome,” Burton said. “He’s a very hardworking kid, always getting extra lifts, so it doesn’t surprise me that he was pointed out as having a great day. He’s got to keep that up and really simulate the guy from Navy.”
Navy runs an extremely challenging, unique offensive scheme known as the triple option — and they run it well. Flood claimed Navy is the best in the world at running that particular offense.
The formations and plays are characterized by running the football, but Navy doesn’t just hand it off right up the middle every time. All three options can run the ball, and it’s up to the quarterback to make the decision in his reads of who should run it.
With Verbitski at the helm of the scout offense, it’s his job to emulate the offense and make sure the defense faces a similar look to game day so they can prepare.
Although Flood alluded to Verbitski’s past as a quarterback, the scout team specialist never characterized himself as one but explained why he was eligible to take the job.
“I played quarterback in high school. I was more of a running quarterback, and I never really had the arm strength to be one, so I consider myself more of a running back that threw the ball occasionally,” Verbitski said. “I didn’t run the triple option, but I ran the ball a lot. So I guess they figured I would fit in. During training camp they asked me if I would do it, and I said ‘yeah.’”
Coming to Rutgers to play football wasn’t a guarantee. Verbitski only had one offer, a Division 1-AA offer from Colgate that was rescinded due to timing issues, he said.
Verbitski then decided to take his chances by attending the open tryout and making the team as a walk-on. He already liked the school’s academics, he said.
Verbitski acknowledges how good of a quarterback Reynolds is and said how special it is to be trusted with duplicating the production.
“I think it’s pretty awesome to be trusted with the big role,” Verbitski said. “I’ve played scout team defense for quite a while now, and I never thought I’d be playing quarterback again after high school. If you look at my stats, they are not the greatest. It’s cool the coaches think I can do it, and I know I can do it. I’ll just give the best look I can.”
In the two practices on scout offense, Verbitski has already noticed a tremendous difference in the type of practice, going from a defensive guy to an offensive guy.
“Last week, going against the offense, you [weren’t] really allowed to touch them,” Verbitski said. “This week, I’m getting banged up left and right, and it’s kind of throwing me back to my high school days. It’s a lot of fun.”
But after a long day of getting knocked around by a scholarship defensive line with guys approaching 300 pounds, there was only one thing Verbitski wanted to do.
“[I’ve got to] hit the tubs after this interview,” he said. “I feel good now. [I’ve got to] make sure I feel good tomorrow.”
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.