Rutgers names new starting quarterback
After breaking down the film and determining the evaluation of his two sophomore quarterbacks from their performances in last Saturday’s 63-13 route of Norfolk State, Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood came to a decision on Monday.
Citing the overall body of work as a pivotal factor in reaching the ultimate decision, the fourth-year head coach elected to go with Chris Laviano over Hayden Rettig for when the Scarlet Knights (1-0) host Washington State (0-1) on Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium.
While both quarterbacks impressed in the season opener in their respective ways, Flood’s choice to go with Laviano seems to stem from the consistency that the Glen Head, New York, native has possessed since he and Rettig entered the position battle back in the spring.
“The body of work. I think this process went longer than I expected it to,” Flood said. “I said after the game I think we didn’t anticipate it going this long, but what it did do for us was present a large body of work in the two scrimmages, an actual game, watching (Laviano) play in the stadium — all those things factor in.”
Neither quarterback has been made available to the media since Rettig was named the starter after training camp practice on Aug. 25. On the same day, Flood announced Laviano’s suspension for attempting to enter an establishment with a fake ID.
After constant references to the team’s starting quarterback being able to win the locker room, Flood said he felt as if both have done that.
It speaks volumes about how the Knights must feel about Laviano, with a forgive-and-forget mentality opening a second chance for the signal-caller after the suspension handed the starting gig over to Rettig by default.
Rettig, who evidently proved to have shed the rust in his first live football game since 2012 in his collegiate debut, completed 9-of-11 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown through the air.
He even flashed some unexpected mobility on a pair of broken-play scrambles, taking two carries for 17 yards — one of which went for a touchdown on a five-yard hurdle over a Norfolk State defender.
Despite his hot start, Flood went with Laviano in the second half. Rettig reentered the game late in the fourth quarter, but only to feed the Rutgers running backs and chew up the clock towards the tail end of the blowout victory.
Laviano, who hit senior wide receiver Leonte Carroo for three touchdowns in one quarter, finished his day a perfect 4-for-4 with 138 yards through the air.
Asked whether or not there was anything more Rettig could have done to solidify his starting position, Flood did not dive into specifics.
“It’s not more about what anybody could have done,” Flood said. “Ultimately, I’ve got to look at the body of work and make a decision based on of who gives us the best opportunity to go 1-0 just like we do at any position.”
After spending the first half warming up with Laviano in the weight room and training room as the two Knights served their suspensions, Carroo lit it up with Laviano.
Even if it was against a worn-down Spartans defense in the second half, the three injected a serious jolt of energy to ignite what eventually became a 50-point torching.
Now, they will try to duplicate that again this week against the Cougars.
“I’m proud of him. He won the job,” Carroo said of Laviano. “Coach Flood feels he’s what’s best for the program. … I didn’t get a chance to work with Hayden (Rettig) in the first half with game-time experience, but I know that he’s a great quarterback and if he was out there he would’ve been able to, for next week, be able to lead us as well. Coach Flood feels like he’s the guy that’s best for the team, best for the program and my job is just to go out there and catch balls and make plays regardless of who the quarterback is.”
While Paul James finds himself back on the injury report for this week, the senior running back should be good to go for Washington State.
Listed as probable on the team’s weekly report with a lower body injury after returning to the field for the first time since his ACL injury nearly one year ago to date, James took 15 carries for 82 yards in Saturday’s 63-13 trouncing of Norfolk State.
James, who played in all four quarters, showed no limitations with his surgically-repaired knee.
“I wasn’t really sure going into it. I knew I was going to play and get carries, but I wasn’t really sure how much I was gonna get,” James said. “But it wasn’t really surprising. I’m ready for that, a lot of carries, if they need me to. … I’m ready for whatever the game plays.”
Flood said he did not question easing up on James’ workload, citing the medical staff for his decision to play James all game long.
“When the medical staff tells me a player is 100 percent ready to play, he plays,” Flood said. “What we were doing, I believe at that point in the game, was we were rolling the running backs through on a rotation and what I said to Coach Wilson is, ‘Keep the rotation going.’”
While it remains to be seen how many carries James will receive in a rotation featuring sophomores Josh Hicks (18 carries, 122 yards and two touchdowns) and Robert Martin (10 carries, 69 yards), the senior captain feels fresh after getting his feet wet in week one.
With Washington State looming, James stressed the importance of a heavy ground attack to keep the Knights balanced on offense.
“I think (having a strong running game) is really important. It keeps our offense on the field, it keeps them off the field because that’s all they do is pass the ball a lot,” James said. “… So, the running game is something that they don’t really see too often when they’re practicing because they’ve gotta go against the air raid. So, I feel like that’s something that we can use as a strong point to help us out.”
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