August 20, 2018 | ° F

Tight ends add key element on offense for Rutgers

Photo by Ruoxuan Yang |

Senior offensive tackle Keith Lumpkin said the Knights need to focus on limiting their turnovers. Rutgers is idle this Saturday before taking on No. 2 Michigan State when the team returns to action Oct. 10.

The relationship between a tight end and starting quarterback requires as much synergy and chemistry as any two positions on the field.

The tight end allows the quarterback a certain degree of security. The position adds an extra blocker or a sure-handed target for the signal caller to come back to during his progression.

The Rutgers football team is no exception to this rule and boasts a tight end room and quarterback who share this relationship.

Sophomore Matt Flanagan and junior Nick Arcidiacono provide sophomore quarterback Chris Laviano with that security blanket. Flanagan and Arcidiacono have combined for 15 receptions on the season, with fellow tight end Charles Scarff adding another nine catches.

Photo: Michelle Klejmont

For Flanagan, who has three touchdowns this fall on 10 receptions, the increased production of the tight ends is a product of offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels’ playbook. A pro-style offense like McDaniels' allows for the tight end to be used more often, according to Flanagan.

“I think in any pro-style offense you need to have a productive tight end — it gives you another threat,” Flanagan said. “When you want to pass the ball, you don’t have to put yourself in all three wide receiver sets. You can come out in what looks like a run package, then confuse the defense. The philosophy we have is getting them in personnel matches to go up against something they wouldn’t expect.”

In an offense that draws from that of older brother Josh (New England Patriots offensive coordinator), the Scarlet Knights have valued the tight end just like the Patriots this season. Laviano even admitted one of his favorite quarterbacks to watch on Sundays is Tom Brady.

The sophomore signal-caller buys into the fact that the tight ends and quarterback have good chemistry on the field. But Laviano also admits that when he throws to the tight ends, it’s because that’s where he finds himself during his reads and pass progressions, not because he favors a certain player or position.

“On those certain plays where I do go to the tight ends, they are either wide open or that’s the highest percentage of throw I can make in that particular read versus that coverage the defense is giving,” Laviano said.

The dynamic that makes the relationship between Flanagan and Laviano different is how they interact off the field.

Laviano and Flanagan are roommates. Along with all the time they spend at practice, in the Hale Center and on game day, they also see each other outside the game of football.

That relationship aids in making it possible for the pair to connect on two touchdowns so far this season.

“We have a really good relationship,” Laviano said of Flanagan. “As far as me finding him on the field, that’s just usually how the play is designed. Flanagan has done great doing his job and on the plays he is open, he executes really well.”

Interim head coach Norries Wilson believes that roommates share increased chemistry. Wilson also thinks that the added time together can help the pair if they are confused on certain plays or concepts.

Wilson did say some bad could come from being roommates with a teammate you are close to on the field.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Wilson joked when he was told Laviano and Flanagan are roommates. “But I think being roommates can play a lot into it. It might be bad sometimes if the non-quarterback says, ‘Hey, I’m open on every snap.’ The quarterback still has to go through his progression, but it can play a lot into talking about plays that they need to be connected on.”

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.

Tyler Karalewich

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