Quarterback competition even in early stages of Rutgers spring camp
When head football coach Chris Ash made it known he and offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer planned on implementing the spread offense in Piscataway, few members of the Rutgers football team were as excited as sophomore quarterback Giovanni Rescigno.
The Warren, Michigan, native came to the Banks with a profile of a dual-threat quarterback after throwing for 1,396 yards and 16 touchdowns while rushing for 512 yards and five touchdowns in his senior season of high school.
Unable to use his skills to their full potential in the pro-style offense run by former head coach Kyle Flood in his first two seasons at Rutgers, Rescigno is making the most of his fresh start this Spring.
“I was very excited (about the spread offense),” he said. “Part of my game is being athletic … so obviously I was very excited. I wanted to get to work immediately, start learning the playbook and I’m excited Spring ball is here so we could get better.”
Rescigno has been splitting reps with junior quarterbacks Hayden Rettig and Chris Laviano as the starting spot in the position is up for grabs for the second straight spring.
Laviano started 11 of 12 games last season under center, playing in the pro-style offense he played in high school.
While he said he played out of the shotgun in his final two years of high school, the Glen Head, New York, native admits he hasn’t done it for a while. Regardless, he feels things are going in the right direction.
“It’s been great,” he said of learning the spread. “It’s different, but we’re on the right track.”
The difference with this spring is the playing field is even as all three quarterbacks are simultaneously learning a new offense and its playbook.
Last season, Laviano had a leg up on his competition after playing in five games as backup to Gary Nova in 2014.
While Ash said Laviano “probably” has an advantage due to his game experience, he made it clear it did not mean he has the starting spot locked up.
Mehringer echoed the sentiment.
“I told everybody from (Chris) Laviano, the starter this past year, and then you look at Gio (Rescigno) and Hayden (Rettig), all the way down to Jack Clements the walk-on, ‘Let’s go,’” he said. “If you didn’t come here to compete, this isn’t the right place for you.”
Rettig, a fan favorite for which #FreeRettig was made to plea for his release on Saturdays last season, earned just one start as he played backup to Laviano for most of the campaign.
He believes the new offense allows everyone a fair chance in the competition, but he chooses not to look at the past, instead opting to look strictly at what lies ahead.
“In general, playbook being even because we're both learning the offense, yes, (it's fair)," he said. "(But) I'm still not going to talk about last year ... I'm past that. Don't really want to talk about it. In the past. Flip the page."
The coaching staff has been taking its time in introducing concepts to their players, allowing things to slowly become ingrained. Mehringer said the team “won’t have the depth of the playbook until probably fall camp,” evidencing the patience with which the program is being built.
For the former Houston wide receivers coach, the most important thing right now is not implementing the complete system, but evaluating talent.
“You want to put in the things right now that you know that you believe in, the concepts that you believe in,” Mehringer said. “To get the positions evaluated, you want to give them a fair chance at competing. So you can’t put too much in so their minds are bogged down with a whole bunch of information and they can’t go out and play fast, and you can truly evaluate the talent that you have.”
Two practices in, the quarterbacks seem comfortable in the transition. With 13 practices to go and loads of information to take in, they’re looking to keep moving forward as the first season of the Ash era approaches.
“I think it’s been going really well,” Rescigno said. “Obviously, there are a lot of things to work on system wise, knowing the plays better, knowing the rules, the jobs here and there so we just have to keep going forward in the spring and see how it goes and we should be fine.”