Changes to depth chart mark beginning of first game week of Chris Ash era at Rutgers
Training camp has come to a close for the Rutgers football team and gone with it is a big picture look at the first season of the Chris Ash era in Piscataway.
It’s finally game week one and all the Scarlet Knights are focused on is preparing to face No. 14 Washington. With game week came an official update to the two-deep depth chart since the first day of training camp on August 8.
There was no surprise on who is starting at quarterback — Ash announced junior Chris Laviano as the starter last Monday and backed him up this Monday.
“Laviano’s our quarterback," Ash said. "Right now, the way someone else would play would be due to an injury or we’re up in a game to a point where we felt comfortable to put another quarterback in.”
The battle for the next man-up will end by the end of this week and it has seen some shake-up.
Junior Hayden Rettig, thought to be the main threat to taking Laviano’s position as the starter coming out of spring camp, was the odd man out of the two-deep behind graduate transfer Zach Allen and sophomore Giovanni Rescigno.
Rettig lost ground at the start of training camp as Allen was listed as a co-starter with Laviano while he was listed as a back-up with Rescigno, who appears to have since taken a leap in the battle.
But the notion Rettig is the furthest behind in the competition was dispelled by offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer, who explained why the depth chart looks the way it does.
“Zach and Gio both have a good understanding of what we want to do offensively,” he said. “One of the things that I think both of them need to have is, like I talked about with Chris, is they have to be more consistent in day-to-day practices. ... Hayden Rettig’s the same way, he’s right in there in terms of, what they can do every single day? Are the same mistakes going to keep showing up or is that continual improvement going to be there?”
Leading the line for the spot alongside Laviano is senior running back Justin Goodwin. The Madison, New Jersey, native has jumped to the top of the running back hierarchy after junior Robert Martin spent some time in training camp in a green practice jersey, indicating he was limited.
Martin is expected to be 100 percent by Saturday’s game and is listed as a co-backup with fellow junior Josh Hicks, but he’ll come into the game after Goodwin, who was challenged by the coaching staff at the end of spring and faced it head on.
“Goody’s a great kid, he’s a lot of fun to be around. We asked him, though, at the end of spring, ‘Are you just a nice guy? Is that all you are? Just a nice guy?’ and he kind of was like, ‘No. I’m a tough football player.’ And I was like ‘We gotta see that,’” Mehringer said. “Goody came out and played really physical this fall camp. ... I have no hesitation when he goes into a game at all because I believe in that kid and the amount of work he’s put in.”
Greg Jones was the biggest surprise on the defensive side of the depth chart, overtaking sophomore Najee Clayton as the starting strongside linebacker.
“I see both of those guys playing in the game, just feel like right now Jones has a little bit of an edge from the standpoint of just his overall performance,” said defensive coordinator Jay Niemann. “He’s a really savvy football player, very smart football player. He picks up on things quickly and that’s allowed for his growth to come at the rate that it has. He just gets better all the time, just grown more and more comfortable with the position … he’s just progressed nicely from practice one in spring practice until we are now.”
The fifth-year senior’s journey to his dream school in Piscataway was a roller coaster ride filled with many twists and turns, but all the effort will culminate in him running out of the tunnel at Husky Stadium with his teammates and lining up behind an experienced defensive line in the first defensive series of the season.
“It’s going to be a dream come true. I’m excited, I’m ready for it,” Jones said of taking the field for the Knights for the first time. “I’m just hoping it’s everything I’ve been dreaming about, like the big lights and everything and it’s pointing down on me hopefully. I’ll be ready for it though, whatever happens.”