Sophomore quarterback shoots up depth chart, makes debut against Howard
Giovanni Rescigno’s 42-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter of the Rutgers football team’s home opener against Howard was far from being the most important moment of the game.
Though impressive — the sophomore quarterback stumbled, then shed five tackles before reaching the endzone — it just piled onto the already insurmountable lead the Scarlet Knights (1-1) had on their visitors, pushing it to 49-12 with just over 12 minutes remaining in the game.
But what the second snap of his collegiate career lacked in significance in the game, it made up for in its symbolism for Rescigno’s rapid rise up the quarterback ranks at Rutgers.
The Warren, Michigan, native is now the back-up behind junior quarterback Chris Laviano, and that in itself is a big improvement over being an outsider for the position during the battle in both spring and fall camps.
"Gio is not far behind, I don't think,'' said offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer. "Gio has done a nice job in practice. Other than a few errors he's made in a few critical situations in practice, Gio is right there. His progress has been tremendous, honestly, since spring. He's had a really good camp and first couple weeks of practice throughout the season.”
Playing behind Laviano and junior Hayden Rettig at the start of spring camp just as he did for the entirety of last season, his journey to his current position was further complicated a couple of months before training camp when graduate transfer Zach Allen joined the mix from TCU.
But rather than being deterred, Rescigno became determined to move up the depth chart.
“From the spring to the summer to training camp, a lot changed,” he said as he described how he did it following the Knights' 52-14 win over the Bison. “I got a lot better, confidence grew a lot, more reps came along and, like I said before, I didn’t want to take those reps for granted so every rep I got, I wanted to make sure I did ... the best I could and learn from those reps so the next time I did it, it’d be better and better and better.”
Being a back-up is nothing new to Rescigno. He spent most games of his first three seasons at De La Salle Collegiate High School backing up five-star recruit Shane Morris, who is currently backing-up Wilton Speights at Michigan, before starting his senior year and playing good enough to earn a scholarship from Rutgers — the only Division I program to extend him one.
While not the ideal position to be in, it prepared him for the moments he faced in the first offseason of head coach Chris Ash’s tenure in Piscataway and allowed him to improve as much as he did under offensive coordinator and quarterbacks' coach Drew Mehringer.
“Throughout high school and coming into college, it’s always been the position I’ve been in ... always behind somebody or third-string or this and that,” he said. “I’m not the kind of person that’s gonna put my feelings in front of what I want to accomplish throughout college and in my life in general, so I’m not gonna waste any chance or moment I have. I’m just gonna work hard and hopefully everything works out from there.”
Rescigno was removed from the game following the first series of his career with the Knights, making room for true freshman Tylin Oden as he was given a chance to flash his potential in the spread offense.
The decision wasn’t made because Ash was disappointed with Rescigno’s performance, though.
“Well, Gio came in for a series and scored a touchdown, so (I) liked him pretty good,” Ash said. “He did a nice job. Pretty good ratio, one drive, one touchdown.”
The depth chart at the start of the third game week of the season remained the same as the one before it, with Laviano leading the charge and Rescigno and Allen behind, but the gap appears to be getting smaller.
Though Ash said he doesn’t envision a scenario in which his team will use multiple quarterbacks, Ash did concede that the quarterback position is still being evaluated.
“Chris Laviano is still our starter, but we're still evaluating that position just like we are several positions,” he said. “Chris knows that, and we all know that … If we keep going and the production isn't there or we don't feel like a certain individual gives us the best chance to win, then we'll look at other options.”
If a change is made at quarterback this season, it’s likely that Rescigno is the next man up to start.
As early as a month ago, it seemed an almost unthinkable scenario to everyone but him. He believed the possibility is there, and if the opportunity presents itself, Rescigno is ready to take it.
“Whatever coach wants us to do, whenever coach calls my number and wants me to go in the game, I’ll be ready to go. That’s why I prepare every week, don’t take the reps for granted and I’m ready to go.”