True freshman Tylin Oden shows potential in debut against Howard
While Chris Laviano played better than his two-turnover, seven yards-per-completion performance in the season opener, offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer wasn't incredibly enthusiastic when asked about the Rutgers starting quarterback's game against Howard.
"Chris Laviano played ... okay," he said, the pause in his answer noticeable.
The junior signal-caller certainly had his ups — highlighted by three touchdown passes and 24 rushing yards out of the read option — but his interception on the Knights' first offensive play of the game and 14-yard sack that knocked the Knights out of field goal range in the second quarter held him back from having a "decent game," Mehringer said.
If Laviano's erratic play continues, the door will always be left open for changes at the position and Rutgers hinted it may be coming at the quarterback position in the fourth quarter.
With 12:49 left on the clock and the Knights leading 42-14, Laviano and most other starters were relieved of their duties for the day. Laviano was replaced by sophomore Giovanni Rescigno, who battled from the lower half of the depth chart in spring and training camp to the team's No. 2 quarterback to start the season.
Rescigno was only in for one drive, but it wasn't because of poor play. After keeping it on a read option, Rescigno broke through the grasp of three defenders at once on his way to a 42-yard touchdown run on the first rushing attempt of his career.
Rescigno's powerful dash to the end zone was arguably the most exciting play of the day, but it was who came in at quarterback for Rutgers on the following drive that would really raise the eyebrows of those following the Knights.
Chris Ash never said one way or the other what Rutgers' plans were regarding true freshman quarterback Tylin Oden. The dual-threat quarterback was originally committed to Louisville, but following his decommitment in January, was lured to Piscataway by Ash and Mehringer.
Since Oden didn't land on the training camp depth chart and was never mentioned as a serious competitor for the starting job, a redshirt season seemed to be a likely option.
Oden subbed into the game with 10:22 left and immediately showed why Ash and his staff were intrigued with him as a prospect.
Running nothing but read options and designed scrambles, Oden flashed his quickness, second-gear speed and elusiveness in the open field. On a 16-play, eight-minute drive the three-star recruit rushed for 55 yards on nine attempts, including a dash of 30 yards.
"(Oden's) still got a long way to go, but we needed to get him in there to see what he could do," Ash said. "But, yeah, I never said we (would) redshirt him, (but) never told you we'd play him either. Just happened that the score got that way. We had conversations throughout training camp about what are we gonna do with Tylin. As he's continued to improve and progress, he's a guy that fits our offense and when we get the opportunity to get him in there, we're gonna that."
While Oden was impressive on the ground, he didn't attempt, nor even look to attempt, a single pass. While that might have been by design to keep the clock ticking in the final quarter of a lopsided game, it is an area that the Columbia, Tennessee, native has to improve on.
"Tylin needs a lot of work (in the passing game)," Mehringer said. "The passing game is not something that you pick up overnight in my opinion. It takes work, there's footwork, there's protection issues, where to go when you're hot, what to do against a different scheme defensively."
Mehringer reiterated after the game that Laviano still gives the Knights the best chance to win at the quarterback position from a full-game perspective. But it's hard to imagine that Rutgers would burn Oden's redshirt simply to have him get reps at the backend of routs.
Oden most likely won't be pushing Laviano for the full-time starting position any time soon, but if the Knights' offensive staff feels like it can gain an advantage over the opposing defense in a certain situation with a mobile quarterback, the freshman could be used in a situational, two-quarterback system.
"We wanna prepare for the best chance for our offense and for our team to win, whatever that may look like. I asked in Tylin how he felt about that specific scenario and he was great with it," Mehringer said on the prospects of Oden playing in a two-quarterback system. "Is he gonna jump in there and get more reps, I know that's gonna be the follow-up question, I don't know yet. That's a conversation between me and coach Ash that we'll probably have tomorrow and Monday following up about Tylin."