Rutgers announces Artur Sitkowski as starting quarterback
New era begins for Scarlet Knights under true freshman
It took 17 days of summer practices, but the wait is finally over.
On Thursday, the Rutgers football team officially announced true freshman Artur Sitkowski as its starting quarterback who will take the ball against Texas State on Sept. 1 at High Point Solutions Stadium in the team’s season opener.
The day before, head coach Chris Ash met with members of the media and played coy about the unveil out of respect to the players. Nevertheless, he did offer a tidbit of how he and the team felt about the decision.
“We feel really confident about the young man that will end up taking the opening snap for us against Texas State,” Ash said on Wednesday.
With Sitkowski beating out fifth-year senior Giovanni Rescigno, it marks the first time a true freshman will start a game for Rutgers since Oct. 8, 2011 when Gary Nova led the team to a 34-10 beatdown over Pittsburgh. Sitkowski will also be the first freshman to start a season opener for the Knights since Ryan Cubit in 2001.
He will take over an offense that scored 18.0 points per game and ranked 121st out of 130 teams in 2017. Regardless, Ash hopes this is the start of a new era for Rutgers football and has already seen an improvement at this point of the season than years prior.
“I’m really happy with the unit overall,” Ash said. “The unit has really elevated its play, it’s been very tight, the chemistry has been great, the connection with coach McNulty has been great. The command of what we want to do offensively continues to improve.”
Offensive Coordinator John McNulty — who last year was the tight ends coach for the San Diego Chargers in the NFL — is being raved about by the players and coaches for what he’s been implementing this season, especially regarding the tight ends.
“It’s a privilege to be able to play for him. He’s a great coach and the way he uses the tight end in the offense is great for all of us …” said sophomore tight end Travis Vokolek. “... There’s times where we’ve got all three of us or all four of us on the field at the same time and we didn’t see that last year. He definitely has a way for us to go out there and make plays.”
With the addition of McNulty and the rise of Sitkowski, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the offensive side of the ball for the Knights. But it doesn’t stop there.
Ash also briefly mentioned his plan at the running back position and said his team will have three or four guys that play at that position and play consistently, though he didn’t say who will be on the field for the opening snap yet.
As for everything else, it’s been pretty “status quo,” Ash said.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, we’re not where we want to be but we’re ahead of where we’ve been,” he said. “We’ve had a really good training camp, this week has been an outstanding week of preparation and we’re really pleased about it.”
One player who is particularly excited to get on the field this season is senior tight end Jerome Washington, who Rutgers plans to use extensively this season under McNulty’s playbook.
Washington knows this is his last year of college football left and what better way to end a collegiate career as a tight end than with an offensive coordinator known as a tight end specialist.
“Yeah I’m definitely excited to play in this offense because we’re utilized in a bunch of different ways and it really is great to show our skill set, and in terms of learning about football, you have to do so many different things so it really makes you study the game,” he said.
Whatever happens on the offensive side this season, Ash has seen his team take great strides in the right direction and he is hopeful that continues throughout the season and for years to come.
“They’re very confident and they’re pushing each other and it’s been a great healthy competition and our football team hopefully is gonna benefit from that whole unit and regardless of who starts, the unit is gonna continue to push each other,” he said.
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