Rutgers kicks off training camp
The Rutgers football team kicked off its first day of training camp Friday morning, as it gets set to enter its third season under head coach Chris Ash’s leadership.
Ash and the Scarlet Knights have a little under a month’s time to prepare for their season opener against Texas State on Sept. 1 at High Point Solutions Stadium.
The first practice of training camp usually always comes with the need to brush off some of the off-time rust, and Ash outright acknowledged it as a formality.
“Our guys looked great physically today. We’re in great shape, but we are not in football shape,” Ash said after practice. “We’ve got to work on our practice tempo, work on the execution, among other things.”
This was the first time Rutgers hit the practice field in front of the media since the annual spring game last April, and just as it was during spring training, the quarterback competition is still the biggest storyline of the summer — and will continue to be until Ash names a starter.
Heading into the spring game, there were three main names in the quarterback carousel that were favored to potentially be the starter come Sept. 1: sophomore Johnathan Lewis, true freshman Artur Sitkowski and fifth-year senior Giovanni Rescigno.
As of the first day of training camp, Rescigno seems to have the best chance at taking the first snap for the Knights, as he has more experience than Lewis and Sitkowski and was named the starter after just the first day of training camp a year ago, but according to Ash, the race has only just begun.
“We’ve got a long way to go to say we’ve got a quarterback that we can go in with right now, but it’s day one, so that’s pretty much what we figured,” Ash said. “… There’s no date, there’s no set timeline. It’s whenever we feel comfortable that our team has rallied around somebody and somebody has got command of the offense and the rest of the team, and goes out there and does what we want him to do.”
The quarterback trio split reps during the Scarlet-White game last spring, with Sitkowski going 11 of 24 for 280 yards and 3 touchdowns, Lewis seemingly struggling with a 4 for 10, 19-yard and 0-touchdown output and Rescigno putting in a solid 9-19, 87-yard day.
Ash did put in quarterback Tom Flacco during the game — who did put up solid numbers in the air and on the ground, going 8-10 for 87 yards and rushing for 25 yards and a touchdown — but Flacco has since transferred to Towson.
An easy tell as to whom should be the starting quarterback when the season begins will be who has mastered the new offense brought in by first-year offensive coordinator John McNulty. McNulty is entering his second stint on the Rutgers sidelines after spending the last 10 years in the NFL with four different teams.
No matter who starts for the Knights come September, Ash feels that the team as a whole is already ahead of where it was at this point last year.
“I would think that as we progress into training camp hopefully that gap will grow from where we are today, to where we were a year ago, because just a mental understanding of what we are doing on both sides of the ball is a lot greater,” Ash said.