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Rutgers Football Holds Student Appreciation Day | Practice Report

Rutgers QB Chris Laviano taking a snap at practice 4/16/16 (Photo-Chris Nalwasky)

Rutgers QB Chris Laviano taking a snap at practice 4/16/16 (Photo-Chris Nalwasky)

Student Appreciation DayRUgohard (600x800)

Rutgers football held their 11th spring practice on Saturday, and a few extra guests were invited. Among the standard families of players and recruits, there were upwards of about 250 RU students that joined the fold for Student Appreciation Day – including yours truly.

Students were kept in the loop all day with a photo area where you can try on jerseys and helmets, a station where you can try and show off your accuracy and arm by throwing a football into trash bins, and a lane after practice to kick field goals and do 40-yard dashes.

But during practice, the students were invited to get an up close view of the action as well as participate in some drills and warmups with the players and coaches.

The Quarterbacks

With the spring game now less than a week away on April 23 at 7:00 p.m., much of the focus is on the quarterback battle between redshirt juniors Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig, and redshirt sophomore Gio Rescigno.

Head coach Chris Ash recently said Laviano was a few steps ahead, but a poor scrimmage last weekend and no separation form Rettig or Rescigno has the competition even again. However, Laviano still took all the first-team reps on Saturday.

While after the team huddled and Ash spoke to the team, they announced the defense won the day. But, the quarterbacks each had their moments.

In 11-on-11 action, the first-team, led by Laviano, drove down and scored twice in six tries, including two touchdown passes to Janarion Grant. Grant looks to be more heavily involved in this new power spread attack, lining up all over the field and using his shiftiness, speed, and warrior-like mentality.

Rettig scored twice through the air to Vance Mathews and Carlton Agudosi, while Rescigno used his legs and scrambled in for a touchdown of his own.

Rutgers QB Hayden Rettig taking a snap with Justin Goodwin at RB on 4/16/16 (Photo- Chris Nalwasky)

Rutgers QB Hayden Rettig taking a snap with Justin Goodwin at RB on 4/16/16 (Photo- Chris Nalwasky)

Throughout the practice, offensive coordinator called a slew of screen passes and deep balls, including one where Agudosi made a highlight-reel juggling 50-yard catch from Laviano. Right in front of me, Laviano went through his progressions nicely and threw a dart toward the left sideline on a out-route that Mathews pulled in.

The defense generated pressure and got into the backfield which blew the play dead on multiple occasions which contributed to that side of the ball winning the day as mentioned before.

In addition, 5-foot-5 walk-on receiver Chris Parker is turning heads with his quickness. The 168-pounder was seen fielding punts alongside Grant, and caught a couple passes including a dart from Rettig for a touchdown.

The Running Backs

The running backs and position coach Zak Kuhr were made available to the media and Kuhr said he expects to get rid of the rotation that was Paul James, Robert Martin, Josh Hicks, and Justin Goodwin a year ago.

“I’m a big fan of whoever has the hot hand is going to keep rolling,” Kuhr said. “I don’t really believe in, ‘Alright, you have the first series, you have the second series, you have the third series.’ I like sticking with the hot hand because we go so fast with our tempo, there’s a lot of times you have to rotate because they’re just going to be dog tired. You want to give some of those guys a chance to get going so sometimes when you rotate four it’s hard to get going.”

And while Rutgers used a Pro-style attack for as long as anybody can remember, the new power-spread uses a running back more often and in unique ways.

“With the spread offense, you just watch games around the country and you see the running lanes that a lot of running backs get to run through — this offense is a running back’s dream,” Martin said. “There’s so many more lanes. You can create opportunities for yourself. You can catch it out of the backfield. They line us up wide. We just get used a lot and we’re enjoying it. …With this offense, the sky is the limit. …I think it fits my style. I think I’m pretty much a scat (speed and athleticism) type of running back, but I could bring power as well.”

Kuhr said the hot hand will get the lions share of carries, but the Harrisburg, Pa. native totaled 763 yards and six touchdowns a year ago and will still share duties with Hicks (674  yards and four touchdowns) and likely true freshman Trey Sneed – who so far is the only “knighted” running back – meaning coach deemed him game ready.

“Rob is unbelievable energy and juice on the field. He goes really hard, he has a passion for the game,” Kuhr said. “Josh runs with unbelievable pad level. He’s a smooth runner, he’s got high level of speed for how big he is. Justin Goodwin might have the best vision out of the group. He’s nifty, makes great cuts when he needs to, can see it all. Trey Sneed works his butt off. Devon Carter and Shaquan Oliver are coming along and playing physical.”

Rutgers head coach Chris Ash looks on at practice 4/16/16 (Photo- Chris Nalwasky)

Rutgers head coach Chris Ash looks on at practice 4/16/16 (Photo- Chris Nalwasky)

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