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Rutgers Not Changing Philosophy On Offense, QB Decision Looming

In baseball, you always say a pitcher’s best friend is a double play. In football, a quarterback’s best friend is a solid running game.

With running backs that are producing consistently in that game or throughout the season, it opens the playbook so much more. You are able to run play-action passes that fool the defense into thinking the quarterback handed it off the running back, only to find a pass sizzling passed their heads to an open receiver. It makes life easier for the man under center.

Rutgers QB Chris Laviano - Jeff Auger/

Rutgers QB Chris Laviano – Jeff Auger/

Rutgers football will enter season two in the Big Ten without Gary Nova, who seemed to be at Rutgers for an eternity, earning playing time and starts for four seasons. Taking his place will be Long Island, N.Y. native Chris Laviano or California kid and Louisiana State transfer Hayden Rettig. The pair of redshirt sophomores continue to battle it out this summer, and will have a luxury of running backs behind them to count on and ease them into the process. And no matter what, the team will strive to pound the ball on the ground.

“Our identity on offense begins with running the football,” Flood said at the team’s Media Day on Sunday. The fact that we have a new quarterback under center doesn’t really change that perspective. What I would agree with you on – and I think every quarterback would tell you – is a quarterback’s best friend is a good running game.

“It keeps you on schedule, it keeps the defense away from their exotic third-down blitz packages, so again, our identity is going to be to run the football. The more effectively we can do that, I think it certainly helps the quarterback.”

Offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels reiterated that notion saying a running game can definitely help the quarterback.

“…Our running backs are a strong point of our personnel on offense,” McDaniels said at Media Day. “Quarterbacks are comfortable when there is talent behind them in the running game. You would hope that our ability to run the ball will take some pressure off of any quarterback that’s playing for us.”

RU football offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels speaking at Media Day - Jeff Auger/DoubleGSports

RU football offensive coordinator Ben McDaniels speaking at Media Day – Jeff Auger/DoubleGSports

One of those running backs, in addition to sophomores Josh Hicks and Robert Martin, and juniors Desmon Peoples and Justin Goodwin, who all played last season, is redshirt senior Paul James. James is coming off a torn ACL he suffered last fall against Navy. An elusive, powerful back and former walk-on, James has suffered many injuries during his time “On the Banks” and in high school in Glassboro, N.J. However, his determination and work ethic helps him get back to that “elite” level time in and time out.

“Paul James is one of the best examples we have in our program, of what I believe are the type of players we have in our program,” Flood said, who enters his fourth year as head coach at Rutgers. “Guys who overcome adversity. Very few players in our history had more adversity than Paul James has.”

When asked about his expectations for James, Flood said he expects nothing but the normal. “I expect him to be the same player he as the last two years when he was healthy, because I’ve watched him out there for a week now, we gave him one practice off (Saturday) morning, other than that, he has practiced the entire week, and he has looked like Paul James. He doesn’t look like Paul James coming off an injury. He looks like the Paul James who is one of the top rushers in the country. I’m excited about what he’s going to do for us.”

RS-Senior RB Paul James - Jeff Auger/DoubleGSports

RS-Senior RB Paul James – Jeff Auger/DoubleGSports

James has tallied 1,266 rushing yards on 224 carries for 5.7 yards per attempt and 17 total touchdowns thus far as a Scarlet Knight, and the preseason Doak Walker Award Watch List member told me that camp is going well so far and his knee is healthy.

“Feel’s great,” James said referring to his knee. “…Camp’s been great. I’m feeling good out there, feeling great every practice, and I’ve been working hard to get better each day.”

You can watch McDaniels’ presser here.


After practice on Tuesday, Flood said the decision to name a quarterback will be delayed.

“I think we have a really close race at quarterback,” he said. “That’s exciting to me. To see both guys out there and make a significant amount of plays in that scrimmage, that was really good. So I think we’re still a couple of days away.”

The Scarlet Knights have their second and final scrimmage Saturday night, and Flood said the game-like practice will weigh heavily on his decision, or he may make up his mind before that.


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