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Rutgers Quarterbacks Are Still On Even Footing


Fifteen spring practices shed little light on a quarterback competition on the banks of the old Raritan for the Rutgers football team. The inconsistencies between the three main signal callers vying for the job have forced the battle to extend into training camp in the summer.

“Nothing’s going to be settled after this game,” head coach Chris Ash told the media after the Scarlet-White Spring Game on April 23. “Both of them did some decent things tonight, both of them struggled at times. I haven’t seen any stats or anything like that, but just from standing behind the offense and getting a feel for what I saw there firsthand — there’s several things that we have to do a better job of.”

Redshirt juniors Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig, along with redshirt sophomore Giovanni Rescigno, have not separated from each other as they learn and try their best to execute the new high-tempo, power-spread offensive scheme Ash and offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer began installing as they move away from a traditional pro-style attack.

Rutgers QB Chris Laviano / Photo: Catalina Fragoso, Double G Sports

Both Laviano and Rettig earned reps with first-team, with Laviano playing in the first and third quarters, while Rettig got snaps in the second and fourth. The Scarlet Team, which was comprised of players currently on the first and third teams on the depth chart, prevailed 33-20 despite spotting the White Team (second and fourth teamers) a 17-0 lead to start with.

The pair started slow, as the Scarlet squad were down 20-12 at the half after 20 minutes, but got into more of a groove in the second half.

“We started off slow,” Ash said. “We didn’t throw the ball well, didn’t catch the ball well, didn’t execute in the passing game overall to begin with. Some of that had to do with the wind. [In] Chris’s first series we were going directly into the wind, and we haven’t practiced outside in the wind very much this spring and that affected some of the throws.

“They picked it up in the second half, made a couple big throws, a couple big plays, but overall it’s not anywhere we need to be offensively with our passing game and being able to throw and make catches.”

Laviano finished 16-for-29 for 240 yards passing and a touchdown and Rettig completed 13-of-22 attempts for 186 yards and a score. Rescigno is a step behind after going 3-for-11 for only eight yards with the backups.

The Glen Head, N.Y. native Laviano was a pedestrian 8-for-18 and 73 yards in the first quarter, but picked it up in the third quarter with 167 yards including a 37-yard touchdown on a swing pass to Janarion Grant. Grant, a senior, figures to be a big part of this offense taking handoffs out of the back field, jet sweeps, screens, slants, etc.

Rettig was more consistent with 96 yards passing and a touchdown on 6-for-11 passing in the second quarter and 90 yards on 7-for-11 in the fourth. His touchdown, albeit against a walk-on corner and the defensive reserves, was gorgeous. Rettig faked a handoff, stepped up into the clean pocket, and threw a rainbow bomb and hit 6-foot-6 wide receiver Carlton Agudosi in stride for a 55-yard score. Ash mentioned that play in particular when asked in general terms what stood out to him from the naked eye without looking at stats or film. You can watch the video of the touchdown below.


Rettig called the play “pitch and catch” when he spoke to the media after the game, but said the offense still needs work.

“It felt pretty good,” Rettig said to a group of reporters. “I liked it a lot. It was fun. I think everyone else on offense had fun, and there’s always room for improvement, (but) I’m happy with the way it went today. Obviously I need to get better, but other than that I felt pretty good.”

Mehringer didn’t showcase the full playbook, and Rettig couldn’t say how much was left to install when asked by the media, but the fans did see a plethora or screen/swing passes, deep balls, handoffs, and option zone-reads. All the snaps came out of the shotgun, which was new considering the pro-style operated mainly from under center with a few shotgun snaps mixed in. But it is something that Rettig, a Los Angeles, Ca. native is happy about.

“I feel real comfortable,” Rettig said. “Just trying to get back to my roots. I feel like me being out of shotgun is like me back in high school and I’m starting to get back into it. It feels good. I like it. I wish spring ball didn’t end.”

Right after the spring game, the players hit the weight room and had meetings with their respective position coaches and Ash to discuss evaluations heading into the summer.

Once they have time off, Rettig will head back to California and work with his quarterback mentor Anton Clarkson, a former Hofstra signal caller.

Rutgers quarterback Hayden Rettig scrambles for a touchdown / Photo: Juan Martinez, Double G Sports

Both Laviano, who didn’t speak to the media, and Rettig battled it out a year ago for the starting quarterback job, but other than the offensive schemes changing, the competition is similar.

“It feels different maybe with the offense, but other than that, no,” Rettig said. “I always felt like everyone gave me a fair chance. At the end of the day, I have to live with it. Me playing, if I work hard enough I can get the job. It’s just up to them (the coaches).

“I know everyone gets worried about competition and stuff, but you gotta embrace it. You gotta love it, and you’ve gotta worry about yourself and you really have to worry about what you do to get better every day and everyone’s good, so you’ve gotta just be better.”

Rettig mentioned the staff is looking for the starting quarterback to be a leader and have the trust from the team. Laviano might have the edge in that department after starting 11 games last year and can tuck the ball and run. But, Laviano has the weaker arm of the two as most of his passes were thrown 0-5 yards in the air and he benefited from yards after the catch on multiple occasions.

Rettig has the more natural arm talent and has more accuracy with the deep ball and can fit the ball into tight windows. Right now, it appears Laviano still has the edge, so if Rettig wants to be able to utilize his strengths on the field, he will need to have more of a command of the offense.

The final decision will be up to Ash, so it’ll be interesting to see if either quarterback makes significant progress even before the summer, and then in training camp.

In addition, things will only get more interesting when incoming freshman Tylin Oden joins the fold. Oden is a three-star duel-threat quarterback from Tennessee.



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