Connect with us


Rutgers Spring Game: What To Watch For

The Rutgers football spring game is tomorrow night, and the Scarlet-White game will cap off the first spring practice for head coach Chris Ash and co.

You can catch the game free at High Point Solutions Stadium at 7:00 p.m., or if you cannot make it, watch it live on BTN.

Here are 3 things to be on the lookout for:

1) Quarterbacks:

It seems like every year there is a quarterback competition. And it seems like every article every reporter writes is about the quarterbacks.

Rutgers QB Chris Laviano (DoubleGSports)

Rutgers QB Chris Laviano (DoubleGSports)

With Chris Ash bringing in a new fast-paced power-spread scheme, offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer has been installing the offense and expecting more out of the three main quarterbacks every practice. Lacking consistency, redshirt juniors Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig, along with redshirt sophomore Giovanni Rescigno have failed to pull away, and Ash said the battle will be ongoing in the summer in training camp. But on Saturday, Laviano, Rettig, and Rescigno will all get reps with the first-team offense and rotate. The Scarlet team will feature the first-team and third-team while the white squad will be two’s and four’s.

“I would say it’s still probably even,” Ash said earlier this week after practice regarding the quarterbacks. “I think right now with where we’re at in the spring and the way it has kind of gone back and forth with good days and bad days, it’s a competition that’s going to continue on into the summer and into training camp. It’s not going to be something that will be settled here at the end of spring. Just nobody has been playing consistently enough to say that they would be deserving of the right to be named the starting quarterback here at Rutgers.”

Keep a close eye on the quarterbacks and how they perform, but, keep in mind, the playbook will be very vanilla without showing much. Watch where Janarion Grant lines up as well. The speedster kick returner/wide receiver has lined up all over including out wide, in the slot, and in the backfield.

2) Linebackers/depth chart:

After Quentin Gause, Kaiwan Lewis, and Steve Longa all left Rutgers at the end of last season as they used up their eligibility or left a year early in Longa’s case, the Scarlet Knights were left without any of their starting linebackers. Both defensive coordinator Jay Niemann and Ash called the linebacking corps “a mess” and it’ll be interesting to see the depth chart and how they play come Saturday.

So far, sophomore Najee Clayton, a former safety, has moved to the strongside linebacker spot, a spot that will also be responsible for some pass coverage. Clayton appears to have a grip on the Sam, and fans can think of the way Khaseem Greene moved down from safety to linebacker. Greene moved to the weakside, but the weakside in this new defense is more flipped to the strongside.

RU linebacker Najee Clayton (Greg Johnson — Trentonian Photo)

RU linebacker Najee Clayton (Greg Johnson — Trentonian Photo)

Finishing out the linebakers, it seems like sophomore Deonte Roberts, who was a front runner to take over the weakside spot for Longa, is starting at the Mike (middle linebaker) and sophomore Trevor Morris is at the Will (weakside).

Behind them are Greg Jones (strongside), Isaiah Johnson (middle), and Brandon Russell (weakside).

*Also, be sure to check out the offensive line in the new scheme and how that depth chart shakes out. Redshirt sophomore Tariq Cole is ahead at left tackle taking over for stalwart Keith Lumpkin. Redshirt junior Dorian Miller is steady at left guard RS-Sr Derrick Nelson is still the center. Redshirt sophomore Marcus Applefield is working at right guard while redshirt senior Chris Muller recovers from injury. Redshirt sophomore Zack Heeman is starting at right tackle with RS-Sr. J.J. Denman out of action.

3) The Secondary:

Ever since the likes of Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Marcus Cooper, and Brandon Jones and so on left Rutgers, “DBU” (Defensive Back University) as been anything but. The past couple years the defense has finished near the bottom in pass defense, and in 2015, they were 118 out of 127 teams. That’s not good.

Ash and Niemann, along with safeties coach Bill Busch and cornerbacks coach Aaron Henry, hope they can revamp the unit.

Redshirt sophomore Saquan Hampton has emerged over classmate Kiy Hester at the free safety spot, which plays more center field, and senior Anthony Cioffi (yes, he’s still here) has entrenched himself at strong safety. While Busch said both positions will have similar tasks (defending run and pass), he made it clear, and the same can be said for the defense as a whole, “…if you don’t tackle, you don’t play. That’s just pure and simple.”

Rutgers safety Anthony Cioffi (31) - Photo: DoubleGSports

Rutgers safety Anthony Cioffi (31) – Photo: DoubleGSports

The new quarters coverage will play more man-to-man with press coverage from the cornerbacks, and for now, that position is thin with only two healthy scholarship players practicing (Blessuan Austin and Isaiah Wharton). When reinforcements come in the summer, and hopefully some guys that are on the team now get healthy, they’ll be in better shape. But, a blessing in disguise could be the walk-ons thrown into the fire with the second and third team like Sandy Anya and Zane Campbell. They are getting valuable reps.

4) Bonus – Recruiting Momentum:

Last Friday, Rutgers picked up a commitment for the 2017 class in junior Bo Melton from Cedar Creek High School in New Jersey. Melton is a stud four-star receiver that has the ability to play all over the field including running back (think Grant). Melton is a RU legacy as his mother played basketball at the school and his father was a wide receiver and running back for the football team.

Then, on Tuesday, the Scarlet Knights picked up pledges from arguably the top play in New Jersey in St. John Vianney four-star offensive tackle Micah Clark and stepbrother Jamaal Beatty, who is a three-star offensive guard in his own right at Vianney. All five commits for the 2017 thus far are from the Garden State, including Bryce Watts (Toms River North HS) and Naijee Jones (Timber Creek HS).

With over 200 recruits expected to attend the spring game, will another highly-touted prospect commit before he leaves “The Banks”? You never know, but with quarterbacks dropping, could three-star St. Peter’s Prep signal caller Jonathan Lewis pull the trigger? Keep your eye out.

You can follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisWasky for updates on Rutgers Athletics

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

More in College