Rutgers Football: Strengths & Weaknesses at QB

The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

Taking a look at the three-man race at quarterback.

We're now at the midway point of the season, as the Scarlet Knights get ready for practice No. 8 today, as well as the third intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday. The competition might go beyond spring practices, so let's take a look at what we've learned about the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate for quarterback thus far:

Mike Bimonte

Stats: 6'4" 225 lbs., Redshirt junior

Strengths:

  • Has four years experience within the program
  • Prototypical size for quarterback
  • Performance in last scrimmage ranks as best thus far
Weaknesses:
  • Lacks elite arm strength
  • Few offers out of high school
  • No game experience
Mike Bimonte was a lightly-recruited prospect who always wanted to attend Rutgers. As a low three-star, Bimonte only fielded offers from Temple and RU. As a lifelong Scarlet Knight fan, the redshirt junior might get his chance to actually field a snap after four long years on the sidelines. What's taken him so long?

For one thing, he wasn't exactly a blue-chip recruit coming out of high school. Although recruiting rankings can be wildly inaccurate, they're generally good enough to actually predict which teams can make a run at a national championship. It's entirely possible that RU has had a true sleeper waiting in the wings in Bimonte, but it's more likely that he just wasn't good enough to warrant a realistic look.

His arm strength doesn't help matters. In his initial scouting, Scout's Brian Dohn was critical of Bimonte's throwing power. While that scouting report is from 2010, I'd venture to guess he hasn't miraculously figured out how to substantially increase his arm strength. With the way we value physical tools nowadays, I'm not surprised the fourth year QB hasn't figured out a way to get on the field yet.

Still, Bimonte is an interesting candidate. After witnessing the saga of Chas Dodd and Gary Nova, he definitely has a unique perspective that allowed him to learn from others' mistakes. I would bet a good amount of money that I'm not the only one who would sacrifice an elite arm for someone with elite decision-making. With Paul James and Justin Goodwin in the backfield, Rutgers will look to be a run-first offense anyway. Having someone who can simply not throw the ball to other team is a luxury that we would all pay for right now. Plus, the kid grew up loving Rutgers. How can you not appreciate that?

Chris Laviano

Stats: 6'3" 210 lbs., Redshirt freshman

Strengths:

  • Four-star rating by ESPN (184th in 2013 ESPN 300)
  • True pro-style prospect
  • Good arm strength
Weaknesses:
  • Least experience of all
  • Recruit rating might be inflated
  • Worst performer of spring practice so far
How can a four-star prospect in the ESPN 300 not take hold of this quarterback competition? A deeper look at Chris Laviano's recruitment might reveal some answers. Besides Rutgers, Laviano's only other offer was from Boston College. Last time I checked, BC didn't win the their own division, let alone the conference. When he announced his commitment, Laviano claimed that some SEC schools didn't offer due to his size. However, if you do a quick Google search, you'll see that Tyler Wilson, Connor Shaw, and Aaron Murray are all 6'2" or under.

It's not like he didn't impress scouts. Two years ago, Laviano was one of the best players in the Dallas Elite 11 regional camp. From 24/7 Sports in 2012:
Laviano was one of the top performers at Saturday's Elite 11 in Cowboys Stadium, and backed it up on Sunday. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder proved to be in total control, even in the fast paced NFTC setting. His ability to work through drills, and everything else thrown at a quarterback on Sunday with a cool demeanor and calmness impressed before a pass was released. When it was time to put the ball in the air, the throws were consistent and the reads drew praise from instructor Trent Dilfer.

At this stage, it's too early to tell if Laviano will be closer to boom or bust. He's just a (redshirt) freshman, and his only experience within the program has been with the scout team. He obviously has a lot of potential considering he's challenging players who have several seasons of work under their belt, but he's really an unknown at this point.

Gary Nova

Stats: 6'2" 220 lbs., Senior

Strengths:

  • 28 career starts
  • Good arm strength
  • Looks like a Heisman candidate against teams named Arkansas or Temple

Weaknesses:

  • 39 interceptions to 51 touchdowns
  • Careless with the football
  • Looks like a true freshman against most teams not named Arkansas or Temple
The story on Nova has been beaten to death already. He comes in with the most experience, and is actually approaching several Rutgers passing records (needs only 9 touchdowns to pass Mike Teel as all-time leader). The fact of the matter is, Gary Nova could be the best RU has entering the 2014 season. Blake Rankin decided to transfer because he couldn't outperform Nova, and the next two options don't have a single snap of game experience. He's still in the thick of the competition, and some reports even rate his play as "solid."

The problem is this - can we really make it through the season with such a polarizing player at the most high-profile position on the team? We've already seen that plenty of fans are fed up with Nova. Here's something to think about: let's say the QB competition ends in a dead heat with no real standout. Do you go with Nova's experience, or do you roll the dice on Bimonte or Laviano? For a head coach whose seat temperature will be rising entering September, this is a decision that you can't mess up.
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