Rutgers' 15 days of spring are now over, and the players are now on their own as they begin preparations for training camp this summer. The White team defeated the Scarlet team 21-0, which was not a surprise considering the rosters were split so that first-teamers would face second and third-teamers. Here's what we saw during the scrimmage:
Desmon Peoples was POTG
Most of the game was...unspectacular. This shouldn't be surprising considering three running backs were out, two of the top wide receivers were out, and the secondary is still in the midst of finding the right combination of players. However, Desmon Peoples showed the crowd of 11,500 why the coaching staff has been impressed with him this spring. He has a combination of speed and vision that allows him to make yards out of nothing, and seeing him play showed a different level of speed compared to other players, similar to the way Janarion Grant can shift into a top-level speed once he has space.
Peoples finished with 18 carries for 85 yards and two touchdowns. It'll be interesting to see what this means for his future on the two-deep, as this is his second straight breakout spring performance. The backfield is certainly very crowded now, as Paul James and Justin Goodwin were assumed to be the one and two starters, with Savon Huggins being in a specialist role. Now, Peoples definitely enters the conversation for playing time.
Better pass rush
If you had to name a breakout player on defense, that designation would have to go to redshirt freshman DE Kemoko Turay. At 6'6" 220 lbs., Turay has a lean frame that gives him quickness off the edge, and it served him well on Saturday as he collected three "sacks" on the afternoon (sacks in quotes because the QB is not actually tackled). The young pass rusher seemed to make a home in the backfield, which is a great sign for a defense that lacked any real threat until late last season. The question is how he'll be able to adapt to bigger lines in the Big Ten. 220 pounds is definitely on the lighter side, so he might get pushed around more easily against some of the beefier offensive fronts in the league.
DT Darius Hamilton continued his dominance, as he was double-teamed several times to keep him in check. He didn't appear to play much however, so it's possible the coaching staff held him back to give him some rest after an intense spring session.
Nova rises, other QBs struggle
It wasn't a pretty day by any means for the quarterbacks, but senior Gary Nova was definitely a cut above the rest. He showed mature decision-making and better accuracy than the other quarterbacks, and his 6 for 13, 78-yard performance should have been even better if the wide receivers didn't drop so many of his passes. He wasn't perfect by any means, but he has definitely shown improvement compared to the final stretch of games of the 2013 season. Of course, that story is very familiar to RU fans, so this shouldn't be any type of endorsement as he still needs to prove himself as a complete quarterback from first game to last game.
Nova wasn't the only quarterback to get playing time, as Chris Laviano, Mike Bimonte, Devin Ray, and even transfer Philip Nelson got some playing time. If you had to rank them, Mike Bimonte was second to Nova, while Chris Laviano looked horrendous. Bimonte showed good poise in the pocket, leading the offense like an experienced veteran. If he doesn't win the starting job, he definitely looks like a capable backup, although you definitely notice the lack of zip on his deep throws.
Laviano really struggled. He must have been playing well in practice, because his performance during the spring game was just awful. The redshirt freshman did not have one completion among his nine pass attempts, unless you count his one pass that ended up in the hands of the wrong jersey color. There's a lot of time left to improve, but after that performance it's hard to envision him ending up as starter.
Devin Ray actually had a couple drives, and he wasn't terrible. He didn't seem like he had a good grasp of leading the offense either, though. Philip Nelson received playing time late in the scrimmage, so he didn't really have a chance to showcase his arm.
News and Notes
- Maybe it was because of the weather forecast, but it was disappointing to see only 11,500 show up for the spring game, especially considering that a record 84,000 attended the Rutgers Day festivities.
- If you needed another reason to like Kemoko Turay, he has what looks like an eight-inch flat-top haircut, similar to Tiquan Underwood. Just fantastic.
- The Special Olympics flag-football game was a fun way to end the scrimmage, with some Rutgers players lining up at unusual positions. Nova and Bimonte lined up as safeties, and Darius Hamilton played wideout and even scored on a sideline grab.