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Rutgers Position Review: Quarterbacks

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Not a great season and three transfers so far this off-season

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Maryland Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers Scarlet Knights football had a rough year in 2016 with a new head coach, Athletic Director, and scheme. Not to mention Kyle Flood’s lack of recruiting really came out to shine to top it all off.

Not all the misery is on the quarterbacks, but, there were some issues at the position. Coach Chris Ash did what he could given his resources, but, a lot of the time, it did not work the way anybody envisioned.

I will do a QB by QB evaluation of the quarterbacks that saw game action this season below. There were primarily three quarterbacks that saw significant action, but I will touch upon others a little, too.

Chris Laviano

Chris Laviano has been the starter for Rutgers for quite some time now (18 games straight). Coming into the season, a lot of fans knew he really was not that great of a quarterback, but there really was no other option. Tylin Oden was a red shirt and needed a lot of work, Giovanni Rescigno was young and inexperienced and needed work, Zach Allen did not seem comfortable, and Hayden Rettig really never got into a groove.

Chris Laviano finished the season 70-145 for 748 yards and five touchdowns and two interceptions. His quarterback passer rating was 100.2 and his QBR (adjusted) was a dismal 24.7. Laviano also took twelve sacks in six and a half games played (got taken out at halftime of Illinois).

Those numbers are really not that great. Laviano, on average, threw less than 125 yards a game and less than a touchdown a game. Laviano did not have the greatest receivers, especially after Janarion Grant went down, but, as a Big Ten quarterback, you have to make things happen yourself sometimes.

Versus Ohio State and Michigan Laviano completed a total of four passes on 20 attempts totaling 39 yards. Going up against big time competition like those teams and performing like that is not promising for your skills as a quarterback and a leader. Prime time against Michigan at home needed a much better performance than 1-8 for six yards. You need to keep the crowd in the game and your team in the game, and he did not do that in the slightest.

Fans were rooting for anybody but Laviano to be the starting QB for weeks when finally Coach Ash Made the switch at halftime during homecoming to give GIovanni Rescigno his chance. Previous to this decision, Ash had been playing Tylin Oden and Zach Allen at times to get them work and see if they can steal Laviano’s job. None did, but Rescigno did when he was given the chance.

Laviano was not happy with his benching and made that clear when he announced that he will transfer from Rutgers football. He was thankful to the school and the fans, but felt transferring was the best decision for him.

Laviano’s transfer really opens the door for Rescigno to solidify his job come spring and summer camps as well as a true competition to be held between the other quarterbacks.

Giovanni Rescigno

The red shirt sophomore made his way into the starting lineup seemingly out of nowhere. Fans only knew of Gio primarily through his first game action of the season against Howard where he took his one play 42 yards on his feet for a touchdown. Fans did not see him against until homecoming.

Chris Laviano was benched at the half during Rutgers’ homecoming game against Illinois. Gio replaced him for the second half and Ash noticed there was a different vibe on the sideline and in the stadium. Gio’s performance also helped Ash make the decision. Giovanni Rescigno had won the starting job right from under Laviano’s nose during homecoming.

During that homecoming game, Gio went 10-18 for 120 and a touchdown. The touchdown was the first for the Scarlet Knights in three weeks, making it a sweet one. That play, as mentioned, gave GIo the chance to go ahead and start the next week against Minnesota.

Gio had himself another solid game against the Golden Gophers going 22-38 for 220 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. Rutgers nearly stole this one on the road against a solid Minnesota team. Unfortunately, Gio made two turnovers and that really came back to haunt the Knights. The loss was not entirely on him by any means, but turnovers do not ever help.

Gio had a third straight game putting up good numbers against Indiana going 19-36 for 258 with a touchdown. Gio also ran one in for a score that game as well. Despite the losses, fans seemed happier with Gio leading the team than Laviano leading the team.

It was the next two weeks against Michigan State and Penn State that Gio really struggled. Gio went 13-32 the next two games for 88 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. Rutgers got shut out in both of those games and the offense did not seem functional by any stretch.

In the last game, Gio had a bounce back game of sorts going 22-39 for 203 yards. There were no touchdowns he was responsible for directly and Rutgers still lost, but he seemed to get his accuracy and maybe some confidence back.

Giovanni Rescigno is projected to be the starter next season for the Scarlet Knights, but nothing is a given. There are still numerous quarterbacks on this roster and Coach Ash will be looking to play the best one. If Gio does not do well in spring and summer another quarterback could easily take the job right from him.

Gio showed promise, but he also showed a lot of bad things too. Fans should remember that Gio had not played his first two years and this was his first real game action. He will progress and learn from this season. Not to say he will be incredible next season but fans should expect some improvement, at least we all hope there will be.

Tylin Oden

Tylin Oden was a red shirt freshman coming into this season but Coach Ash stripped him of that red shirt pretty early on. Oden saw game action as early as week two against Howard. Oden is the highly anticipated freshman from Tennessee whom is scrawny and needs work in the passing game.

Against Howard Oden did not attempt a pass. Instead, Oden ran the ball ten times and gained 58 yards, showing fans glimpses of the magic he can work with his legs. This playing time got rid of his red shirt and told Rutgers fans Oden will be used in games as often as possible.

Oden saw action in six games, but some games, he only saw a series of plays at most. Against Minnesota, Oden ran the ball once and threw the ball once. In most games, Oden ran the ball and did not throw the ball. If he did throw, it was as little as possible.

On the season, Oden went 1-8 for two whopping yards. It was very clear his arm is not anywhere close to where it needs to be and neither was his knowledge of the full playbook. The coaches knew that and Oden knew that which is why he was more of a runner in this offense.

Running the ball, Oden attempted 37 carries and gained 144 yards which is 3.89 yards on average per carry. He was nothing spectacular running the ball, but he did go up against some really good defenses in Michigan and Ohio State. He also did not see too much game action and when he did he kind of just got thrown in there and then got taken out pretty quickly. He never really had time to find a flow most of the time.

Overall, that is what most fans should have expected from Tylin Oden this season. Many were not expecting to see him at all. He got a lot of good experience against Michigan and Ohio State so hopefully he learns from those games.

If Oden can improve his passing game there is a chance he could seriously compete for the starting job otherwise Coach Ash probably would have left Oden with his red shirt. Do not expect him to be the starter, but look to see him in games a lot more often than you did this season.

Zach Allen

The transfer from TCU saw very limited game action this season. Many fans were looking to see more of what the transfer could do in games, especially when Laviano was struggling mightily.

Allen, though, only played in two games. He threw two passes against New Mexico, neither of them were complete and he threw ten passes against Michigan, only one was complete. That completed pass went backwards for -1 yard.

Allen ran the ball a handful of times, 13 times to be exact, and lost five yards in total. Allen did not seem to have anything right when he played which is probably why Coach Ash kept him on the bench the rest of the season.

Allen was a huge disappointment for Rutgers fans who expected him to be something pretty good here. They did not necessarily expect a superstar but they wanted something positive out of him. Instead they got nothing but negative yardage.

Hayden Rettig

Hayden Rettig was another highly touted recruit from a southern school. Rettig transferred from LSU and did not see any game action this season. As a result, Rettig is transferring yet again.

Rettig was projected to be a threatening starter coming into the season but he was never able to get over that hump and jump any quarterback.

Last season Rettig went 14-25 for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Those are better numbers than Laviano really had all season. The reasoning for Rettig to be competitive for the starting job was there, he just never flourished into anything worthy of a starter or of game action in Coach Ash’s eyes.

No one knows if Rettig would have performed at all this year if he had played, but, considering his stat line from last season, though a small sample size, many fans feel he may have deserved some sort of action even if it was minimal just to see what he could do. The offense struggled a lot this season, what did they really have to lose?

Michael Dare

Michael Dare was a red shirt freshman for Rutgers and another quarterback that saw no game action whatsoever this season. The New Jersey native announced he will also be taking his talents and transferring to a different program next season.

Dare became the third quarterback this off-season so far to decide to transfer from Rutgers. Dare was never really in the mix for game time and was buried on the depth chart.

Dare’s transfer leaves Johnathan Lewis, Giovanni Rescigno, and Tylin Oden as the three main competitors for next season’s starting quarterback position.

Overall:

This season, as you can breakdown from the above statements, Rutgers quarterbacks did not have the greatest year. Giovanni Rescigno was clearly the one that played the best and put up the best numbers, but even those numbers weren’t anything special. Gio simply made too many bad decisions and could not get a first down when the team needed it the most.

Again, not all the anemia on the offensive side was the fault of the quarterbacks. The offensive line did not play great which made it hard for the running backs to get anything going. With a minimal running game, the passing game was never really open.

On top of the offensive line, the receivers were dismal at best. The quarterbacks, at times, would throw the ball right where it needed to be and the receivers would not come up with the catch.

There were a lot of issues with this offensive unit, including with the quarterbacks, but it cannot all be placed on the quarterbacks. Quarterbacks do need to play better so the defense can get a break and so the other team does not have a chance to score.

The offensive line had a slightly below average rating in passing situations and ranked 101st in the nation in the adjusted sack rate according to Football Outsiders. Also, Rutgers’ offensive line gave up a sack on 12.8% of passing situations, which is 119th in the country. Needless to say, the offensive line did not really help the quarterbacks out this season.

Rutgers offensive line statistics
Football Outsiders

Fortunately, Rutgers quarterbacks saw a good amount of game action which should be beneficial going into next season. It will be a fun quarterback competition especially with someone like Johnathan Lewis coming to town. It will most certainly be an interesting year next season.