On Sunday, Rutgers announced the football team's spring practice schedule, which begins in a little over six weeks from now. With the coaching staff set and the 2016 recruiting class signed, Chris Ash will finally be able to focus on improving this team on the field. Here are five questions to ponder as the winter turns to spring,
Which QB Will Lead The Competition After Spring Practice?
Back at the starting line with a new coaching staff and new offense, Chris Laviano, Hayden Rettig and Gio Rescigno all enter spring practice with a chance to assert themselves in the competition to start at quarterback in the fall. Ash and offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer have made it clear every position is wide open and the best man will get the starting nod. While every practice will be important, how each performs in the spring game will definitely impact their standing heading into the summer. How last season's starter Chris Laviano handles the new offense and open competition will be particularly intriguing. Of course, what remains to be seen is whether 2016 commit Tylin Oden will be ready to compete for the starting job come the summer. Odds seem to be against that, especially as Oden has to put on a significant amount of weight to be Big Ten ready. Regardless, whichever quarterback plays the best this spring will definitely be the favorite heading into preseason camp in August.
Will Any Of The True Freshman Compete For A Linebacker Spot?
True Freshman Jonathan Pollock, Solomon Manning, and Elorm Lumor all enrolled at the start of the spring semester. With all three starting linebackers gone from a season ago, there is opportunity for the three to potentially break into the two deep on the depth chart entering fall camp. All three have a long way to go, but tracking the linebacker position with the entire group on the roster will be worth keeping an eye on. Isaiah Johnson and Deonte Roberts figure to be favorites to start. While it's more likely the true freshman will contribute on special teams initially, there is no doubt the coaches will be watching their progress during the spring.
Are Darius Hamilton & Kemoko Turay Healthy?
It would without a doubt make every Rutgers fan happy to see both players back on the field as full participants during spring practice. Hamilton missed virtually the entire season, except for a cameo against rival Penn State, while Turay played hurt most of the season and was not himself. Both players have an opportunity to flourish in Ash's and defensive coordinator Jay Niemann's quarters defense. Seeing them being able to practice without restrictions and having the time to learn the new system would be a major plus heading into the 2016 season.
Do We Have A Kicker To Replace Kyle Federico?
After Alex Barbir flipped his commitment to Penn State, Rutgers did not sign another kicker in the 2016 recruiting class. It is very possible that Ash will add a kicker from the 2016 class as a preferred walk-on, as there is no signing deadline in that case. In terms of spring practice, the leader on the current roster for the starting kicker position is most likely David Bonagura. Former Rutgers kicker Lee McDonald, who now runs the annual Rutgers Specialist Camp, talked to Todderick Hunt recently and had this to say about him. "David has been training hard and waiting for an opportunity for three years," says McDonald. "He has a very strong leg and calm demeanor about him. Regardless of whom Rutgers signs, a true freshman is going to have an uphill battle beating out an upperclassmen who has been in the program." It will be interesting to see if Bonagura takes advantage of the opportunity to seize the starting kicking role during spring practice. It's likely the staff is hopeful he does, as they search to replace four year starter Kyle Federico.
How Will The Offense Look In The Spring Game?
The Scarlet-White game, scheduled for 7:30 pm on BTN on April 23rd, will be the first opportunity for Rutgers fans to see the new spread offense in action. It should be a highly anticipated moment, as it's also the first time that the new coaching staff will be coaching in front of Rutgers fans. Will Mehringer show a glimpse of how he plans to feature Janarion Grant? Are Hicks and Martin ready to flourish in the spread? How much will the tight ends be targeted in the pass game? Is Carlton Agudosi ready to be a consistent deep threat? There will be many more questions that come before and after the spring game. However, it should be highly anticipated and hopefully there will be a solid turnout of more than 20,000 attendees.
2016 RUTGERS SPRING PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Practice 1 - Thursday, March 24
Practice 2 - Saturday, March 26
Practice 3 - Tuesday, March 29
Practice 4 - Thursday, March 31
Practice 5 - Saturday, April 2
Practice 6 - Tuesday, April 5
Practice 7 - Thursday, April 7
Practice 8 - Saturday, April 9
Practice 9 - Tuesday, April 12
Practice 10 - Thursday, April 14
Practice 11 - Saturday, April 16
Practice 12 - Tuesday, April 19
Practice 13 - Thursday, April 21
Practice 14 - Friday, April 22
Practice 15 (Scarlet-White game) - Saturday, April 23