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BTN Observations From Rutgers Football Training Camp

The Big Ten Network Kick Off Party Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Wink Public Relations

The BTN studio team of Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo, Howard Griffith, and Tom Dienhart visited Rutgers training camp today and provided an outside perspective on the team. They are visiting every Big Ten team during their preseason tour. Here are some of the best observations they tweeted out during practice.

Temperatures were 90 degrees and above, with the heat index nearing 100. And yet the coaches primarily wore long sleeves. That’s impressive.

You have to love Ash making sure no excuses will be allowed. At the same time, no incidents were reported with any players having issues with the heat, so the staff is doing a good job of monitoring their conditions during practice. How did the heat effect their performance in front of the BTN crew though?

Gerry DiNardo was an All-American offensive lineman at Notre Dame and was the head coach at Indiana, Vanderbilt, and LSU. So his praise is significant, especially considering BTN has already visited Indiana, Ohio State, and Maryland so far during their training camp tour. This is just more proof that Ash has hired a capable staff and they have reorganized the program in a positive way.

As we suspected, the competition for starting quarterback is between Chris Laviano and Zach Allen. Tomorrow’s scrimmage will be a big test for both quarterbacks.

It’s good to hear Allen is running well, which gives him a legitimate chance to win the job, based on offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer’s preference to have a mobile quarterback. However, that will be just one factor among many in deciding which quarterback the staff will anoint the starter.

As I wrote yesterday, even if Allen does beat out Laviano to start, it’s likely we see both quarterbacks on the field this season. The key insight here is DiNardo saw both work for the first time during training camp and he didn’t seem to think one was clearly ahead of the other. Of course, it’s impossible for him to know the full body of work the two have put in so far in training camp.

DiNardo’s observation is a great sign that whoever does line up behind center, they will have a capable line protecting them. Laviano and Allen both need solid play from the offensive line in order for them to be successful this season.

There is no doubt that Tariq Cole has big shoes to fill with the departure of Keith Lumpkin. However, Cole has the size and skill to step into the starting role at left tackle.

No surprise here. Ash is a great fit for this program regardless, but the fact that his area of expertise is with the secondary, the position group with the biggest issues the past three seasons, will serve as a great benefit this season.

We knew the defensive line was the strength of the unit, but it’s a great thing to hear such positive feedback from DiNardo. Remember, Kemoko Turay is still working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, so his return will only add to the line’s wealth of options.

After a bit of a disappointing season last year for JPO, it’s fair to have high hopes for him on the field for his last run with the program. He is a class act, hard worker, and strong student, so there isn’t a better guy to root for on this team. He should also benefit from the return of Darius Hamilton this season.

The inexperience of the linebacking corps is obviously a concern. How they develop from now until September 3rd when Rutgers opens at #18 Washington will be critical for that game.

Tom Dienhart states the obvious, but after last season we all know his words are all too true. Dienhart posted this article after practice, stating that Mehringer has made Grant a priority and we will see plenty of bubble screens this season. We saw a lot of that in the Spring Game, and this is another reason why the play of the offensive line will be so important. In addition, the receiving core need to be a strong blocking unit as well, in order to keep gaps open for a player like Grant, who can spring free in an instant.

This is an interesting note from Dienhart, as Dan McCarney is the former boss of Ash when he coached under the former head man at Iowa State. He last coached at North Texas. McCarney also played for Hayden Frye at Iowa, who has one of the best coaching tree’s in college football, which includes Ash. Having McCarney at camp giving his own observations was a smart move by Ash and another example of the tight knit group of coaches he is tied to. This can only help.

Positive feedback from Dave Revsine, who you may remember from his days at ESPN. Of course, the BTN crew isn’t going to be overly negative at any of their tour stops. However, they wouldn’t be so effusive in their praise regarding the best players and position groups on this team if they didn’t believe it to be true. Most of their feedback lines up with what has been said before and during camp so far. The key is how much this team can continue to progress before the start of the season. Overall, you have to be happy with the high praise the program received today from the BTN crew.

To read Tom Dienhart’s notebook regarding today’s visit, click here.

For more coverage from BTN regarding today’s visit to Rutgers training camp, watch their telecast tonight at 5pm. They will feature interviews with several coaches and players.