It's gameday for Week 6 of college football action and Rutgers is getting a much needed break with a bye today. While there are many questions regarding this team ahead of the second half of the season, the most polarizing is who should start at quarterback moving forward. The offense is 13th in the Big Ten in scoring and total yards, as they only rank higher than their next opponent, Illinois. While it was reported that current starter , Kyle Bolin, continued to get the bulk of the reps midway through this week of practice, Head coach Chris Ash did leave the door open for a change with this comment in a recent article from Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media:
"Right now we’re looking at all of our personnel, not just quarterback. We’re looking at personnel across the board in all three phases and making sure that we have the right people in the right spots and asking them to do the right things. Because there’s no spot that’s not being discussed and looked at right now to make sure that we’re putting the right people out on the field.”
“Kyle’s been our quarterback. Kyle will continue to be our quarterback as we go through this week. This week is an opportunity for us to take a deep breath as a staff and evaluate all the positions and see where we’re at. But if we felt like it was in the best interests of our football team to go in a different direction, then we would do that. But right now we are in a re-evaluation phase for all spots.’’
With that being said, our staff got together for another round table to discuss who should be the starting quarterback for Rutgers for the rest of this season.
UPDATE: Ash said Monday that it’s an open competition this week and all three quarterbacks are being considered to start against Illinois.
Kyle Bolin has started every game so far and is the most experienced, but has struggled mightily in five games. True freshman Johnathan Lewis is clearly the future, has gotten some game experience, and it might be time to hand over the offense to him. Lastly, there is the consummate underdog, former starter and the gutty signal caller in Gio Rescigno. Time to huddle up.
Cara Sanfilippo: There wasn't anything good that came out of the Ohio State game, but one positive was the return of former starter Giovanni Rescigno. At the start of the season, we were told Louisville grad transfer Kyle Bolin was the answer, despite not fitting the dual-threat package Ash and co covet. To me, that meant that he must have a great arm, which is something we have lacked in combination with accuracy and protection in the past. However, I haven’t seen that at all with Bolin this season. He seems unable to open up the passing game, and instead zones in one receiver despite defensive coverage. He doesn’t seem capable of throwing a deep pass, which is evidenced by the amount of time a screen pass is thrown on 3rd and long. It’s clear Kill doesn’t trust him to throw deep, which is a particular issue when your QB is not mobile.
I understand Aaron’s desire to start Lewis, as he is plausibly our QB of the future and the kid is talented. However, he doesn’t quite seem ready to me to manage a full game, given mistakes in the Morgan State game such as turning the wrong way on the hand off. These can be fixed with experience, but I worry starting him full time will overwhelm him, and hurt our already disastrous performance. Gio looked the strongest passing and running in the Ohio State game, and in my opinion, gives us the best chance to win this season. I would love to see him rotate in with Lewis to give him additional in-game experience, and put Bolin on the three deep. He seems like a great kid and leader, but he has not proven in 5 games that he has what it takes to be successful.
Rob McKoy: Jonathan Lewis is clearly the best option for quarterback for the remainder of the season. Lewis is still young and is a little rough around the edges in the passing game. Lewis does present a dual threat. At this point in the season any boost is needed. The run has not been a huge weapon for the Scarlet Knights. Lewis is power runner that defenses will get tired of tackling. This will open opportunities for the traditional back to make a push. More option plays and a heavier run style could really be a catalyst for the rugged and tough persona that Rutgers loves to portray. The heavy run attack will at the very minimum slow the pace and allow the defense to rest.
RutgersNation: At this point in the season I am ready to turn over the reigns to Jonathan Lewis. Do I think the results would have been dramatically different if Lewis would have started sooner in the season? No, I do not. While Kyle Bolin has been subpar thus far, there has not been a wide receiver to emerge as the go to option. Through 5 games only two players have more than 10 receptions, Janarion Grant and Jerome Washington. Without separation it is difficult for any quarterback to adequately move the ball through the air. It is time to start building towards the 2018 season. Lewis' shirt has already been burned and its time to start building towards the future.
David Anderson: Win now or play to win in the future, seriously? In professional sports, “tanking” can work, but not in college sports! For Rutgers and any other struggling college team, they need to win as many games as possible for the optic, starting with one Big Ten game. This is probably true in football more than any other sport for two reasons, 1) Recruiting and 2) Young players are able to contribute faster in a functional unit, and nothing impacts that more than the quarterback. Therefore from the limited preseason practice we saw and heard, I was on board with Kyle Bolin starting initially because he had the highest chance of leading a calm offense.
At this point, the offense is too out of sync and often changing quarterbacks infuses energy if nothing else ... which means it has to be Gio or Lewis. Last year, Ash waited too long before making a switch, so the time is now. If Kyle Bolin could complete passes in the 2 minute drill then he could come in a relief role, but I don’t even see that. So Rutgers should completely adjust their playbook to run/pass options and downfield passes that will open up room for the QB to scramble. It’s true Gio has never started a win at Rutgers but he has the grit and will that could simply be enough to get the W at Illinois. I am not against true freshmen playing, but Lewis has not yet shown the ability to do a basic drop back and pass, granted in limited action so far. After Purdue, if you want to just go all Lewis fine, but for now, I have switched alliances and am on team Gio.
Aaron Breitman: I understand the argument for all three quarterbacks and although I already made it clear I believe Johnathan Lewis should be the starter moving forward, here is a key point to consider. Rutgers has lost 16 Big Ten games in a row and are in the middle of a second consecutive season that has been devoid of many positive things occurring. The players, the coaches, the fans, everyone, are all feeling dejected at this point. There is no joy in Piscatawayville. All of the above need a reason to believe and to have hope again. We talk about gameday coaching, strategy, X’s & O’s, etc. Sometimes coaches need to make a bold move to help change momentum and move the narrative in a different direction to shake things up.
The best way to do that right now is for Chris Ash to stand in front of his team and tell them the future is now. Declare to the team that Johnathan Lewis gives them the best chance to win, that the staff believes in him and that he is the starting quarterback moving forward. This team needs something to rally around. That something is Johnathan Lewis. He is the most physically gifted and most versatile option this team has. Accept that mistakes will happen, but put him in the best position possible to succeed by tailoring the offense to his strengths. There is no softer beginning possible as a starter in his Big Ten career than against Illinois and Purdue. From a long term perspective, this is a no brainer. From a win now perspective, it’s a bold move, but the one with the most upside. There is no time for the status quo, change is needed and the biggest way to do that is to start Johnathan Lewis.
Jim Hoffman: Kyle Bolin has not to this point been the successful answer to the quarterback dilemma for Rutgers, a dilemma that has been in place since Mike Teel was the starter almost a decade ago. Obviously the issue on offense is more than just the QB, but how to fix the quarterback issue is a bigger problem. At this point, the rest of this season should be used to prepare not just Lewis, but all of the freshmen who have been seeing significant playing time in the first five games of the season.
My recommendation would be to significantly increase the amount of time that Lewis sees the field each week. Have Johnathan Lewis in 20% of the game next week against Illinois in Champaign. Each successive week have him in for an additional 10% of the plays, so that by the end of the season he is playing approximately 80% of the plays, and Bolin/Rescingno are in the remaining 20% of plays. In that way, Lewis is not being thrown into the deep end of the pool without preparation, and by next year he will have significant minutes against teams in the strongest division in college football, the Big Ten East.
Patrick Mella: Regardless of whether they give the ball to Gio or Lewis, I think we can all agree that a change needs to be made. There really is no argument for keeping Bolin at the helm any longer. I've been going back and forth all week with who I would start next week and my initial thoughts were to go with Lewis. But since many of you already went with him, I'm going to go contrarian and make a case for Gio.
He's got the experience and although we haven't seen him much this year, the times that we have he's actually looked good. At 6’3’’ 228lbs, he runs surprisingly well, which as we all know is something Coach Kill has stressed upon. There’s no rush to throw Lewis in. I’m not against getting him into the game so he gets some hands-on experience, but I don’t think there’s a need to start him. I know the season is in disarray, but Lewis is a true freshman playing with a shaky at best offensive line. Gio brings to the table an experienced quarterback who can run the offense and allow Lewis to learn at a more comfortable pace.
I don’t think any of you are wrong who picked Lewis to start next week; I just think Gio is a much safer option. Either way, please, please, no more Bolin.
Bob Cancro: I thought Bolin would be great. I thought we’d beat Eastern Michigan. I even thought we’d score against Ohio State. And you really want my opinion? Okay, here goes. As others have said, the future is now. There is a sense of urgency - or there should be - to get a Big Ten win, any way they can. But the twist in all this is that the next game against Illinois is winnable, which lately means we likely will attend the game. Do you start a freshman in that game? Do you forego experience, checkered as it may be in Bolin or Rescigno, to give Lewis the reins and say, “Make it so, number one!” We’ve already burned the redshirt; he’s in. The short term goals (this season) need to take a back seat to the long view, and that’s Johnathan Lewis. And I think he starts and plays unless there is a need - or a sense - that something else is needed in a game. Jim’s idea above is interesting, but we’re already in the deep end of the pool...with a cinder block tied to our leg. Swim, Mr. Lewis, swim. Oh, and one more suggestion for Coach Kill: let it rip, Jerry. We have nothing to lose. You can simplfy the playbook, but let’s keep some exciting stuff on the agenda. Statue of Liberty play, end arounds, flea flickers. Let’s do it!
There you have it. There is a lot of support for Johnathan Lewis to play the rest of the way, either as a starter or in a greater supporting role. There is also some support for Gio Rescigno to regain the starting role. And there is virtually no support for Kyle Bolin to continue as the starting quarterback within our group of contributors. What will Chris Ash and Jerry Kill decide? We will find out in the coming week. For now, let us know what you think in the comments and vote in the poll below.
Who Should Start At QB For Rutgers Football?
This poll is closed