Per Todderick Hunt of NJ Advance Media, Rutgers secured a commitment from Rob Nittolo seemingly out of nowhere.
Let’s dig into the 5 Ws.
Who is he?
Nittolo is a quarterback who has made two high school stops, one of which he set the world on fire and two college stops, one of which he set the world on fire. So if you are looking for a guy who has flashed potential, this is it. He was injured in the 4th game of 2016 and not rushed back as the team was out of the playoff hunt. He was given a release from Southern Connecticut State football in January and he will graduate this spring.
What should we expect?
Generally walk-ons are not expected to make an impact but certain positions like quarterback you can be considered the best in your state and not even get an FBS offer because most colleges only take one quarterback per class. Since quarterback is basically the only position in any team sport where only one player plays, the concept of a journeyman doesn’t scare me too much. Heck, he’s seen as many offenses as the rest of the Knights players in the last few years.
The injury was to his pinky tendon which should heal 100%. For some quarterbacks, pinky injuries or swelling impacts how the ball comes out more than others. Nittolo is known for his accuracy and if the ball is not coming out of his hand well, he’d likely be ineffective.
From watching his film, it does look like his initial reads are pretty good which is consistent with his reputation as being strong with Xs and Os. Secondly, he moves around pretty well to keep plays alive and shows more elusiveness to create space for himself. Though he has some good rushing TDs on film don’t expect a true dual threat, he is not big enough to take the pounding of carrying the ball against B1G defenses. Gio got hurt running and he’s way bigger than Nittolo.
What intrigues me the most about Nittolo is his accuracy on the run, not something you always see. As much as Rutgers pass blocking could improve in the near future, they need quarterbacks who can throw on the run because they will be facing pressure. The arm strength may continue to improve as he gets bigger and stronger, so if he can maintain accuracy he might have an outside shot at starting at some point or more likely being the relief ace that comes in when everyone knows you are going to pass.
The first summer session with two years eligibility remaining as he is graduating from Southern Connecticut State this spring. Chris Ash made remarks that the team was not in the market for a graduate transfer after Oden’s dismissal, but perhaps that is because the staff likes what they see in Nittolo.
Where this gets confusing is that a scholarship possible at some point even though Nittolo will begin as a walk-on. But if he’s a graduate student, some of the rules are different, so more to come on that.
Where did he come from?
In High School he transferred from Dwyer (West Palm Beach, Fla.) to Hillsborough (N.J.). FCS James Madison and New Hampshire were his only offers in high school from what we understand though RU, Maryland, BC, and Miami (FL) pop up as interested. He began his college career with a redshirt at James Madison before transferring to Southern Connecticut State before his true sophomore campaign. From there he caught fire winning ECAC offensive rookie of the year and then getting injured early in his Redshirt Sophomore year.
His parents still reside close by in Hillsborough so I guess you could say he’s gone full circle and a half?
Rutgers is thin at several positions, so thin that for that reason there might not even be tackling in the spring game. After the dismissal of Tylin Oden and transfer of three others this offseason, the quarterback room has only two scholarship players. Returning starter/clear-cut starter Gio Rescigno and 5th year senior Zach Allen are it. Much balleyhooed recruit Johnathan Lewis will be on the banks this summer and hopes to push for the starting job. In the meantime, walk-on Troy Anthony is the 3rd stringer. Another walk-on, Tommy Wyatt, announced earlier this month he was transferring to Rutgers from Temple, adding another dual theat QB to the roster. On a team that played four quarterbacks plus at least two wildcat QBs a season ago, who knows?
How does this shape the program moving forward?
Let’s not kid ourselves, as much as you can point to everything that went wrong for RU in 2016, the most glaring problem was the inability to complete a pass from one human being to another. Nittolo when healthy can do that with his eyes closed.
This is the type of move that makes me believe in the coaching staff. They have hit some bumps in the road in the last 18 months but each time it seems Chris Ash and staff has admitted the problem and taken some action to try to resolve it. Often these are low-risk moves like a preferred walk on, adding a new set, or maybe a coach with a little more experience that add up over time. The staff was a little too narrow minded in schemes and personnel in 2016 but now are trying to diversify everything. In a way Nittolo is the anti-Gio both physically and in style of play.
The upside is a potential two-deep walk on. As most football fans know from the story of now Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, you always need “arms”. So at minimum, it’s another guy to throw passes, lead the scout team, and push the limits in the quarterback room.