With the Rutgers football season just ten days away from kicking off at home against UMASS, one major question continues to hang over this team...who will be named the starting quarterback? Last week, McLane Carter, the intriguing grad transfer from Texas Tech, began garnering reps with the first team, making it a true competition with incumbent starter Artur Sitkowski. After Tuesday’s portion of the practice open to reporters, NJ Advance Media’s James Kratch came to the conclusion that Sitkowski appears more likely to start, but that Carter is also likely to play in the season opener. No word on when or even if head coach Chris Ash will make a formal announcement before next Friday’s game.
Even if Sitkowski does open the 2019 campaign as QB #1, it seems like Carter will get an opportunity to make a difference as well in what is a 12 game gauntlet of a season (maybe 13 if you are a dreamer).
With that in mind, I reached out to SB Nation’s Texas Tech site, Viva The Matadors, to find out their take on Carter and his time in Lubbock. Fortunately, Jeramey Gillilan kindly took the time to give Rutgers fans some insightful thoughts on the signal caller based on his two seasons at Texas Tech. Let’s kick things off here.
AB: Carter had a successful high school career playing in Texas. He obviously went the JUCO route originally, but what was his reputation like coming to Texas Tech and was it a surprise that he transferred?
JG: McLane Carter’s segue from Tyler Junior College to Texas Tech was extremely overlooked by Tech fans. At that time we had just had Patrick Mahomes go to the NFL, a supposed star starter in Nic Shimonek, and the “Mr. Texas Football” of 2015 Jett Duffey coming into the program. With all the excitement that had accrued around Mahomes’ style of play Texas Tech fans just didn’t fully notice Carter coming from a JUCO - no matter the stats. He did, however, get the nod against our game against Texas in Austin and was a predominant factor in the W over the Longhorns. Jump forward a year and Carter gets named the starter for the 2018 season. At the time he was the only QB on the roster with a start in a college football game. Not long through that Ole Miss opener he took a nasty hit that messed up his ankle and forced Kingsbury to play true freshman Alan Bowman. You should know a little more of how that story goes: injured starter quickly outpaced by eager freshman. I don’t think anybody is surprised with Carter’s decision to transfer - it was in his best interest and truly all the fans here want to see him crush it at Rutgers.
AB: Former head coach Kliff Kingsbury named Carter the opening game starter last season. How much of a surprise was that and how high did Kingsbury appear to be on Carter in speaking to the media about him?
JG: I kind of hit this on the first question, but reiteration is almost never a bad thing. At that time Carter was the only quarterback in our roster with an actual start in college, so naturally Kingsbury felt the most comfortable in giving Carter the nod. Kingsbury’s media presence wasn’t always the most informational or inspiring - but he did affirm that Carter was the guy to lead Tech going forward. Additionally it was noted that Carter had been making substantial progression throughout the summer in the weight room as well as in his passing abilities. If memory serves, finally hearing “Carter named the starter” gave Tech fans a lot of relief.
Damn those injuries, though.
AB: In Carter’s time at Texas Tech, what was the overall assessment of his play, strengths and weaknesses, etc?
JG: The difficult part about this question is that Carter only has a few games with substantial playtime to analyze. Read this response with a grain of salt.
Carter’s strengths align with the foundational principles of what makes a good quarterback: patience, decision making, accuracy on short to medium passes. The Texas Tech v Baylor game last season (2018) is a good game to see Carter at his best - even after battling a season of injury rehab. More often than not you see quarterbacks throughout the league fly through progressions and try to do it themselves; not so with Carter. This is a man who trusts the offensive schemes (he’s wicked smart, too) and runs through the progressions as they’re set out. Time-and-time again this has proven itself to be a key of consistent offensive efficiency. When he has the open man he makes the right throw to move the chains. He’s a natural leader but didn’t have the extended opportunities with Tech to show that.
Now, Carter’s weaknesses: average to below-average improvisational skills, below-average rushing (but he can surprise you), and the long ball is iffy. I feel like these don’t need much elaboration. The long ball is not exciting from Carter as he has either overthrown or underthrown a number of them while here at Tech. It may not even be an issue in the Rutgers’ offensive scheme but the fact remains.
AB: The Rutgers offensive line is the biggest question mark this season, aside from quarterback play. How effective was Carter in being able to make something out of nothing when his protections broke down at Texas Tech?
JG: Right - always answering questions before they come up. Carter exemplifies how quarterbacks should have patience in the pocket, but it can become real rocky real fast when the protection breaks down. It’s not all doom and gloom for Rutgers, though. Carter has a knack for growing through the adversity and it may be something he’s been cracking down on with his new team. Leave room for Carter to improve and he will most definitely surprise you.
AB: Just curious of any other details about Carter, in regard to his character, leadership, intangibles, what fans thought of him and anything else you might be able to share about him.
JG: All in all McLane Carter adds a lot of depth to any roster. Both as an athlete as well as a leader. Though his 2017 season wasn’t a lot of stat-padding for the Red Raiders, his exit from the 2018 season opener was felt by Red Raider faithful. Somewhere in the middle of the season Kingsbury thought it might be time to reintroduce Carter into the lineup and subbed him in for a wavering Jett Duffey. The crowd noise amplified ten-fold. It was really sweet to hear the support Lubbock had for his road to recovery and that was just an illustration of the impact that Carter has on the community around him.
I hope that the entirety of Rutgers University rallies around Carter’s season of reclamation - I truly believe he will have a breakout year.