We finish the Rutgers Football series of positional previews the team’s quarterbacks. We held out as long as we could that a starter would be named, but didn’t want our readers waiting any longer! For last year’s preview, click here.
Position coach: John McNulty (2nd season)
Key players lost: Giovanni Rescigno (graduation), Jalen Chatman (transfer - Portland State), Rob Nittolo (graduation)
Key players returning: Artur Sitkowski (So.), Austin Albericci (RFr.)
Newcomers: McLane Carter (RSr.- transfer Texas Tech), Johnny Langan (RFr. - transfer Boston College), Cole Snyder (Fr. early enrollee)
Question 1: Is there at least an effective game manager here?
There’s turnover issues, and then there’s what was the 2018 Rutgers Football season. Rutgers threw five touchdowns and twenty-two interceptions. People often frown upon a game manager, but if more games truly are lost than won, we’ll take it right now. It’s one thing to throw interceptions late in games, on third down, and when taking deep shots downfield, however that is not what happened last year for the Scarlet Knights. Instead we saw interceptions on first down with no pressure, screen passes, and pick sixes. If this happens again in 2019, all the writing in the other position group previews will be obsolete.
Last year the number one question was: can they establish a rhythm in the short and intermediate game? If at bare minimum, the Scarlet quarterbacks can avoid bad turnovers, the second part of being an effective game manager is to convert third and medium. That means the quarterback helped keep his team on schedule by avoiding negative plays, sacks, delay of game penalties, and bad run audibles to set up manageable conversion attempts. He can get positive yards on pass plays in early downs, even if they are check down throws that ideally translates into similar success on third down whether it be completions just beyond the sticks or grinding out yardage on scrambles.
This is where Giovanni Rescigno proved effective against equal or lesser teams in 2016-2017, but was unable to seemingly anything against the good squads. Simply making the right play was what Peyton Ramsey did for Indiana at Rutgers last year when the Knights simply couldn’t get a stop. I believe Cole Snyder could be a better version of this and McLane Carter already is based on his limited film. Johnny Langan and Art Sitkowski have more upside than a game manager, but I don’t trust them (yet) when everything is going wrong to be able to make the easy plays to help get the momentum back. Even sophomore Gary Nova and redshirt freshman Mike Teel were not even close to this level of confidence, so it can take time.
Question 2: Can they be a threat?
What made Giovanni Rescigno a serviceable starting quarterback beyond just making the right read was his ability to hit a big play now and then. In the 2017 Purdue upset win, Gio hit the one wheel route that mattered. In the Maryland win he read the blitz properly and hit the hot route for Gus Edwards’s game winning touchdown. The problem was that against good teams, Gio was completely bottled up because they contained his rushing opportunities and didn't have to worry about him throwing the ball into tight windows.
This is where from a raw tools perspective, Art Sitkowski draws such rave reviews. You see in practice and in the last two spring games that his accuracy is pinpoint at times with plenty of arm strength. Those designed flare passes, screens, and slot outs need to hit the receiver perfectly on time in the hands or the play will go for no gain at best. Art can execute these, but as soon as the pocket starts collapsing or receivers routes are affected by jamming corners he couldn’t adjust in 2018. That is the same reason he had trouble completing anything downfield because a lot can happen before someone is open deep (unless his name is Leonte Carroo). If Art was plugged into an offensive juggernaut, there would have been much better results, but beggars can’t be choosers. My reason for optimism with Art long-term is that it just takes experience to learn these skills if you have the physical tools at your disposal.
The other three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster all have a lot more throws under their belts, albeit at other levels of football. Of the group, Johnny Langan is big and a good overall athlete, but his off platform accuracy simply is not close to the others yet. He probably has the highest ceiling long term, but the longest way to go to get there. His throws were simply not consistently accurate enough in the spring game. In two years though, at minimum, if he's the backup quarterback I have confidence he can bring something to the offense that could pull an upset if he’s in rhythm. At the FCS level, he’d be a guy who could just win games on pure physical ability and moxie.
Cole Snyder I believe to have the highest floor of the quarterback room in years. I DO NOT THINK HE WILL BE DOUG FLUTIE, but the way Doug Flutie talked about football even before he was a star is exactly what I see in Cole. Flutie, another northeast guy who didn't scare anyone with his measurables, talked about his first career action at Penn State and said “it was simple, I just made my read and threw the ball.” This is what I saw from Snyder in his high school film and the spring game. Likely because of his extensive experience at quarterback and also playing other sports, Cole has a great feel for the pocket to make the right read quickly and the athleticism to buy time if needed. Then he has his fundamentals down so well for a teenager, that he can improvise a little bit. If Rutgers was still in a weak Big East, Snyder wouldn’t need as much time to adjust to the speed at this level.
Of course the big storyline is the guy who wasn’t in spring camp.
Question 3: What else is new?
McLane Carter joined the team if you hadn't heard. The former Texas Tech starter does have a career victory over Texas (yes the Big 12 Longhorns not the Texas State Bobcats), but only played three full games for the Red Raiders. The Texas Tech allies of ours at SB Nation liked McLane, “Carter’s strengths align with the foundational principles of what makes a good quarterback: patience, decision making, accuracy on short to medium passes.” Sign me up.
Carter doesn’t have the strongest arm, but delivered the ball to the open man very easily on film. He faced a lot of pressure as Texas Tech did not have the best offensive line, though his mistakes didn’t usually come under the blitz when he either took the sack or threw the ball away. He ran into trouble when he was in desperate down and distances and didn’t have the oomph to zip the ball into a tight window. You can tell he played enough football to understand situations.
Viva The Matadors didn’t have glowing things to say about Carter having above average improvisation or scrambling skills. To me, this is all relative. What I saw out of Carter was improvisation we haven’t seen from an RU QB since ... Ray Lucas? He does bring a calming presence to the huddle that in itself should help an offense that was a mess last year.
The team has a new offensive coordinator for the 10th straight year. Just had to do that since the amazing streak has finally come to an end. John McNulty admitted he has a better handle on personnel on both sides of the ball to really know what will not work. Rutgers still bases their offense on a pro set, but will have a lot more motion and players trying to find space on the outside. McNulty has a proven track record more than most other OCs during the streak so hopefully he can make the right adjustments for his personnel.
Johnathan Lewis is finally in the tight end room for good. This is best for his chances at the next level, but Rutgers may have been forced to play him at Quarterback had Carter not arrived and Langan not been declared eligible. Walk-on Austin Albericci is the 5th member of the QB room.
Question 4: Best case, worst case, and most likely scenarios?
Sitkowski and the receivers are WAY better, plus the protection holds up. Second best, McLane Carter does what he did in limited time at Texas Tech, but for the whole season.
Pop in the 2018 Rutgers Football DVDs. Or Rocky’s first fight with Clubber Lang.
Sitkowski and Carter each get time. Carter is better at this point in time to make things happen with the talent around him and Rutgers wins three or maybe even four games. That sets up a tough decision for Athletic Director Pat Hobbs since McLane will be out of eligibility and more quarterback questions will cloud the 2020 season.
Players listed on the current roster
#8 Artur Sitkowski (6’5’, 230 lbs.) Sophomore
Art was a huge get out of IMG Academy, but faces a lot of pressure from media and fans to be awesome out of the gate. He’s a prototypical pocket passer who can move better than people think. The question is how long it takes for him to read defenses well and develop pocket presence. Despite his terrible struggles, he was the first RU QB to even top 1,000 yards since 2015.
#17 Johnny Langan (6’3”, 232 lbs.) Redshirt Freshman
Johnny returns home after a redshirt season at Boston College. You figure he will get a new official jersey number now that he is eligible. It’s an oversimplification to compare him to Gio Rescigno because Langan has played a lot more snaps at the quarterback position. Langan does bring the same size to the position and an ability to run. Other schools may value him more at another position, but if there is any school in the country that he has a shot of starting at quarterback for, it’s RU.
#17 McLane Carter (6’3”, 225 lbs.) Redshirt Senior
McLane fits the mold of a Power Five quarterback who has had multiple stops in his career. Hopefully he remains healthy and can be the steady hand at the position Rutgers needs for the rest of the team to grow.
#16 Cole Snyder (6’1”, 202 lbs.)
Cole is already a fan favorite after enrolling early and doing almost everything perfect in limited spring game snaps. He puts in the work and is a great overall athlete who if given the opportunity will be a serviceable signal caller at worst. The staff will be super hesitant to throw another true freshman in the fire, but I’d like to see Cole get some snaps late in the season without his redshirt getting burned.
#19 Albert Albericci (6’0”, 179 lbs.) RFr.
Long term outlook: Below average. Unless Sitkowski all of a sudden is awesome, which even Mike Teel and Gary Nova weren’t until very late in their careers, the position will be a question mark again in 2020. Rutgers can’t keep going back to the graduate transfer market because even if Carter works out, the Scarlet Knights have had more than one that didn’t work out. Quarterback attrition is the new normal in college football though, I believe 74 quarterbacks moved from team to team in FBS through the transfer portal. Until that changes, there’s always a chance that one undergraduate transfer can move the needle out of the abyss here though.
In terms of who is on the roster and committed, the group is pretty average for all of FBS. Sitkowski can still improve, Cole Snyder could be good, and currently committed Evan Simon could not do much more at the high school level than he already has. Johnny Langan is a dark horse with four years of eligibilty and the staff will look to take a 2nd quarterback in the 2020 class after Sofian Massoud decommitted, perhaps Michael Alaimo could flip. Of the names just mentioned, I think Snyder has the best chance of being serviceable at minimum, but on a team without overwhelming talent the fans will always clamor for more like Indiana does with Ramsey. For now though, that would be a significant upgrade.
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