It’s no secret that since Gary Nova graduated after the 2014 season, Rutgers football has struggled to find a quarterback nearly as productive, let alone a reliable one. Often, fans have clung to the hope of players transferring into the program and becoming the best option under center for a point starved offensive unit the past few years. Unfortunately, the results have not been positive.
Hayden Rettig transferred to Rutgers from LSU when Kyle Flood was head coach, but after seeing limited action behind starter Chris Laviano during the 2015 season, he never saw the field in Chris Ash’s first season in charge a year later. The former 4-star recruit ultimately transferred out, playing just one game at FCS school Tennessee Tech before leaving that program as well.
Zach Allen came to Piscataway from TCU in 2016, where he had seen limited action at both quarterback and wide receiver. He mostly served time as a holder during kicks on special teams for the Horned Frogs, before deciding to leave. There was hope he could beat out Laviano and Gio Rescigno once he arrived in Piscataway, but he never did, completing just 1 of 12 passes that first season with Rutgers. Allen moved to wide receiver the following season after opting to pass on surgery to repair his injured ACL, but never made an impact on the field.
In 2017, Kyle Bolin transferred to Rutgers from Louisville, after falling behind eventual Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson on the Cardinals depth chart. With Laviano and Rescigno returning, there was a hope that Bolin could come to Rutgers and win the starting job. He did, of course, but struggled more and more as the first half of the season progressed and was ultimately relegated to the bench after six games. He produced only a 54.9% completion percentage, along with six interceptions and just three touchdowns.
While all three transfer quarterbacks were high character guys and positive additions to the program’s culture, they never panned out on the field the way the coaches and fans had hoped for.
Last season, true freshman Artur Sitkowski obviously struggled mightily and to be fair, he was a difficult position to be in. He was thrown into the fire and received little support around him from the other position groups, resulting in a non-productive offense. It’s not surprising that Ash said last week that Sitkowski enters the 2019 training camp as the no. 1 quarterback. He has the potential to become a much better quarterback and hopefully will do so this season. However, the starting job hasn’t been handed to him just yet.
Enter Texas Tech grad transfer McLane Carter, who decided to transfer to Rutgers this past May after spending two seasons in Lubbock. His stats aren’t sterling by any stretch, as Carter amassed a 52.6% completion percentage on 97 passing attempts, 677 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions spread over 10 games across two seasons. Despite the mixed results, there are some reasons to be optimistic about Carter this season.
One aspect of Carter’s previous experience at a power five school versus the three other recent QB transfers at Rutgers was that he actually won the starting job out of training camp last fall at Texas Tech. Carter started the season opener for the Red Raiders against Ole Miss, but unfortunately suffered a high ankle sprain midway through the game. It hindered him most of the season and he wasn’t able to start again until the regular season finale against Baylor. With a new coaching staff coming to Texas Tech after last season, Carter decided to pursue other opportunities, ultimately choosing Rutgers. Even though it didn’t work out for him long term there, Carter obviously showcased enough talent and potential to result in the Texas Tech coaches into anointing him the season opening starter.
Speaking of coaching, it should be stated that Carter obviously impressed former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury to win the job out of camp last summer. Kingsbury is a former star quarterback who is considered an offensive guru around football circles. Despite his team’s offensive success during his tenure in the high powered Big XII, Texas Tech simply didn’t win enough and he was let go after last season. Now Kingsbury landed as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. The fact is it’s a positive that an offensive mind such as Kingsbury saw enough in Carter to believe in him as a starting quarterback. It also shows that Carter has a high football IQ, as Kingsbury’s system is famously complicated.
He is learning a different system under Rutgers OC John McNulty, who said last week that he has been impressed with his ability to pick things up quickly. McNulty also seems better prepared to adapt the offense to his personnel more in his second season back on the banks. Carter is a southpaw thrower, but McNulty didn’t seem concerned last week that playing him would involve too many adjustments for the offense and stated he would tailor certain play calls to the lefty. Playing Carter would also force opposing defenses to adjust to his different throwing motion.
Perhaps most importantly, while Carter shouldn’t be considered a run first quarterback, he has demonstrated more mobility than past transfer QB’s Rutgers have had. He has more experience throwing out of the pocket and trying to make something out of nothing. While there is hope the Rutgers offensive line will be better this season, they struggled at times last season in providing ample protection for Art Sitkowski. If issues persist this season, it will be something Carter was used to at Texas Tech and could potentially provide an option for the offense in a way Sitkowski didn’t show last season.
Bottom line, Carter should not be viewed as a savior. It’s still Sitkowski’s job to lose and ultimately, if things work out to plan, he will assert himself as a capable starter in training camp and have a solid sophomore campaign. Even if Art does just thatr, Carter will hopefully serve as a solid contingency plan in case Sitkowski falters or gets injured. And if Carter does ultimately beat out Sitkowski, hopefully its because both QB’s are playing at a high level. Either way, if Carter can be a stable, solid option for McNulty to use, either in certain game situations, solely as the backup or even the regular starter, he would prove a useful addition this fall. If Carter can do that, he would also become the most successful transfer quarterback Rutgers has had in the past few seasons and potentially help this program bounce back in a significant way in 2019.