When Rutgers faces Northwestern at 11 AM tomorrow in a stand-alone game on CBS all eyes will be on Scarlet Knights QB Gavin Wimsatt. He will be scrutinized and judged for each throw, decision, and mistake he makes.
Is that fair? Probably not, Wimsatt is still just 19 years old and has only a handful of starts under his belt. But none of that matters. Wimsatt has to be “that guy” for the Scarlet Knights because there’s no one else that can be.
The redshirt sophomore is in his third year with the team and it’s time to show he can be QB1 for the Scarlet Knights. He struggled mightily last year, completing just 44% of his passes, second lowest among qualified D1 passers, but he’s still the same quarterback that was the 3rd best player in Kentucky and 205th nationally in 2021.
Rutgers fans are tired of losing and Greg Schiano has no one else to turn to if Wimsatt struggles on Sunday. Evan Simon got his chances last year when Wimsatt couldn't beat him out in summer practice, and he fared slightly better, but Simon’s ceiling is just nowhere near as high.
If Wimsatt can’t figure it out against Northwestern and all of this season, it’s unclear what will become of him and Rutgers football. He’ll join a long line of failed quarterbacks for the Scarlet Knights, who haven’t had a bonafide starter since Gary Nova (2011-14), and Greg Schiano’s seat will only get hotter, but worst of all, Rutgers will remain the doormat of the Big Ten, the butt of every joke, and the team that everyone else wants to schedule for their homecoming each fall.
“Should the Big Ten And Rutgers Head to Divorce?”, “Staff Picks: Who Should Replace Rutgers In The Big Ten?”, “The worst realignment move ever is worse than you thought”.
All of the above are real headlines from real articles, the final one being this year's The Athletic hit piece on the Scarlet Knights. They’re not the first articles that are essentially cheap shots at Rutgers, and they won’t be the last. These pieces will keep coming until Rutgers proves itself to have a competent football program.
Unfortunately, it doesn't matter how good your basketball team is, or your baseball team, and certainly any of your non-revenue generated sports. Everything is based on the football team, for better or worse, and Rutgers hasn’t shown the ability to be truly competitive in the Big Ten since 2014 when they went 8-5 under Kyle Flood in their first-year post-realignment.
This is exactly why Gavin Wimsatt has to succeed on the field this year. He has to. There’s no way around it. If you’ve seen Star Wars, you know the scene where Princess Leia says “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” Right now, that’s exactly how Schiano, Pat Hobbs, and everyone else surrounding Rutgers Athletics should feel about Gavin Wimsatt.
Rutgers could go to the Final Four in basketball next year, and win a national championship in Lacrosse, but none of that matters if Gavin Wimsatt can’t win Rutgers 6 games and get back to a bowl game.
Rutgers is out of excuses, and the Scarlet Knights can only go as far as Wimsatt can take them, The young quarterback has a decision to make. He can be Artur Sitkowski, or he can be the next Gary Nova, potentially even Mike Teel. Whoever he is, we’ll find out this season.