On Monday, Rutgers head football coach Chris Ash did the inevitable and named redshirt junior quarterback Chris Laviano the starter for its opener against Washington on Sept. 3. It wasn’t exactly an unexpected move, but the devil was in the details of Ash’s announcement.
That’s because his talk to the media wasn’t exactly full of confidence in Laviano. Instead, he made sure to remind everyone that he will start the first game and the team will go from there.
“Right now today, Chris is our guy. He’s our starting quarterback,” Ash said, via NJ.com. “Chris is no different than any other position. He’s gotta go out and perform well. We have to be able to move the football and make good decisions when we’re on the field for a game. We gotta have confidence that he can do that.”
Laviano beat out TCU transfer Zach Allen, and Allen is still battling with Hayden Rettig for the backup job according to Ash’s statements to the media on Monday.
Beat out seems to be a relative term, as Ash’s statement clearly shows that he isn’t overly confident in his starter being the exact answer he was looking for this season.
The fact is, Rutgers doesn’t have the exact spread-orientated quarterback that Ash would like on its 2016 roster.
Laviano was at least somewhat accurate last season, completing 60.9 percent of his passes and all. However, the bigger story is the fact that he went five straight games without throwing a touchdown pass.
A lot of talk this offseason has been on the changes Laviano has made mentally and physically, but he still can’t shake the fact that he isn’t a speed burner as a quarterback or big enough to take on long-term rushing duties.
Should the wheels fail to turn for the Rutgers offense with Laviano it certainly appears Ash is willing to go ahead and try to spark the offense to something better.
“But the good thing that I do like is I think we have good depth at the quarterback position,” said Ash. “If an injury were to occur or something would happen down the road where we just weren’t getting the production that we wanted, we do have some guys who are going to be working extremely hard behind him. If we ever felt like we needed to down the road, we’ve got people we can turn to.”
Just don’t expect Ash to go with multiple quarterbacks in a game unless something crazy happens. After witnessing the disaster that was Ohio State’s two-quarterback situation in 2015, it appears he knows the pitfalls that are common with that issue.
“Right now, today, we would not go with two quarterbacks,” Ash said. “If we felt like that would be the best thing for us to do, we would do that. Sitting here today, that is not the plan. The plan is to have a quarterback that we know can play in all situations.”
Allen got in to the race late, but it appeared he also may have had the better command of the spread characteristics of the offense, having played in that style at TCU. However, he just couldn’t be as accurate in the passing game throughout fall camp.
That may have forced Ash and offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer to make a lesser of two evils kind of choice.
Now the question turns to the bigger issue — can the offensive coordinator marry his ideas to the skill set of his now starting quarterback. Getting ahead of the curve and naming a starter already gives the two the best chance to figure out what is going to work best.
Just don’t expect Ash and Co. to sit ideally by should a long drought at quarterback be in the offing.
Let’s just say this quarterback situation is far from settled for the rest of the 2016 season.