Give Rutgers coach Kyle Flood credit for this -- he has said he wants to have a starting quarterback in place with seven to 10 days to go before the season begins, and he has stuck with that statement for months now.
So when training camp opened Monday and Flood was asked about the competition between Chas Dodd and Gary Nova, he laughed and repeated his standard line. For anybody looking at who might have an edge going into the fall, quit looking. The two are essentially equal, and there is no accurate way to handicap the race.
During Big East media day last week, I asked Flood what he wanted to see out of his quarterbacks to make his decision. He gave me three criteria, all borrowed from former offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti.
1. Protect the ball
2. Complete the ball
3. Lead the team
"Those are the three things," Flood said. "Both of those guys made those strides in spring, and I am hoping to see that continue."
Let us take a look at how both players stacked up in 2011 based on those three criteria.
1. Protect the ball. Nova made his way into the starting lineup after replacing Dodd in the Syracuse game. Dodd had one interception and was largely ineffective before heading to the bench against the Orange with Rutgers trailing 13-3. Nova did have a fumble, but led a comeback win in overtime. But the turnover bug got to Nova, as he threw seven interceptions in his next five starts. On the season, Dodd had 10 touchdown passes to seven interceptions; Nova had 11 touchdown passes to nine interceptions. Both must be better taking care of the football.
2. Complete the ball. Neither player was particularly efficient in this category last season. Part of the reason Dodd was pulled against Syracuse is because he was 14-for-31 (45 percent). On the season, Dodd completed 56.7 percent of his passes while Nova completed 51.1 percent. According to the final NCAA stats from last year, Nova ranked No. 90 out of 100 quarterbacks in the nation in passing efficiency (116.63). Dodd had an efficiency rating that was slightly higher than Nova, at 118.5. That would have ranked Dodd No. 88 had he met the minimum requirement to be ranked.
3. Lead the team. Both showed flashes last season. Nova engineered the comeback win over Syracuse; Dodd engineered the comeback win over USF. In five starts, Nova went 3-2. In eight starts, Dodd went 6-2, including the regular-season loss to UConn, including an interception and two fumbles. One was picked up and returned for a touchdown (See criteria No. 1). That loss cost Rutgers a share of the Big East title.
So as you can see, both need to make major improvements in all three areas. For their part, they each did interviews when they reported to camp and said they understood how Flood was approaching the competition. They also both agree it will be best to have one quarterback moving forward.
"It worked out last year, but any great offense there's always been one quarterback, and that's the way it probably should be," Dodd said. "I know me and Gary are going to come out and compete for it, but we understand we need one guy to be the quarterback and be the guy that everybody looks up to."