The dreaded middle of summer has arrived, which means spring practice is nearly three months in the rear view but the start of preseason camps nationally remains nearly a month away. This week, as we look forward to August, it’s time to identify two key ways for each Big Ten team to maximize the final weeks of this offseason.
Next up: Rutgers
Settling on a starting QB: After four years of Gary Nova, the Scarlet Knights finally have to move on and find another starting quarterback. Chris Laviano currently has the edge over transfer Hayden Rettig -- but that doesn't mean he'll be starting come September. Actually, that early advantage isn't much of a surprise. Laviano played in five games last season, while Rettig was forced to redshirt and play with the scout team after transferring from LSU. Rettig has a heigher ceiling than Laviano, but Laviano appears to have a better understanding of the offense. So, if Rettig wants to start, he needs to close the gap and spend this summer with his nose in the playbook. If Laviano wants to maintain his edge, he needs to build off a strong spring game and continue to put in summer work with his receivers. It's in RU's best interest to decide a starter sooner than later so these two aren't just splitting reps in preseason camp -- but someone really has to separate himself first.
Finding chemistry along the offensive line: Rutgers needs to replace three multi-year starters along the line, so it was difficult to find much cohesion in the spring. Assistant coach Mitch Browning was forced to play four different players at center and tended to heavily mix-and-match in order to find the five best players. Keith Lumpkin, J.J. Denman and Chris Muller already have starting jobs locked up, but that still leaves question marks at two other positions. Derrick Nelson has the clear edge at center, but coach Kyle Flood declined to officially pencil him in as the starter after the spring. Dorian Miller and Tariq Cole -- who have combined to play in four career games -- are also in the equation as a starting tackle. This group needs to jell quickly for Rutgers to take a step forward on offense. There's plenty of talent at running back but, as division foe Penn State showed last season, that doesn't matter much if the offensive line struggles.