- Josh Moyer, ESPN Staff Writer
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Chris Laviano wowed the Rutgers crowd at Friday's spring game, but coach Kyle Flood wasn't prepared to name a starting quarterback based on one scrimmage.
Laviano, a redshirt freshman, looked sharp as he finished 8-of-10 for 140 yards and two touchdowns. His fellow competitor, Hayden Rettig, looked inconsistent on 4-of-7 passing for 37 yards.
"I think Chris [Laviano] is a little ahead right now, but that doesn't surprise me because he's had the advantage of playing in the games," Flood said after the game.
Flood said before that a spring decision on the quarterback battle was unlikely. Rettig's trailing isn't all that surprising either, considering Laviano played in five games last season, while Rettig played with the scout team. (He transferred from LSU last year.)
Still, Flood said, deciding starters in the spring wasn't a huge priority.
"I've never felt that was a priority in the spring," he added. "I think the spring is more to set up the depth chart for the fall."
Here's a look at some of the other key issues from Rutgers' spring:
Reasons for optimism
Plenty to work with at running back: Last season's five leading ball-carriers all returned this spring and, although an injured Paul James remained limited in contact drills, there's plenty to be excited about here.
This might be the deepest unit in the conference. Robert Martin and Josh Hicks turned in solid springs and combined for 874 rushing yards last season. (Martin averaged 5 yards per carry, while Hicks had 6.4 ypc.) And Justin Goodwin and Desmon Peoples also rushed for 328 and 447 yards last season.
Rutgers would be in good shape if it returned just two or three of these players. But all five? This is obviously a position of strength, so there may not be enough carries to go around ...
Young players making impact on defense: There are about a half-dozen underclassmen here who should offer RU fans plenty of hope for the future -- and who should see plenty of time this season.
Defensive end Kemoko Turay, strong safety Davon Jacobs and cornerback Dre Boggs all played in at least 10 games last season and should see plenty of time this year. Turay might be the cause for the most excitement: He led the Knights in 2014 with 7.5 sacks despite not garnering a start, and he really focused on his strength this spring. Boggs could be a force if he stays healthy, while Jacobs could start this season -- if he holds off another talented underclassman in Miami (Fla.) transfer Kiy Hester.
On top of those players? MLB Brandon Russell and DT Kevin Wilkins both redshirted last season but both figure to be important pieces of the puzzle in 2015. Russell could rise as high as the No. 4 backer, while Wilkins could pry the starting job from another underclassman in Sebastian Joseph. This defense has a lot of potential to produce quite a few multi-year starters.
Reasons for concern
Rebuilding the offensive line: Three multi-year starters are gone, including four-year starter Kaleb Johnson. As a result, this group is almost guaranteed to drop-off from last season -- the only question is, "By how much?"
Rutgers is at least fortunate that left tackle Keith Lumpkin decided to return one final season, and two other players -- J.J. Denman and Chris Muller -- are pretty solid. But the two other spots, including center, are a question mark as is the depth.
Assistant coach Mitch Browning alternated four different players at center this spring, and RU is set upon finding the five best linemen and starting them on the line. Where they'll start is another story. Flood declined to say that Derrick Nelson locked up starting center, for example, so Muller still has a chance to move from guard. Dorian Miller and Tariq Cole are also in the equation for a starting spot, and they've combined to play in four career games.
Run defense/limited LB depth: The departure of MLB Kevin Snyder, who played in 51 of a possible 52 games, certainly doesn't help this unit. But that was at least expected; a season-ending injury in the spring to No. 4 'backer T.J. Taylor was not. (Nick Rafferty was also designated as "out" on spring game injury report, although the severity of his injury is not known)
Replacing Snyder carries its own list of concerns, but there's really no wiggle room for RU here. Another injury could prove to be disastrous. Plus, despite positive press on juco transfer Isaiah Johnson, the middle linebacker still has no game experience.
All those question marks don't bode well for a group that, last season, added to the worst run defense in school history.
378dBrian Bennett and Josh Moyer