Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Rutgers faces another QB quandary
By Andrea Adelson
Stop me if you have heard this one before: Rutgers has a situation on its hands at quarterback.
No, this is not a repeat blog from last year. Or from 2009 for that matter.
Gary Nova didn't put up gaudy stats against Syracuse, but he played well enough for Rutgers to win.
Greg Schiano benched starter Chas Dodd in favor of Gary Nova against Syracuse last week and watched the true freshman lead a comeback 19-16 double overtime victory. Now Schiano is not saying who will start at quarterback against Pitt on Saturday, and most likely will not make any announcements until game time.
That Schiano has a history of benching his starters is common knowledge. He most recently did it last season with Tom Savage and Dodd. After Savage got hurt, the Scarlet Knights turned to Dodd -- a true freshman at the time. Savage never regained his starting job and transferred in the offseason to Arizona. It also happened in 2009 when Savage -- also a true freshman at the time -- replaced Domenic Natale as the starter.
Schiano appeared to be committed to Dodd throughout the fall, expressing hope and optimism about his ability to pick up the new pro-style system being brought in by Frank Cignetti. Through three games, Dodd played well enough. But he struggled in the first half against the Orange, going 14-of-31 for 166 yards and an interception. Rutgers trailed 13-3 when he left the game. Nova came in and was far from perfect, going 14-of-24 for 122 yards with a touchdown.
But he did lead the team to victory. Dodd having started 12 straight games may weigh on the decision. But the Scarlet Knights are 5-7 in the 12 games Dodd has started, and he ranks No. 7 in the league in passing and last in pass efficiency.
Meanwhile, Nova has a clear bond with Cignetti, who recruited him while was on the Pitt coaching staff. Nova was a Pitt commitment because of Cignetti, the first coach he talked to during the recruiting process. After Pitt fired coach Dave Wannstedt, Cignetti landed at Rutgers. Nova decommitted from the Panthers and ended up at Rutgers.
"I love his approach to the game," Nova told local reporters Monday. "The passion he teaches with. In middle of practice, he'll say, 'Do you want to be great?' Being around a guy like that, you always want to practice and you always want to give him a great effort. You don't want to let him down."
Nova has played in three of four games this season, because Schiano wanted to get him some playing time to build up his experience. In those games, Nova has shown a rocket for an arm and many of the tools that made him a highly touted prospect out of Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey. He went 24-0 in two seasons as a starter there.
Dodd is listed as No. 1 on the depth chart for the Pitt game, but Schiano dismissed that. When asked how he would make his decision about who would start, he said, "We have to go with what gives us the best chance this week. When you've got two good quarterbacks, you take it week by week."
For his part, Dodd is trying to do everything he can to make the coaches believe he is the man to lead this team.
"I trust Coach and if he feels like we have to make some changes, then I'm behind him," Dodd told local reporters. "I know I just have to work harder and learn what I have to do better so that doesn't happen."