PISCATAWAY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Chris Ash has given Rutgers a face lift in his first seven months as the coach.
The former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator has changed just about everything predecessor Kyle Flood did in a tenure that ended with a 4-8 season, a training camp engulfed in player arrests and the coach at the center of an academic scandal.
One thing remains — the quarterback question.
Redshirt juniors Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig are competing for starting quarterback again, along with TCU transfer Zach Allen.
Laviano won the job last season and completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,247 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Rettig went 14-of-25 for 233 yards and two touchdowns in mop-up duty. The LSU transfer also started the season opener after Laviano was suspended of the first half of the season opener for breaking curfew and trying to use a fake ID during training camp.
Both Ash and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Drew Mehringer have since praised Laviano for his leadership.
“He’s had a lot of turmoil, well-documented, things that go on in his life,” Mehringer said. “One of the things that we talked about with him — not just from this past spring semester, but throughout the summer — consistency has to be established in your life and he did that. This summer was a tribute to an individual trying to change his life and do things the right way and a credit to him.”
Laviano, who declined to speak after the spring game, was more affable this week. He cracked a few smiles and gave some lengthy answers to questions.
“I’m more mature. I feel different. I am different in here and it’s a very positive place,” Laviano said. “I think honestly it’s the consistency off the field and on the field and in the facility. It’s just coming every day to work, every day to the meeting room with a positive attitude, not getting in trouble off the field, just being a quarterback all year around.”
Laviano and Allen have been listed as the co-starters coming into camp this week, with Rettig and Giovanni Rescigno behind them.
Allen spent more time at wide receiver than quarterback at TCU, completing just two passes. But Ash brought in Allen to “throw a bomb in the room” and create competition.
“They’re the two that have earned it,” Ash said of the first-team reps. “Chris Laviano had a great summer. He was one of our most consistent players on the team — not just in the quarterback position — but just his work ethic, his attitude, his commitment to himself completely changed. He was fun to watch this summer, and he earned the right to go out and takes reps with the first team as the first quarterback.
“(Allen) also had a great summer and we thought it was the right thing to do to give him the opportunity to practice with the first team.”
Allen, a graduate transfer with two years of eligibility remaining, didn’t get the luxury of spring football. He finished his undergraduate degree at TCU in May and committed to Rutgers in June.
“It’s my job coming in late to know the playbook, to get everything done that I needed to get done before camp starts,” Allen said. “And I feel like I put myself in a good opportunity or a good place to be able to compete for the job.”
Laviano is regarded as the most mobile option. It’s an advantage in Mehringer’s power-spread offense, a major change from Rutgers’ pro-style offense
Rettig is known for having the strongest arm and was a highly touted pro-style quarterback recruit. However, Rettig said this offense is more similar to what he ran in high school and he’s comfortable with the playbook.
He’s also ready to play his way back into the competition
“I don’t get discouraged because anything happens in football. Stuff changes all the time,” Rettig said. “It’s the first day of practice. No matter if you’re four, three, two or one, it doesn’t matter. Whoever goes out there and runs the offense best, works hard and does what he needs to do on the field and shows the coach he can play, he’s going to start.”
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