by Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (July 31, 2014) – It’s the one question that continues to loom over Rutgers’ offense more prominently than any other.
Will a new offensive coordinator (Ralph Friedgen) result in a new and improved Gary Nova at quarterback?
The early returns, at least from Nova’s perspective, are a resounding yes as the Scarlet Knights reported back to the Hale Center today, with pre-season camp set to begin on Friday.
“It’s awesome,” Nova said of the presence of Friedgen, his fourth offensive coordinator in as many years. “I wish I had him all four years. He’s great. He’s probably the best teacher I’ve ever been around, in school, (with) anything.
“The way he remembers things and can teach it … he won’t put a lot of stuff in if I’m struggling with it. He’ll peel back. He’s awesome.”
On paper, Rutgers’ offense has the potential to surpass the solid numbers put up by last year’s unit, which produced the fourth-highest yardage total in school history (4,747 yards) and the fifth-highest point total (254). All five offensive line starters are back. The starting backfield returns intact. There’s a big-play wide receiver in Leonte Carroo and one of the nation’s top offensive weapons at tight end in Tyler Kroft.
But so much hinges on the quarterback play.
Nova started the first 10 games last season – after starting all 13 in 2012 – but was benched for the final three games because of inconsistent play. It’s something 6-2, 220-pound senior has worked to overcome his entire career. This offseason has been no exception.
“Obviously it starts with turnovers and just making good decisions, not putting our defense in a bad position and trying to put points on the board,” Nova said. “When I’m under duress, under pressure, (it’s) just making smarter decisions with the ball, not trying to make that big play, maybe taking a sack (instead) or throwing the ball out of bounds, things like that. I’ve just to go back to work and hope to do it on game day.”
Nova’s ability to produce consistently is even more critical this season because Rutgers enters Big Ten play without another quarterback on the roster who has taken a snap in a college game. Though nothing has been officially announced yet, Nova is the presumptive starter.
“I’m excited to get out there,” he said. “I’m not really worried about (not being named the starter yet). Coach will make a decision when he does. I’ve just got to go out there and do my best and be a great teammate.”
For all of his inconsistency, Nova enters this season with the sixth-highest passing yardage total in school history (6,407) and well within reach of Mike Teel’s career school touchdown passing mark of 59. Nova is No. 3 all-time with 51.
But he has also been plagued by turnovers (39 in 33 career games) and an average career completion percentage (54.7). That’s where he feels Friedgen will help him – and already has -- with Nova having spent the offseason determined to go out with a flourish.
“I just did a lot of studying by myself, just trying to get this offense down, constantly talking with coach Friedgen,” he said. “I think the rule change helped a lot. We were able to have meetings, which we weren’t allowed to with coaches in there before. Having him around was great.”