By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 4, 2014) – The “uneventful” phase of preseason football practice is already over, four sessions in. Rutgers dons full pads and goes to full contact on Tuesday, with a half-scrimmage scheduled that will possibly have the first impact on the Scarlet Knights’ depth chart, head coach Kyle Flood said today.
“I think after tomorrow when we play some live football we’ll have a meeting where we’ll discuss those type of things,” Flood said of potential depth chart changes. “Up until now what I’ve told the coaches is `unless you’ve seen something so obvious that a depth chart change is warranted we’re not going to do anything right now.'
“Everybody is getting enough reps that we’re getting a chance to evaluate them. Tomorrow we’re going to play live football and I think at that point we’ll take a look at it and see. I don’t know if there will be any changes but there could be.”
Rutgers will head into the half-scrimmage off yet another practice session that left Flood pleased with what he saw.
“I’m really excited about the energy at practice,” he said. “I felt we definitely picked it up a notch from yesterday. (There was) much more consistency in the level of intensity and really got a couple of situations in. Third down and medium went in today. It gave us an opportunity to still work on being a smart football team.”
Flood has yet to officially announce a quarterback starter or a pecking order at the position, but previously said he would prefer not to wait too long. Senior Gary Nova is the presumptive starter, with Chris Laviano and Mike Bimonte continuing to make their bids – if not for the No. 1 spot then the backup role.
“In a practice like this, I see some throws that I like,” Flood said of the quarterbacks. “I saw some command at the line of scrimmage that I really liked. But when the practice is scripted it’s a little different than when you’re just calling the plays like it’s a game. Tomorrow we’re going to play a little football and we’ll have a little bit better idea of where we’re at.”
Wide receiver Ruhann Peele left practice with an undisclosed injury, with Flood saying he doesn’t “know exactly what his status is going to be.” He said he hoped to provide an update tomorrow.
Most of the specialists – punter Joe Roth, true freshmen long snapper Alan Lucy and placekickers Kyle Federico and Nick Borgese – have been solid so far, Flood said.
“I’m looking for Joe at the punting position to still be more consistent,” he said. “I’m pleased with our long snapper. I think Alan has done a nice job. And I’m pleased with the kickers. I think the kickers have done a pretty good job so far.”
Sophomore wide receiver/return specialist Janarion Grant says he still feels he’s one of the fastest players on the team, even with his weight up to 170 pounds on the way, he hopes, to 175.
Grant reported to Rutgers last year at 153.
“I’m not sure if I am (the fastest),” he said. “I don’t want to say yes, I don’t want to say no. I would say Leonte Carroo, Ruhann Peele, Dre Boggs, Darian Dailey are all right there. They have some fast freshmen this year. So I’m not sure.
“As for me, I’m comfortable with the weight I’m at now. I just can’t let gaining weight slow me down. It’s been good. That hasn’t been a problem.”
Grant, who earned second-team all-AAC honors as a kick returner last year, is looking to have a major impact on the offense this season at the slot receiver. He caught just three passes last year, making his mark with several spectacular returns.
He had a 100-yard kickoff return in the opener against Fresno State and a game-changing 58-yard punt return in the victory over Arkansas.
“Definitely, I was really surprised I was able to do that,” he said. “As a true freshman you don’t know what to expect. Then coming out that first game against Fresno with that kickoff return, it was crazy. It’s like, all of a sudden, it’s real.
“But I want to do more this year. I want to help this team on offense. I’ve worked on almost everything this offseason to improve every area of my game. I’m hoping to build off what I did in the spring and carry that into the season.”
Grant earned the Most Improved Offensive Player Award in the spring, an honor that at first surprised him and then inspired him.
“My confidence was already at a decent level but then when I won that award as Most Improved on Offense – I felt like I had improved, but I didn’t think I was going to win an award – so it meant a lot. It was an exciting moment for me,” he said. “It meant I knew I had to keep pushing and keep working hard.”