By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 13, 2014) – Chris Laviano understood exactly what he was up against in Rutgers’ quarterback competition, from spring practice until preseason camp. Senior Gary Nova has 28 career starts and 33 games played to his credit. Laviano has zero and zero.
Realistically, the redshirt freshman knew he was battling for No. 2 spot. The job officially became his on Tuesday with the announcement from head coach Kyle Flood that Laviano had won the backup job.
For now, it’s enough for Laviano, because he knows being No. 2 requires being prepared play at a moment’s notice. It puts him as close as he has ever been to getting into a game for the Scarlet Knights since he arrived on campus in January of 2013.
“Coming out of spring Gary obviously has a lot of experience so he had the advantage,” Laviano said. “But coming into training camp that wasn’t on my mind. My thinking was that all I can do is get better every day and prove I can make plays and if called upon I can be that guy. If I’m No. 1 or No. 2 it doesn’t really matter. I need to be prepared to help the team. That’s what I did.
“In terms of progress I think I made a lot in the film room and on the field I just focused a lot in the summer. I clearly got better. I’m more comfortable. I prepare every day. The rest took care of itself.”
The 6-3, 210-pounder insists he will get the job done if called upon to do so.
“By the time the games come you have to be confident, knowing that all the work you have put in has prepared you,” he said. “There’s really no choice. You have to be ready. If you’re not you wouldn’t be in this position. So I’m confident enough that I can go out there and execute. I’ll continue to study and watch film and if I’m called upon, yes, I’ll be ready.”
One of the reasons Flood felt comfortable moving Justin Goodwin from running back to cornerback today has been the emergence of redshirt sophomore Desmon Peoples. Though Peoples has been sidelined much of preseason camp – he returned over the weekend – Flood has been impressed enough to make him the new backup to Paul James.
Peoples has just 16 rushing yards in his career.
“If Desmon didn’t have the kind of spring and in the beginning of training camp – I know he went down after the second practice but he looked pretty good today – if he had not come on the way he has, this probably would have been a tougher decision to make,” Flood said. “I don’t know if I would have been as quick to pull the trigger on it. I have a lot of confidence in (Paul James), I have a lot of confidence in Desmon and I like the way the two freshmen have looked – Robert (Martin) and Josh (Hicks), who is down right now. We hope to get him back on Friday. I thought Robert had a good day today.
“I think we’ve got some depth at that running back position and you can’t play them all at running back. So we’ve got to get the guys on the field and Justin is one of the better football players on our team. I think this gives us a chance to get another really good football player on the field.”
Goodwin was Rutgers’ second-leading rusher as a freshman last season with 521 yards. He was plugged into cornerback to add depth to a unit that lost impressive freshman Dre Boggs for an indefinite time due to a lower body injury.
New sports marketing deals with Pepsi and UPS have raised the profile of Rutgers football even more as the school prepares for its inaugural Big Ten season.
More than 4 million Pepsi cans with Rutgers’ home schedule were produced and are being sold in the region. UPS has branded envelopes with the Big Ten 2014 Rutgers logo on it.
Flood will be the guest of Bruce Beck at midnight on Sunday night on “Sports Final” on NBC-TV (Ch. 4) in New York.