Nova does not regret seeing the field, however. In fact, his opportunities won last season make him even better positioned to hold onto the starting job this time, he said.
"I just have more knowledge of the game," said Nova after completing his third practice as the starter. "A year under my belt is a big learning experience. Last year I was really lost out there. I'm not going to lie because there were times where I was just lost in the speed of everything. This year, I actually have an understanding of what's going on. I'm ready."
Nova experienced mixed success when he won the starting job from then-sophomore Chas Dodd last season. He led Rutgers to a dominant victory over Pittsburgh — where he was once verbally committed to Dave Wannstedt — but lost games against Louisville and West Virginia largely because of turnover problems.
Finishing with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions, Nova's inconsistent yet productive freshman year now has him feeling ready to be the starting quarterback. Flood, who named Nova the starter Monday morning, stands firmly behind Nova going into Tulane kickoff in less than two weeks.
"Gary seems to be asserting himself a little more than he was when the competition was going on," Flood said. "I think now that that's been lifted off his mind, it puts him a little more at ease out there."
Leadership and confidence are two of Nova's strongest character traits according to those that know him best.
Freshman receiver Leonte Carroo won back-to-back national championships with Nova as his quarterback at Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.).
"Gary is one of the best leaders I've ever known in sports," Carroo said. "He gets everyone ready to play. He's a great teammate."
Since winning the starting job with an impressive first two weeks of training camp, Nova said he feels more comfortable asserting himself in a huddle filled with juniors and seniors.
"I think it's something I've been trying to do since the beginning of camp," Nova said. "Now, obviously, I've been named the starter and you have to be a leader out there. That's kind of a role I've been trying to work on all summer during training camp.
"I think I've always been a leader. You're kind of forced to do it when you're a quarterback at Don Bosco. I took on a role as a leader there. I come from a great line of quarterbacks. Coaches tell me I naturally have leadership skills. Why not use them?"
Nova will be the fifth different quarterback in as many years to start at Rutgers. With Domenic Natale, Tom Savage and Dodd all unable to hold the job for a full season, Mike Teel — of Don Bosco — was the last to do it.
Despite a horrific 1-5 start in 2008, Teel kept the job and finished with a record 25 touchdowns and 3,418 yards. Teel earned honors including National Player of the Week and MVP of the PapaJohns.com Bowl. He also had his named called in the sixth round at Radio City Music Hall that spring.
Though out of football after two years in the NFL and a year as the Kean quarterback coach, Teel still follows Rutgers and was one of the first to reach out to Nova Monday after he won the job.
"He actually texted me congratulations when it happened," Nova said. "He told me, ‘this is the easy part. The hard part is coming, so just keep going to work.'"
Perhaps more than any other quarterback since the turn of the program, Teel knows about the "hard part" of starting at Rutgers.
From the time fans booed him during a Homecoming victory over Connecticut as a senior, Teel did nothing but put his head down and work. He had the same advice for Nova, a fellow Don Bosco national champion set to open the Rutgers season at quarterback.
"He said it comes with the territory," Nova said. "You can't really listen to it because it's going to happen. It's already happened to me. You try hard to ignore it, but understand it comes with the territory. If it's good or bad, you just have to fight through it and face the adversity head on."
Gary Nova Extra
On lessons from Mike Teel -- "I've probably seen more tape of him in high school than [Rutgers]. I watched a few of his games. Obviously he's a great quarterback to learn from. I worked out with him a couple times and obviously I've got a lot to learn from him. He told me I could call him whenever I want to, so it's a good resource to have."
On winning the job -- "Everybody congratulated me and told me to get to work. I think the sky is the limit for me and this offense. We have to come ready to work."
On wide receivers -- "Even with Brandon [Coleman] down and Tim [Wright] down, guys like Quron Pratt and Mark [Harrison] and Miles Shuler are stepping up. I think it's a great weapon to have a guy like [Shuler] out there. Obviously when we get those guys back full go, we'll definitely have some weapons outside."
On Carroo earning time -- "I'm really excited. I'm happy for him. He really worked hard and studied his playbook and stuff like that. I just can't wait to see him lined up out there. … He's a strong physical receiver. He's going to go get the ball. He's not scared to go across the middle. He's a dangerous playmaker."
On if he is preparing for Tulane yet -- "Not at all. I'm sure after the scrimmage on Thursday, either Friday or over the weekend, I'll start getting a look at Tulane. Right now it's just a focus on the scrimmage because we can't look past it."
On coaches behind the scenes -- "The whole quarterback room, Mike Bimonte, he hasn't played but he's very knowledgeable and stuff like that. Having [Steve] Shimko around is a great resource and bringing in [graduate assistant Devin Fitzsimmons] is huge for me. He was with Peyton Manning, probably one of the best to ever play. Chas is great to work with, but guys like that are also great to learn from.
"… Coach Fitz is great. Me and him have a great relationship with coach Spence. Fitz is very outgoing. He gets you in a good mood in the morning. He's a great guy to have around. He's always willing to help you out."
On taking the field in a home game as the starter -- "It's going to be a moment I've been waiting for forever. To come out of the locker room, starting the season as the starting quarterback of Rutgers, my whole family is going to be there. It's going to be good."