Eventually, you just have to take change for what it is and embrace it.
That is the mindset for quarterbacks Gary Nova and Mike Bimonte. Both joined the Rutgers roster in 2011. After four different position coaches and four different play callers for the pair of New Jersey-bred quarterbacks, Ralph Friedgen finally feels like the right fit.
“It’s much different than anything we’ve done in the past,” said Bimonte, a redshirt junior from Manalapan. “I feel coach Friedgen wants to really play to our strengths. He’s not so much worried about forcing a scheme on us and making us fit. He more so wants to play to the players’ strengths.”
Friedgen joined the Rutgers staff as its highest paid assistant in school history. The long-time Maryland head coach has a reputation of developing players.
For Nova, the quarterback meetings feel similar to his high school meetings with Greg Toal at Don Bosco Prep.
“It’s just two old-school guys that want things done the right way,” Nova said. “They don’t want shortcuts. It’s all about toughness. They’re not going to let anything slide on tape. They’re going to call you out on everything. They’re not going to tell you when you’re doing well, but always going to tell you when you’re doing badly. You can’t want anything better than that for a coach.”
Nova is the Rutgers starter in everything but name. Head coach Kyle Flood wants to make a decision soon, and said he would start Nova if the season began tomorrow.
A final decision will be made soon, and Nova brings 28 career starts into the Big Ten.
Nova also brings a history of inconsistency to the job. He lost his starter’s role to Chas Dodd as both a sophomore and junior. He has 51 career touchdown passes and 6,407 passing yards, but also has more career picks (39) than games played (33).
“He’s helped me clear my mind and my thought process at the line of scrimmage,” Nova said. “His meetings are awesome, and I go to the line of scrimmage with a clear head. It gives me a nice checklist of things to look for.”
When times get tough, Nova added another resource this spring in Mike Teel. A graduate assistant, Teel was the face of Rutgers football as a senior and felt many of the same pressures and inconsistencies as Nova.
“He calls the personnel on the sidelines, so I always try to grab him when I can and ask him what he thinks,” Nova said. “He always has great information to give back to ne when he’s watching me out there. I’m always asking him questions. He relates to me in a big way.”
Bimonte’s three-plus years have been as a backup, and is now in a head-to-head battle with Chris Laviano to be the second option at quarterback. The former Manalapan Brave has not seen the field since high school. He aims to change that this fall.
“You can only sit in meetings for so long and not get reps like I was my first year,” Bimonte said. “At some point, you have to rep things out on the field. It’s not always the same way in the meetings that it is on the field. Just getting the timing and all of that stuff together is big.
“I need to show a command of the offense. Good decision making, always, is the number one thing. You have to be able to make the plays that are there. It’s nothing crazy. It’s not a secret. Take control of the offense. Understand everything and make the right plays.”
Bimonte came close to playing time under Ron Prince last season. He has an experience edge over Laviano as this year’s backup, but the battle is far from decided.
“I catch myself [getting too excited] a lot,” Bimonte said. “I guess it’s just second nature having not played in a while. I try to stay within the scope of each day when I’m in meetings or at practice. Looking ahead doesn’t help anything.”
Friedgen’s playbook looks significantly different to what Bimonte learned last year under Prince and the year before under Dave Brock.
“He likes to play in space,” Bimonte said. “He wants to see a balanced offense. In his terms, that means he wants to be able to run the ball when he needs to and he wants to be able to throw the ball when he needs to. I think we’ll be balanced, and I’m looking forward to it.
“We have so many weapons that we can use. … The tight end group with Tyler [Kroft], obviously it’s fantastic to have him. Leonte [Carroo], obviously, has been standing out for a while and there’s a bunch of other guys. We started moving Ruhann [Peele] and he’s been playing a lot. Andrew [Turzilli] is very smooth. I like his game too.”