As if Chris Laviano didn’t already have enough on his plate with his fourth offensive coordinator in his fourth year at Rutgers. The offense’s facelift from the pro style to the spread initially made things even harder to digest.
But now, after months of playbook study and practice reps, the junior quarterback has the hang of Drew Mehringer’s offensive blueprint.
“My mind’s completely switched to the spread offense and what coach Mehringer and every offensive staff member is trying to do with us,” Laviano said.
The sense of urgency within the quarterback room increased with a push in the competition from graduate transfer Zach Allen, who ran models most similar to Mehringer’s at TCU and at Temple (Texas) High School.
A pro-style quarterback in Rutgers’ previous offenses and in high school at Hicksville (N.Y.) Holy Trinity Diocesan, Laviano had to learn the new scheme on the fly and adjust his athleticism to the read-option approach.
In Mehringer’s mind, the progress is clear for Laviano.
“Anytime you’re coming into a complete overhaul system change, you always wonder about how he’s going to process all of the nuances and the things that you do,” Mehringer said of Laviano. “And if you’re in Texas high school football, Zach Allen grew up doing this. It’s all shotgun, four-wide, read-option, [run-pass option]-based offense and Chris didn’t. And so, you’re like, ‘Okay, is he going to pick it up? Is he going to learn?’ And he is. He’s doing a great job with it.”
Laviano showed strides and comfort in the tempo out of the shotgun during Saturday’s scrimmage through the air with 89 yards and a touchdown on 3-of-5 passing.
“Obviously, you’re not under center, you don’t have to talk in the huddle,” Laviano said of the differences. “That’s pretty much it. Everything else is kind of still football. It’s still very similar. You run a little bit more in the spread offense and, I mean, I haven’t really thought about it since January, since (the new coaching staff) got here.”
As it concerns the offense in the run game, Laviano is aware that the quarterbacks and running backs as a whole need to work out the kinks on read-option exchanges after a handful of fumbles occurred throughout the scrimmage.
But as the reps increase, he said he expects things to come more naturally.
“There’s different and challenging aspects in every offense,” Laviano said. “Every offense is going to have more difficult parts, more easy parts than a different offense. That’s why a lot of coaches think some offenses are brilliant and others are not and then vice versa. So, as a quarterback — or even as a football player — there’s going to be things that are harder than other things and you just have to notice that and recognize that and you work on it more than you do other parts of your game.”