The Rutgers quarterback battle is over and, yet again, Chris Laviano emerges as the victor. Laviano received the public nod in a Monday announcement from head coach Chris Ash. It comes one practice after Ash deemed both competitors not yet game ready.
Rutgers took to the turf fields Monday morning for practice, where Laviano saw the majority of first-team work ahead of Zach Allen. He now has two full weeks as a starter to prepare for Washington.
“Chris is going to be the one with the ones,” Ash said. “We have to get some continuity with our offense. We have to get some consistency with the trigger guy and earn the trust of everybody even more. … We just feel it's time that we should get that done with just under two weeks to go until the first game.”
An attitude adjustment between spring and summer helped Laviano lock down the job. His behavior won the trust of teammates and coaches alike.
“I think he's grown as a leader,” Ash said. “I think he's earned the trust of his teammates. I would assume that he probably didn't have that last year. I think he didn't have a lot of that this spring. Through his work this summer, he's changed how he lives his life. I think he's done that. He's definitely earned the trust of the coaches with the way he's performed and behaved this summer in training camp. I'm excited to see what he does when we go out for game day.”
Laviano replaced Gary Nova as Rutgers' starter last season with mixed results. He was one of the Big Ten's most accurate passers, but did so with Leonte Carroo as his primary target. He finished his sophomore season with a 61 percent passing clip, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
“Right now today, Chris is our guy,” Ash said. “He's our starting quarterback. Chris is no different than any other position. He's got to go out and he's got to perform well. He's got to be able to move the football and make good decisions on the field for a game. … He's got to be able to do it in games, whether it's home or away, we've got to have confidence that he can do that. The good thing that I do like, I think we've got good depth at the quarterback position. If an injury were to occur, something happened down the road where we didn't get the production we wanted, we do have some guys who are going to be working extremely hard behind him, pushing him.”
After the first scrimmage of camp, Laviano's workload with the ones increased significantly ahead of Allen. He did not show enough in the second scrimmage to immediately win the job, but it did not take long with Ash's Monday afternoon announcement.
“Chris can run and can do some things with his feet and we're going to use him at times to do that,” Ash said. “Also I think he's got the arm talent to make some plays in the passing game. We'll do a little of both.”
It was not a smooth finish to 2015 for Laviano, who reacted poorly to a Senior Day loss against Maryland. This year's Laviano, however, is a more mature player in the eyes of his new coaches.
“It was just a matter of choosing what you want down the road versus what feels good temporarily,” offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer said of Laviano. “And he chose development, he chose committing himself to the weight room, he chose committing himself to the film room and to his academics versus maybe going out and having some fun with some people.
“And you can see it in the way that he’s changed his body, you can see it in the way that he’s changed his body, you can see it in the way that he’s improved his leadership quality and the way that his team thinks about him as one of the common things we talked about last night as a team.”