The wildcat formation might be new to Rutgers under first-year offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer, but to Janarion Grant, it comes as second nature.
A four-year starter with the Scarlet Knights in a do-it-all role, Grant’s exposure to direct snaps out of the shotgun dates back to his high-school days at Dade City (Fla.) Pasco High.
Whether the play call in Rutgers’ spread offense lines him up in the slot, in the backfield or out of the shotgun, the speedy wide receiver welcomes a bigger role that focuses on getting him the ball in space.
“It feels great,” Grant said. “It’s being in a better role. It’s working on what I can do, just exposing me to new things and new ideas and that’s going to open up a lot this year.”
Grant had a career-high 15 touches on offense for Rutgers at Washington with 84 total yards. He added a touchdown on a 10-yard run off a direct snap.
“Janarion did a nice job with (the wildcat),” Mehringer said. “There's things that we can expand with it, whether it be formationally or scheme-wise. … He was obviously very effective when we had the right formation and the right scheme.”
When Grant goes out of the shotgun, junior quarterback Chris Laviano lines up wide.
“I like it,” Laviano said of the formation. “I think Janarion does a great job running the ball. I think it’s a really good weapon for us.”
Mainly an impact player on special teams for his first three years, Grant jumps at the opportunity to flourish in the new offense. The wildcat could make the difference. Grant still feels comfortable in the formation since he last ran it in high school four years ago.
He still keeps in contact with Pasco head coach Tom McHugh, who installed Grant in the wildcat during his sophomore year.
“We had some pretty good players on that team, and Janarion was one of the very best from the time he was there, so we put him in the backfield,” McHugh said. “He can do amazing things, and that’s why. There was a game where he scored every way you could score except for kicking an extra point — I probably could’ve had him do that, but I didn’t want him to pull a hamstring.”
McHugh reminisced on that game against a top-notch opponent in Hudson (Fla.) Fivay High.
“It was his first game back from a broken hand — and I think he was out for three or four weeks for his senior year — and (Grant) came back, and I think in his first kickoff, they kicked it to him, he ran it back for a touchdown,” McHugh said. “Then he threw a (touchdown) pass, he caught a (touchdown) pass, he intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown, he ran for a touchdown. Honestly, it was like one of those things.
“And the coach at that school told me, ‘I never want to play you again.’ We honestly weren’t running the score up. They were the best team, they were undefeated and they had an average scored upon of maybe 13 points (per game) — maybe 13 (points) the whole season. And he came back (from the injury) and scored for five or six (touchdowns).”
While wildcat quarterbacks are not always seen as threats as passers, McHugh said Grant defies the stereotype.
“(Grant) can throw the ball, now,” McHugh said. “He’s left-handed. I believe we’ve used him in kind of a trick play where it was like a double handoff in the backfield and he’s going to his left and throws down to a wide receiver kind of thing. I think we did that a couple of times. He has a pretty good arm. He throws a pretty good spiral.
“And the reason why we were able to do the trick play with him with the double pass was because everybody jumps on him. I mean, they’ll come to him like flies and everybody leaves (their assignments) because they don’t realize that he can do what he can do.”
Grant said he still has the power in his arm, but the southpaw wouldn’t disclose how far he could throw it.
“I’m not sure,” Grant said with a smile. “I ain’t really test it out yet, but it’s coming soon. Just be waiting.”
“There’s nothing that I can say — a picture’s worth a thousand words,” McHugh said. “He just does things from that position that you want to put the ball in his hands in any way … they can’t tackle him in a phone booth. And that’s just what he does. Just go back and look at the highlights — even since he’s been at Rutgers — at some of the stuff that he does.”