For the first time in 18 games, Rutgers has a new starting quarterback.
Coach Chris Ash named Giovanni Rescigno the starter Monday after the sophomore provided a spark for the Scarlet Knights (2-5, 0-4) in their 24-7 loss last week to Illinois.
As Rescigno readies for his first career start, his teammates are behind him.
“I think he’s definitely got it in him,” said sophomore guard Dorian Miller. “We all trust him and we’re all going to be right there with him. I’ve already talked to (senior captains) Derrick (Nelson) and Chris (Muller). We’re kind of the older guys on the line, and we’re fully embracing it.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to (the coaches) to make the decision and we just got to roll with it. And it’s what they want to do, so I’m cool with it and we’re right there welcoming Gio in and he will have our respect and he will take command. I know he will out the gate.”
Miller was the only player on the Rutgers offense available for comment. A veteran, Miller blocked in games for five different Rutgers quarterbacks over the last two seasons – Chris Laviano, Rescigno, Hayden Rettig, Zach Allen and Tylin Oden.
Rescigno replaced Laviano at the start of the second half against the Fighting Illini (2-4, 1-2).
The 6-foot-3, 224-pound Rescigno still lacks game experience ahead of his first career start when the Scarlet Knights play Saturday at Minnesota (4-2, 1-2).
At the same time, he gives Rutgers a different dynamic on offense.
“I think we just have to kind of wait and see (in the game),” Miller said. “I do think Gio, he’s very good on his feet. Since he’s been here, even in the past on scout team and even when he had the chance to get reps, he’s always shown he’s mobile.
“Not to say that Chris (Laviano) isn’t, but I just think Gio has a lot of natural ability at that, doing that kind of thing. He can kind of scramble and get out of the pocket well. You guys saw it, too, at the end of the game. He was able to kind of make some plays with his feet.”
Offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer said the dual-threat ability of Rescigno played into the decision to name him the starter going forward.
With limited reps up until now, Mehringer said that Rescigno has plenty of room to grow.
“I think for anybody, the more time and investment and reps that you have, you’re always going to be a little bit better,” Mehringer said. “And for Gio, he’s had some time to learn. He’s watched mistakes. He’s seen the film. He’s watched when people have gone in front of him. I think he is a little more comfortable.
“He’s made a tremendous amount of improvement and I think it’s going to continue to grow and get better and we’ll see where his ceiling is at some point. I don’t know if he reached it yet, but he’s doing really well right now.”
It took until this season for Rescigno to be in the top-two of Rutgers’ starting quarterback mix, but teammates like Miller always noticed his potential in flashes.
“He’s always impressed people in spurts,” Miller said. “Maybe it would be in what be in camp, he would make a play whether it was with his feet or he would make a good throw. Or spring ball, he may have a good day.
“So it’s kind of cool to just see a guy work hard and … he wasn’t necessarily on people’s radar, but at the same time, he was just persistent and kept working and now he’s granted his opportunity. So like I was saying, I have a lot of faith in him and I really trust him. He’s always been a good kid in the program. He’s never gave anybody any issues. He’s always doing the right thing. So I’m excited for him.”
A recurring theme throughout the first year in the spread offense is that Rutgers’ quarterbacks don’t need to do too much.
Miller reiterated that sentiment when asked about what Rescigno needs to do to be successful.
“Just play within himself,” Miller said. “Don’t try to be a superhero and don’t try to do things that don’t play outside of himself — that’s the main thing. Just make the right plays, make the right reads. … He doesn’t need to go out there and he doesn’t need to be Cam Newton in his first game or (Johnny) Manziel. Just follow the offense, take the coaching and he’ll be good.”null