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Competition the key for Rutgers to take steps forward the rest of the offseason



Photo credit Rutgers Athletics

Saturday will mark the conclusion of Spring Camp for Rutgers football. The Scarlet-White Game will serve as the 15th and final practice of the spring. Fans will get a up close look on the progress made while players look to close out the spring with strong performances. However, Saturday is an important part of the program’s development this offseason, but not the end of it.

Learning the new offensive system, acclimating newcomers and getting injured players from last season back into the swing of things have been important the past five weeks. However, increasing the competition level was a must for real improvement this spring. The key is having as many players as possible in each position group take positive steps in their development this offseason. That doesn’t stop once spring camp ends on Saturday.

There are an additional three months of the offseason before training camp begins in early August. The development made during the spring has to serve as a jumping off point for the rest of the offseason. It’s going to be up to the individual players to make that so. Every day matters. Especially for a team like Rutgers that has a steep climb to reach the middle of the Big Ten.

That’s why no matter what happens in the Scarlet-White game on Saturday, fans shouldn’t get hung up on immediate personnel decisions. How key position groups perform or whether less established players excel in the Scarlet-White Game, don’t jump to conclusions based on one day. It’s also important not to go the other way and think it’s a negative if certain players don’t have big days.

Don’t get upset or read too far into things if a starting quarterback isn’t named after Saturday. While Gavin Wimsatt does likely give the Rutgers offense a higher ceiling, a lack of clarity from Schiano doesn’t mean he isn’t on track to start in the fall.

The coaching staff will have a clear plan for how the depth chart is forming for every position heading into training camp. The players will also be clear on where they stand following spring camp based on communication from the coaches.

Making public declarations of who a starter is projected to be aside from returning key veterans is kind of meaningless. A lot can happen from the end of April to the end of August right before the season begins. Patience is needed. Saturday serves as a progress report, not the final exam.

The other factor to consider is the transfer portal. Even with the deadline for the spring period ending soon, players who are listed farther behind on the depth chart could choose to transfer anyway. They could preserve eligibility by transferring and taking a development year with another program. Keeping as much hope alive for playing a role in the fall is important for the team as well. And the truth is, the door is never truly shut for any player that suits up each practice during training camp. So don’t expect a depth chart announced either.

It goes back to competition. Keeping every player working towards their potential the rest of the offseason is critical for Rutgers to make as much progress as possible next season. For a program like Rutgers, building depth is everything. At a minimum, expect the staff to explore what players in the transfer portal could help improve the roster following spring camp.

Increasing the talent level comes from both recruiting and player development. However, retention is critical as well. You can’t take a step forward if you are consistently losing players each year through the portal. There has to be a net gain in who you take in versus simply needing to replace players.

All of this speaks to things being wide open, both in perception and reality. On paper, right now it’s hard to project Rutgers making a significant climb up the Big Ten standings. There are simply too many unproven players on offense to know how much progress the unit can actually make this season. The right coaches appear to be in place. A big chunk of work has been done over the last month plus. Hopefully, a strong base has been established. However, at the end of the day it’s the players who will decide the team’s fate in the fall.

Saturday’s Scarlet-White Game is a long awaited opportunity for Rutgers fans to see the 2023 on the field. Hopefully, there are plenty of plays and moments that standout and breed hope for next season. Get excited about seeing our favorite college football team back on the grid iron.

Regardless of what happens though, more progress and player development will be needed during the remainder of the offseason. The team needs to be better at the start of training camp from where they are at the end of spring camp. Competition will be the driving force that moves Rutgers forward. That’s the only real conclusion that can be taken at the end of spring camp.

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  1. Henry Rutgers

    April 26, 2023 at 10:32 pm

    I have to disagree with respect to your declaration that publicly naming projected starters is meaningless. Our program needs a lot of things to happen for it to be successful in the fall. Naming leaders and starters is not meaningless. In fact, I’ll go one step further and say they are already known to the staff and players. They just aren’t publicly announced. It is meaningful for a plethora of reasons not limited to program maturity.

    If a player is number 2 or 3 on the depth chart, he knows what he has to do to move up the depth chart. If a player is named a starter and losses his position because another player earned the slot that is a strength not a weakness. It is at the heart of competition. I respect your articles and writing but I disagree with characterizing naming starters or publishing a clear preseason depth chart as meaningless. I do, however, agree that spring camp exposes areas that have not developed and represent risk which cannot be filled from the current roster. Hence, the agreement with comments regarding the portal. I similarly believe that keeping a player that loves the game in the dark when you know he’s lacking the ability to compete at the necessary level deprives the player of using the portal to achieve his passion. Fortunately, despite some of my criticism of Coach Schiano I am aware that he is brutally honest with his players on where they stand, what is expected and what they need to do. What I was not aware of until a season or so ago is that the players parents are sometimes part of the conversation. Some other time I’ll tell you a very interesting story how I came upon the parental involvement.

    • Aaron Breitman

      April 27, 2023 at 5:26 am

      Thank you for your thoughtful response. I do think you misinterpreted my point. And that could be because I wasn’t clear enough. I said how things stands from a public perspective is meaningless, not internally.

      I wrote “The coaching staff will have a clear plan for how the depth chart is forming for every position heading into training camp. The players will also be clear on where they stand following spring camp based on communication from the coaches.”

      Part of point is that fans thinking someone like Wimsatt is underperforming simply because he hasn’t been named the starter are misreading the situation. I personally don’t think it matters if Wimsatt is declared the starter after Saturday publicly or not. We both know this team needs him to be his best version, but that’s why I focused on development the rest of the offseason.

      Parents as in any situation can be very helpful or very difficult in regard to their own son’s development. As you know, there is always more going on behind the scenes that coaches are dealing with that never becomes public.

      I respect your opinions and maybe my argument can across muddied. Appreciate the feedback.

      • Henry Rutgers

        April 27, 2023 at 7:19 am

        Thank you for the clarification. I did not catch the subtle reference to internal.

        I kind of care whether Wimsatt is named sooner rather than later. I care less having had the opportunity to take my 90+ year old Dad over to a practice where Wimsatt was getting the majority of reps. If he looks like a starter in practice and is getting the reps in practice, he’s the default starter. I have no appreciation for Coach Schiano’s belief that holding off publicly naming the leaders, starters and depth chart benefits anyone. Too me, it is pointless drama for a program that needs laser like focus without external distraction. Whether you know it or not the players, prospects and some of the parents read your former and present publications as do members of the athletic department and administration. The fifth estate is powerful.

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