Rutgers football held its second scrimmage of spring camp on Saturday. Head coach Greg Schiano spoke about the 12th practice of spring with just one week remaining.
“It was a long one and I was very pleased that our guys kept their focus because we are playing three different teams out there, really three and a half,” Schiano said. “So you play some and then you watch a lot. The thing I was pleased with was the level of focus and concentration of everybody on the field. That sounds easy but it’s not.”
As for quarterback, Schiano spoke pretty evenly of Gavin Wimsatt and Evan Simon.
“I thought they both did a good job. There were a couple of things they missed. But I am pleased. I think they are making progress,” Schiano said. He added, “It wasn’t an easy day if you were going into the wind. They say anything over 6 (mph) has an effect. It was like 12 today.”
In regard to true freshman Ajani Sheppard, the only other scholarship QB on the Rutgers roster, Schiano sung high praise for the athletic rookie. However, he has the farthest to go in his development as well.
“He’s really improving by leaps and bounds. It’s good to see,” Schiano said. “You’re a young freshman quarterback out of high school there’s so much to learn so when I talk about the game going faster, sure it’s coming faster to him but you can see where when he gets it — and it all slows down — he’s going to be a really good player.”
Whether Schiano names a starting quarterback at the end of spring camp remains to be seen. He did explain the process in determining how to move forward with the position group.
“I think what we will do is sit down at the end of the spring, Kirk and I and the offensive staff (and discuss it),” Schiano said. “The numbers are the numbers, and then you go with what you feel. Is there a timeline where we have to say this? No. I would like to have somebody named sooner than later. We’ll figure that out. They are doing a good job.”
Another key spot for Rutgers that might be overlooked in finding capable producers is at both kickoff and punt returner following the graduation of Aron Cruickshank. His impact was less so last season after opponents avoided him after a highly successful career as a returner. The key is finding multiple options this season who can be a factor on special teams to help an offense that greatly needs it. However, it’s a unique spot in using players in a secondary position compared to their primary role. That needs to be considered as well.
“I think that’s wide open, I think there’s a lot of guys that can do it. I think you look at some of the young guys. Rochelle, he’s got ability. I know Max (Melton) wants to do it. I’m not sure I want to risk Max back there running kickoffs back. We’ll make sure we have some depth there. Punts is the harder one. Punt return, to me, is the toughest thing to do in football. Everybody is running down to kill you, the ball is spins a weird way and the wind moves it, so that’s a tough job. We got to make sure we find that. Kickoffs, the ability to break one might be a bit different, but the act of securing the ball is not as hard.”
As for how the Scarlet-White game will be run on Saturday, April 29 at 3:00 p.m., Schiano was honest in saying it hasn’t been fully determined.
“I don’t know yet. I got to see how we do Tuesday and Thursday,” he explained. “We’re right on the cusp injury-wise, where it could have an effect on how you run in, but I like to run it as a game with two separate teams, a total split — the whole coaching squad. Everybody in the Hale Center goes on one team or the other. You’re all rooting for somebody. We may even take the food service people and put them on a team. We like to get that competition going after Thursday’s practice. It gets a little spirited.”
Obviously, fans would like to see as much that resembles a real game on Saturday as possible. However, having enough players healthy is key for development in the final week of spring as well.
With so many position groups for Rutgers wide open in how the depth chart will ultimately be filled out next fall, the last week of spring camp is critical. Above all, the team’s progress this spring is key for building even more heading into training camp.
You can watch Schiano’s complete presser following Saturday’s second scrimmage below.
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