Last season, the Rutgers University football program learned a quality lesson: Potential is a dangerous word to use when it comes to describing a starting quarterback.
Last year's incumbent starter, Tom Savage, was a preseason Maxwell candidate and was supposed to be the guy who, for the next few years, was going to help the Scarlet Knights take the step from competitors in the Big East Conference to BCS contenders. However, four games into last season, Savage was replaced by true freshman Chas Dodd.
As a starter, Dodd finished the season with 1,637 passing yards and 11 touchdowns, but managed just a 2-6 record. To be fair, Dodd did play behind one of the worst offensive lines in college football history -- Rutger's OL allowed a NCAA-record 61 sacks -- and didn't have a lot of time to set up any consistency on offense -- the only offensive fluidity the Scarlet Knights found was out of the Wildcat formation using wide receiver Mohamed Sanu or running back Jeremy Deering.
With new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, who was plucked from Big East rival Pittsburgh and plans on implementing a pro style-type offense, Rutgers and Dodd hope that this year's attack will be more efficient.
"I think it’s going to make me a better player because it’s allowing me to do more," Dodd told ESPN Big East Blogger Andrea Adelson earlier this week. "I’m doing more under center, dropping back, rolling out, changing starting points in terms of where I’m throwing the ball from, and I have different types of reads. I’m really focusing on learning the different defenses and what guys can do to us and what we can do to match that. The knowledge of the game helps a lot more when you have experience."
Despite being small in stature (6-foot, 200 pounds), Dodd seems to have the tools of a solid quarterback.
"....he has a very strong arm. Coupled with his accuracy, aren't those pretty much the two fundamental building blocks of a good quarterback?," wrote SB Nation's Rutgers blog On The Banks. "He sees the field well, with a knack for finding open receivers... For a pocket passer, Dodd is an instinctual scrambler. He isn't Sanu or Deering out there by any means, but at points he showed an able willingness to tuck the football and scurry for extra yardage."
Last season, Dodd's best game came in a 27-24 victory against the Connecticut Huskies, the eventual Big-East BCS representative, in which he tossed for 322 yards and two touchdowns.
Backing up Dodd will be two true freshmen Gary Nova (6-2, 210) and Mike Bimonte (6-4, 215). The first in line seems to be Nova, but the question remains should head coach Greg Schiano red shirt the rookie?
All observations have Dodd as "the guy" throughout the whole season, but that was the story last preseason. The hopes are that Dodd is better than Savage -- actually, the hope is that RU is better overall -- and there's no need to refer to true freshman to salvage the season. Dodd does have weapons in Sanu, Deering, junior wide receiver Mike Harrison (last season, 829 receiving yards with nine TDs) and true freshman running back Savon Huggins, who was rated the No. 1 recruit in New Jersey. However, if the offensive line doesn't improve, which it should, then it could be another frustrating season for the RU fan base.
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