Saturday, November 25th marks the final game of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights’ 2017 football season. Under second-year coach Chris Ash, the 2017 Scarlet Knights were a team marred with mediocrity, lack of depth at certain positions (mainly the secondary), and getting dominated by major Big Ten Powerhouses like Ohio State, Michigan, and “arch-rival” Penn State.
Yet, many pundits can say that this season was a somewhat success for the Scarlet Knights. In every game, Rutgers did not go down easily. Sure, the scores and statistics will show Rutgers getting blown out and crushed in many of their games, but numbers do not tell the whole story.
Compared to last year, this Rutgers squad had a ferocious passion burning within them. They played to the end of the whistle, and never gave up on a play, no matter how fruitless it was. It was a “next man up” mentality that helped this team keep up with overpowered opponents, as well as the team’s overall chemistry meshing much better than last year’s.
Pair all of that with Rutgers’ 2018 recruitment class, and it might not be too crazy to say that Rutgers is not too far away from making a bowl game or two in the years to come.
However, if Rutgers hopes to capitalize on the momentum they have picked up this season, they will need to establish quality starters for key positions, with the most important being the quarterback.
This year, Rutgers quarterbacks combined for 1,289 passing yards, six touchdowns, and nine interceptions, with transfer graduate Kyle Bolin leading the group with 711 yards, three touchdowns, and six interceptions, only to get benched during the bye week in favor of junior Giovanni Rescigno, with freshman Johnathan Lewis occasionally jumping into the game as a wildcat quarterback.
With Bolin leaving the program at the end of the year, and Rescigno showing that he is not the quarterback of the future for the Scarlet Knights, this leaves an air of uncertainty for Rutgers’ quarterback position. This summer’s camp battle between Lewis and the two incoming 2018 recruits- four-star Artur Sitkowski and three-star Jalen Chatman, will definitely be one to watch. Here’s how they stack up:
Many dubbed Lewis as the quarterback of the future for the Scarlet Knights. The St. Peter’s Prep alum came out as a highly touted three-star dual-threat quarterback for the Scarlet Knights in 2016. Equipped with a strong arm, good agility, and willing to run a defender over instead of taking a slide, Lewis has a lot of physical qualities that just scream “starting quarterback,” with pro-comparisons ala Cam Newton.
Lewis was delegated to sideline and wildcat quarterback duties during his freshman year. Ash has not used Lewis enough for pundits and fans alike to determine whether or not Lewis is worth the hype. His high school senior year game tape shows him dominating on the field both on the ground and in the air, but with the little opportunities, Lewis was given this year, that “dominance” has not translated well onto the college gridiron. This season in the air, Lewis has completed eight of 22 passing attempts for 69 passing yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. As a runner, Lewis racked 109 rushing yards and four touchdowns, though all four of those scores came from a 56-0 blowout win against Morgan State.
It is more likely than not that Lewis will be given the starting nod in 2018, but he will be faced with intense competition from Sitkowski and Chatman. The only thing Lewis has over these two is the fact that he’s spent a year learning offensive coordinator Jerry Kill’s spread offense.
Labeled “The Crown Jewel of Rutgers’ 2018 recruiting class,” Sitkowski comes into Rutgers with a strong, athletic pedigree. A 6’5, 215-pound pro-style quarterback, Sitkowski transferred from his hometown of Old Bridge, New Jersey to the IMG Academy down in Bradenton, Florida; a boarding school dedicated to helping its students prepare for the next level in sports, especially football.
Sitkowski’s tangibles are up-to-par on what you would expect from a four-star quarterback; he has a good, strong arm, he can make every throw, he is agile and quick enough to escape the pocket and buy time for his receivers down the field, he goes through his progressions very well and can turn on the jets when he leaves the pocket, with pro comparisons ala Joe Flacco.
One problem Sitkowski faces when he comes to campus is the spread system Rutgers runs here. Sitkowski is a pro-style player, which means he is more used to just being a pocket passer and only running when protection breaks down or he sees a lane when all other options are covered. He will have to translate his skill set from pro to spread over the summer, which should be easy for him.
While he has not been as talked about this year in the media, do not count Jalen Chatman out of winning the starting gig in 2018. A native of Harbor City, CA, Chatman is a man out-of-town walking into this quarterback completion, so the translation in terms of environment might be an outside issue for Chatman to deal with, but on the gridiron, it’s a whole different story.
Labeled a dual-threat quarterback by 247Sports, Chatman plays as a quarterback that can perform well in any system (be it pro-style or spread). He possesses great accuracy, able to hit a receiver in stride through the smallest of openings. He’s especially dangerous when he leaves the pocket, as he can hit his targets while on the run. Unlike many dual-threat quarterbacks, Chatman goes through his reads like a pro. He will wait for someone to get open before he bails, showing great patience in the pocket. Chatman’s lethality is just as dangerous when he runs the rock himself.
The 6’0, 180-pounder can take off when he needs to. He has cheetahs for feet and has a natural agility that allows him to make moves to avoid defenders, with a pro comparison ala Michael Vick or Tyrod Taylor.
One of Chatman’s main areas to improve in is his footwork in the pocket. Chatman’s motion in the pocket can be a little awkward, sometimes altering his throwing motion as he progresses on a pass. If he can adjust his feet and mechanics to a much more consistent motion and rhythm, he will be unstoppable.
So, who should be Rutgers’ 2018 starting quarterback?
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