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NY Post
New York Post
2 Sep 2023


NextImg:Gavin Wimsatt left no question he was Rutgers’ starting quarterback: ‘It’s all yours’

Gavin Wimsatt went to a meeting of Rutgers football players expecting that his senior teammates would reinforce their plans for improving during summer workouts.

Instead the redshirt sophomore quarterback heard his name called to deliver the message.

“Over the offseason, the big thing for me was to be more vocal. When I first came here, I was trying to lead by example,” Wimsatt told The Post.

“I feel way more confident because of my teammates encouraging me. They threw me in front of the room and said, ‘It’s all yours,’ and didn’t even tell me. They put me in positions to be uncomfortable, and I think that helped me the most. It’s just like practice: The more we did it, the more comfortable I got speaking up to the guys.”

When head coach Greg Schiano named Wimsatt his starter on July 26, it marked just the second time since 2013 that Rutgers had its quarterback in place before the opening of training camp.

A belief shared by many college coaches is that a summer-long competition — even if just for show — makes the eventual starter feel accomplished, keeps the Week 1 opponent guessing in preparation and lessens the likelihood of backups transferring.

So why did Schiano spill the secret?

“Because Gavin earned it in the spring and the summer, and I just wanted everybody to know that’s what we’re doing,” Schiano told The Post. “He’s really matured, and that affects everything in his preparation and his physical training.”

Gavin Wimsatt has earned the starting quarterback position for Rutgers, which he was given before training camp.
Getty Images

Rutgers will open the season at noon Sunday by hosting a spiraling Northwestern program, and the Scarlet Knights should be favored in four of their five September games.

“Gavin just seems looser when he’s playing. When we are practicing two-minute drill, it’s good to have Gavin in your backfield in pressure situations,” offensive guard Mike Ciaffoni said. “The whole team wants him to step up as a leader. At first he was a little uncomfortable getting thrown up there, but now he breaks us down after every meeting. He is doing a great job.”

Wimsatt has played in 12 games since he enrolled at Rutgers in September 2021, after he surprisingly skipped his senior year of high school in Kentucky.

The four-star recruit completed 45 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and nine interceptions in a sporadic rotation with since-departed Noah Vedral and current second-stringer Evan Simon.

Greg Schiano looks on against the Wagner Seahawks during the second quarter of a college football game at SHI Stadium.

Greg Schiano looks on against the Wagner Seahawks during the second quarter of a college football game at SHI Stadium.
Getty Images

Not that any hint of Wimsatt’s struggles were obvious during a recent practice in which he threw a 50-yard strike and later earned Schiano’s praise for going through his reads to find the check-down outlet on a complex route combination.

Those types of plays are necessary complements to his dynamic, play-extending running ability.

“He’s considerably more accurate than he was,” Schiano said. “In the college football RPO game, you need your quarterback to be a processor — see it, process it and do the right thing quickly.”

Kirk Ciarocca was lured with a $1.4 million yearly commitment from Big Ten rival Minnesota — where he was a 2019 semifinalist for national assistant coach of the year honors — for a second stint as Rutgers offensive coordinator (the first was 2009-10).

Ciarocca, whom Schiano described as a “heaven-send for all our quarterbacks,” quickly refined Wimsatt’s mechanics.

“The first thing we did was stay consistent with my posture and where my feet are,” Wimsatt said. “My base was a huge part because I’d do my drop and then — say, I moved in the pocket — I’d get really wide. That’s me going from 6-foot-3 to 5-foot-10, and that changes throws. With my throwing motion, we worked on not aiming it and getting comfortable with a consistent arm slot.”

Gavin Wimsatt throws an off-balance pass during a college football game against the Michigan State Spartans.

Gavin Wimsatt throws an off-balance pass during a college football game against the Michigan State Spartans.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If Wimsatt slips back into an old habit and makes a mistake, the early vote of confidence should ease any fears of a quick hook.

“With a younger mindset last year, I probably would’ve thought about that, but even if Coach Schiano didn’t name me the starter, I think I would’ve thought about it differently than I did last year,” Wimsatt said.

“When I first came here — especially the way I did it — I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Growing over these couple years, it’s been long but it’s been fun. We’re going to make mistakes, but it helps me to know my guys are supporting me and Coach Schiano is behind me.”