The Rutgers football team enters its matchup with Indiana (4-4, 2-3) this Saturday coming off a late bye week, — a break in three-straight-months of football without much rest.
While nearly every unit on the team has sustained some form of physical ailment — be it significant injuries or standard nicks and bruises caused by the demanding schedule of a Big Ten program — most remain anxious to hear how the week off treated Giovanni Rescigno.
The sophomore quarterback played nearly every snap in his first career start weeks ago playing against Minnesota in Minneapolis, but was limited in the latter half of the game after pulling his hamstring early in the second quarter. The mobility that earned him the nod before was significantly affected, forcing him to throw the ball in more situations than he had liked to.
And while he couldn’t avoid a 34-32 loss to the Golden Gophers, the Warren, Michigan native, still managed a decent 220 yard, 3 touchdown and 2 interception day on a 22-for-38 clip.
Imagine what he can do if he remained completely healthy for a full game.
Or, just wait until this Saturday.
“The bye week helped out a lot physically, obviously with my hamstring (and it) helped out a lot recovering with a couple days off to rest,” he said. “(My hamstring feels) a lot better.”
Rescigno will get a second chance to lead the Scarlet Knights (2-6, 0-5) with extra weeks of preparation as the starter under his belt. But while the volume of reps and responsibility on his shoulders has increased, his attitude has remained the same.
Drew Mehringer's phone has a decent amount of its memory dedicated to communication with Rescigno — who shoots offensive coordinator messages when he has questions about things he sees on film away from the practice field. But when he is with the coaches in the offensive meeting room, he takes notes that have earned praise from head coach Chris Ash for their quality.
“The thing I like about Gio is (that) he’s been consistent,” Ash said. “He was consistent when he was a back-up thrown into action at halftime of the Illinois game. When he went to be (a) starter against Minnesota, that week of preparation, his focus didn’t change, his attitude didn’t change, he was poised. This week was no different.”
His consistency translating into an increased workload will be key to his continued improvement, which began in the spring, skyrocketed in the summer and has slowly come along throughout the season.
Taking on first team reps after getting his first taste of extended game action in a Big Ten game allows Rescigno to better understand and relate to what he’s seeing on film, he said.
“Game reps are different than practice reps and first team reps are different than second team reps,” Mehringer said. “So the fact he’s got more first team reps and he’s got a game and a half under his belt, I think his performance is going to continue to improve and he’ll keep playing better and better for us each week.”
Though Rescigno is expected to take the lion's share of the reps against the Hoosiers, it is almost a guarantee that freshman Tylin Oden will see action for a fifth game in his first campaign on the Banks.
Ash told ESPN, in an in-game interview during the loss to the Gophers, that Oden is expected to play in each of Rutgers remaining games, but that remains far from set in stone.
"Tylin continues to develop. We’ve talked about his role and I’d like to see him play, but situationally, we gotta find the right fit for him," Mehringer said. "Tylin’s gotta continue to improve. He’s developed quite a bit in the passing game as of late but the broader scope of everything that goes on in being a starting quarterback, he’s not there yet still, but he’s progressing."
Rescigno is set to start his second career game for the Knights after being buried down the depth chart, behind two-year starter Chris Laviano, graduate transfer Zach Allen and Oden — who are all currently in an open battle of their own for the back-up quarterback role according to Mehringer, at the start of training camp.
The climb has earned the belief of a lot of people according to Ash, and is a testament to the hard work Rescigno has put in.
Or so he hopes.
“When I first got here, it feels like I couldn’t throw a football honestly, thinking about it,” he said. “Since I first got here, a lot has changed … That’s kind of the work ethic I want people to know that I have. I want people to know that I work hard and I want to put the team first. So throughout my three years here, I just wanted to keep working hard … and wait my turn. That’s what I’ve been doing since high school, keep my head down and keep working hard.”