Rutgers Football begins spring practice 2021
Rutgers football is back as spring practice gets started today, Tuesday, in Piscataway. The Scarlet Knights went without spring ball a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the beginning of practice was delayed as there was an outbreak amongst the team.
Rutgers is getting a late start, but it’s better late than never. There are 14 practices with the Scarlet-White game on tap.
“Tentatively, the spring game is scheduled for Thursday, May 20,” head coach Greg Schiano said on Monday during his press conference. “Now we’ll see. As long as there are no further stoppages that is what we are planning on.”
SIGN UP FOR PREMIUM FOR FREE UNTIL JUNE — CLICK HERE FOR MORE
The players and coaches could not afford to not have spring practice again, and while Schiano and co. would have liked to already almost be complete with the 15 sessions, such is life.
“Our medical people are phenomenal. When that happens, you need to do the responsible thing and our doctors and our trainers were awesome. We navigated through as well as we could,” Schiano said. “Pushed spring practice back for a couple of reasons. One, it’s really, really important. We already missed our first year. We couldn’t afford to have several players missing for spring practice. And No. 2, there were some guys who came to me and were desperate. ‘Coach, I need to be able to compete.’ That was encouraging. Competition levels are rising and guys understand this is a very important time in their careers. I am excited about that. You never want to push spring football back past final exams but that is just where we find ourselves.
“One thing we’ve learned is we have to be ready to pivot and another is don’t spend time worrying about the situation and spend your time figuring out how to thrive.”
Last year’s freshmen haven’t had the college experience yet from social life to football life. Campuses were empty, and again, they didn’t have spring ball if they enrolled early. They also didn’t have a true training camp.
The next month will go a long way for both the class of 2020 and the mid-year enrollees for the 2021 class. All the players now get a chance to work on their craft without having to prepare for a game.
“It's really important, and not only for the mid-year enrollees, but last year's freshmen. They didn't get a spring if they were mid-year enrollees, they didn't get a training camp, what we got was a couple of weeks in the fall and then we went and played the season,” Schiano said. “As you know the season is all about Saturdays. You got to get ready for that Saturday. That's what I love about spring football. There is no game at the end of the week. You don't have to work on gameplan preparation. You're strictly working on playing the game of football, our offense versus our defense. And to me that's where you can make some real growth for your younger players, and we have a lot of young players.
“I like the mix of our team right now. We have some guys with the super-senior type deal that occurred because of the NCAA waiver. But we have a huge group of young players. And what comes with that is they don't have a lot of experience, and this spring is a chance for them to get live reps running our offense or running our defense and. I think it's huge for those incomers and huge for last year's as well.”
Heading into the spring and into the upcoming season, Rutgers brings back 20 recurring starters from a year ago, the most in the Big Ten. The team, which now has some experience under the new regime, showed improvements in 2020 during its 3-6 season.
There are also many young players on the roster, and the competition is rising.
“There's competition, yet there's some experience. The flip side of that is we were a 3-6 team. Unless we get markedly better, and that's my job and that's our staff's job, we have to get better. I hope that the experience we had together in our systems last year, and then having an offseason to not only go back and look retrospectively, but then to look forward (can help). If we think you're that good and it's just not a perfect fit, how do we make it a better fit? Those are the things that I'm excited about.
“That's what spring football is all about. We need to make critical, fundamental improvements. There's things that we did on the offensive line that were just not acceptable, but poor. There were some things we did in the secondary that just weren't good. Every position you say can we get rid of those things, and just make that neutral. It doesn't have to be a strength, but can we make it a neutral. And then the things we are good at, let's kick them to the moon. Let's really do them really well. That's kind of what I'm trying to preach to our staff and to our players. We're not going to be great at everything, nor do we ever think we're going to, but what are we good at, let's know what we are, and let's really try to get very good at it, because we have a very challenging schedule.”
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisNalwasky.