PISCATAWAY – Rutgers football quarterback Noah Vedral has said he got a little nervous during the Temple season opening party on Saturday. But the elder pulled off a post-game interview session that shed light on the fascinating story ahead for the Scarlet Knights.
On Friday night, Vedral learned that Gavin Wimsatt, a much-vaunted quarterback rookie, was parachuted into the program this week, two days after playing a game in high school.
“He will have to level up,” Vedral said when asked about Wimsatt’s playing time outlook. “It’s a big jump from high school to college. Despite being a smart kid, every quarterback goes through constant growing pains. I’m sure he’s going to pick it up, and whatever they (the coaching staff) decide to do, they decide to do it.
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Vedral and Rutgers coach Greg Schiano both praised the chemistry in the quarterback.
“It’s a strange position,” Vedral said. “A guy is playing and you don’t turn. There is a lot of humility… but it’s also an aggressive competition in this room at the same time. It takes a good group to balance that out, when you are competing with each other but at the same time when it comes time to face another opponent you are all in it (helping each other prepare) .
Vedral’s assessment hit the mark. It’s a complex position, and the chemistry is vital when weaving a newcomer, not least someone who walks mid-season without training camp and without indoctrination into the way things are done at that level. .
This is not a video game. You don’t just plug in and play someone who was in high school three days ago, no matter how talented they are.
For a potential parallel, look at the Rutgers men’s basketball team.
In January, four-star rookie Jaden Jones dropped out of high school and enrolled early at Rutgers. The versatile wing came with a reputation for being a good marksman – something the Scarlet Knights needed. Steve Pikiell said Jones will compete for playing time, but most importantly stressed that he has a lot to learn. Time and time again, as Jones sat on the bench with the occasional appearance of trash, Pikiell said he was still learning the team’s 21 games.
That was the code, of course, for the two things Vedral said on Saturday: It’s a complicated transition and chemistry is important.
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“His role? Look, he was playing in high school on Friday night, so I’m not going to put the cart before the horse,” Schiano said. “We’re just going to bring him in here and acclimatize him. It will be a great opportunity to learn our culture, to be exposed to the program, to learn how to be a college football player, but it will be great to have him here and give him a head start – as long as that’s a thing that he wants to do.
These are uncharted waters. The teens who leave their high school teams mid-season for the varsity ranks are part of a changing landscape where potential incomes are at stake and everyone is looking for accelerated development. But some things haven’t changed. You still have to read a college defense, which is a lot harder than reading a high school defense. You still have to learn a new playbook. You should always mingle with your teammates, many of whom are grown men.
Rushing these things can derail a team or stunt a player’s growth. Pikiell got it, his team made the NCAA tournament, and now Jaden Jones is having a great preseason. He will be an integral part of the Scarlet Knights push for a Big Dance comeback.
The parallel with Wimsatt is not entirely perfect. Jones had a free year of eligibility due to the NCAA’s COVID exception; Wimsatt’s four-year clock is now ticking. And Vedral’s pedestrian pass performance against Temple – 15-27 for 138 yards and a touchdown, virtually no successful down throw – will whip the fanbase into a Wimsatt frenzy.
But Schiano isn’t just going to pull out a captain and sophomore for a kid who just got off a yellow school bus, especially once the schedule turns to Michigan and Ohio State. Any integration will be gradual, and ideally with the help of Vedral.
Never underestimate the value of experience, which was fully on display during Vedral’s perfect post-match interview.
“I actually met Gavin in June while he was here for a visit,” Vedral said. “He’s a very good boy. We will welcome him. I remember what it was like to be a young man so long ago. We will welcome him, make him feel at home and I can’t wait to see him.
Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996 and the pace of college basketball since 2003. He is among the Associated Press’s Top 25 Voters. Contact him at [email protected]