by: Steve Tichenor
Spring Football practices are underway at Rutgers and a couple of early setbacks have created challenges for the program just before the annual Spring Game on April 22.
The once proclaimed quarterback of the future, Tylin Oden, was dismissed from the program for a “violation of team rules”. Reports have been vague so far, but apparently Oden had trouble making the jump from high school to college and had maturity issues. The 3 star recruit from Tennessee saw action last year in a desperate move to get the offense moving, but it was very clear that Oden’s game at that point was one dimensional. He could run, but passing downfield was a problem. Nearly all of his attempts were inaccurate and wild. Perhaps it’s not fair to evaluate a freshman thrown into a difficult situation but from what we saw of Oden, it looked like getting him to a Big 10 starter level was a major project. Oden has time to get back on track and may go on to have success elsewhere, but the high expectations put on him may have been a reach. I’m sure Oden will be out to prove otherwise.
His dismissal by no means dooms Rutgers’ season. However, for this Spring, Rutgers has very little depth at QB. Gio Rescigno, Zach Allen and walk on Troy Anthony are in camp now, with highly touted freshman, Jonathan Lewis coming in the Summer.
What does this say about Coach Ash? It’s a two way street. You can applaud his ability to handle a tough situation by acting decisively and sticking to his principles, but you also have to question the initial evaluation of Oden. Admittedly, it’s tough to predict a kid’s transition from high school to college. I’ll trust that Ash knows what’s best for his program and keeping a player around that is not following team rules does not set the right example for the team.
Of bigger concern is the loss of Michigan transfer Ahmir Mitchell. Mitchell suffered a torn ACL in a non contact drill during practice last week. The 4 star recruit looked impressive this spring and was expected to make an immediate impact at wide receiver; a position that RU is particularly thin at. This is just bad luck for Mitchell and Rutgers. There was a suggestion that Mitchell could still contribute this season, but most ACL injuries require a full year recovery and rushing him back for this season would not make much sense.
These setbacks are tough. The RU faithful may wonder at times if we are truly snake bit, but there is no time for excuses. It is early in the Spring and there are plenty of positives at both positions. Gio Recigno has shown ability at quarterback when healthy. He did better than many expected until he was slowed by injuries. But, can he be consistent? Incoming recruit Jonathan Lewis has been compared to former Ohio State and now Buffalo Bills QB Cardale Jones. That’s pretty good company. The highly competitive Lewis is coming in this summer to win the QB job as a freshman. It looks like the sky’s the limit with this young talent. It should be fun to watch.
It’s even more challenging at wide receiver but big play machine, Janarion Grant, is back from injury and is expected to be fully ready by the season opener. Another big play threat, Jawaun Harris, is playing baseball and will be back in the summer. The rest of the receivers on the roster are untested. One or two of them will have to step up. Which must be Ash’s rallying cry for this group for the rest of camp, “Time to step up!”