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Thursday, August 1, 2013

TOP 20: Proving it in Piscataway (No. 1)

Because of how Rutgers' offense might look and the scrutiny that comes with the position, junior quarterback Gary Nova has the most to prove in 2013. (AP Photo) 

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: Tyler_Barto

Players report to the start of Rutgers training camp today. This top-20 countdown concludes today (check the rest of the blog for an archive), documenting who's got the most to prove in 2013.

No. 1 — junior quarterback Gary Nova (6-foot-2, 220 pounds)

Why Nova's No. 1: No one has more sets of eyes glued to him as 2013 approaches than Nova, whose tail end to 2012 was well documented. 

The second-year starter struggled with accuracy, his offensive coordinator turned ultra-conservative and Rutgers never rebounded during an 0-3 finish. 

He adjusts to his third playcaller in as many seasons now and insists he's confident enough to negotiate with the coaching staff on play calls. A concerted offseason program also helped Nova shed pounds from his frame.
Gary Nova meets with reporters in late June. (AP Photo)

A new run-blocking scheme follows him, as does an unfamiliar backfield. Head coach Kyle Flood wanted an offensive system centered around playmakers, and most of them line up on the outside.

That means Nova's distributions will likely increase as Rutgers' run game attempts to find its footing. With 18 career starts, Nova should finally be suited to handle an increased workload through the air.

During training camp, keep an eye on: The development of Nova's relationship with coordinator Ron Prince.

Nineteen training camp practices will determine Prince's direction and give a feel for how Rutgers' offense will function. Nova followed his first offensive coordinator, Frank Cignetti, from Pittsburgh in 2011 and displayed an ability to improvise in 10 appearances.

Nova's second-half slide a year ago coincided with predictable playcalling. He's planning to avoid a similar fate with Prince.

"The schemes that we have and the concepts that we have, he's not going to do anything that I don't feel comfortable with," Nova said Tuesday. "I think he's going to put me in a position to be successful. I'm really looking forward to it."

2013 season outlook: A softer conference schedule and an experienced offensive line align. 

There aren't many indications yet, but Nova could finally be poised for a consistent season, provided Rutgers' offense is built on high-percentage passes and quick reads. He's also best suited to make plays in space.

Prince's offense could be designed with those features in mind. "You just have to be on the same page with the receiver as far as making some reads, cutting some routes short, knowing when not to run full speed," Nova said.

A program and fan base await the result.

More from the countdown: No. 2 — Savon Huggins

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