Senior Nova challenged for Rutgers quarterback job

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Eight months ago, Gary Nova was Rutgers’ unquestioned quarterback and voted team captain.

Entering his senior year, he’s fighting for the starting job.

After throwing 14 touchdowns and four interceptions and completing 59 percent of his passes in leading Rutgers to a 5-2 start, Nova’s 23-game starting streak ended with a dismal second half of the season. He had five touchdowns and 10 interceptions, completing 51 percent of passes while Rutgers lost four of the next five games. He was benched in favor of senior Chas Dodd for the final three games.

It marked the second straight year Nova’s season ended in a tailspin. In 2012, Rutgers got off to a 7-0 start and had the inside track on the program’s first BCS bowl bid when Nova encountered difficulties.

Now Nova enters spring practice in a quarterback competition, despite the graduation of Dodd and no other quarterback with experience other than holding a clipboard on game day. Those vying for the spot are redshirt junior Mike Bimonte and redshirt freshman Chris Laviano.

”I’m still a captain of this team. I’m still a leader. My picture is still on the front of the Hale (Center),” said Nova of the photo in the football facility lobby. ”I hold myself to a high standard and got to lead everybody, so nothing has changed from that aspect.”

The spring snaps have been spread out among the three quarterbacks.

”As far as not taking all the reps with the ones, I can’t let it affect me,” Nova said. ”I have to go out there and have the same energy and enthusiasm and lead these guys.”

So far, Rutgers coach Kyle Flood is pleased with what he’s seen from the signal caller he went from supporting to benching.

”I think Gary’s handled it very well,” Flood said. ”I think Gary’s had a good offseason so far. He’s had a good spring so far. I think he’s showed up every day with the attitude that he’s going to win his job, and I think we want that of everyone in the program.”

Flood wants Nova to treat this year like a new beginning. Plus, there’s also a new offensive coordinator in Ralph Friedgen, Rutgers’ fifth in five years.

The 67-year-old former Maryland coach took his first job since being fired following the 2010 season after 10 years at his alma mater.

”I think he just brings a totally new aspect. He just brings a totally new terminology and things like that and it’s just great,” Nova said. ”In a sense, he’s coming out of retirement, he’s kind of starting fresh, so for me this year just trying to start fresh, also.”

Flood said he’s not sure when he’ll name a starter, he just wants to get through the first scrimmage. Nova appears confident he’ll be the starting quarterback leading Rutgers into the Big Ten.

”It’s just a challenge,” Nova said. ”Been here long enough. Been through a lot of ups and a lot of downs. Coach made that decision. Obviously, you have to respect it and just got to go out there and earn your spot.”