We're only about a month away now from the start of preseason practice. Of course, players are already working hard on campus this summer getting ready. I had a chance to catch up with Rutgers quarterback Tom Savage this week to ask him how things were going in Piscataway. Here is a transcript of our conversation.
What's your schedule like right now?
Tom Savage: Right now, we've got summer classes to deal with, and the older guys are getting together throwing 7-on-7s and throwing against air. We're working hard. The whole team's really excited about this season.
Can you tell that there's improvement going on during the 7-on-7s and lighter pass drills?
TS: Yeah, I feel like there's improvement, and there's also a good connection going on. I'm really starting to understand the timing with the receivers. The good thing is, they're all young guys, so they're all going to be with me for the next three years. That's really exciting to watch and be a part of.
Several young guys emerged at receiver during the spring. How is that carrying over into the summer?
TS: I feel like all of them are starting to really understand the game. They're all really talented, but you can be talented and not understand the principles of our offense. I feel like everyone's starting to understand and get it all together.
How much film do you watch in the summer?
TS: We watch some film. The receivers and I get together. We prepare a little bit for Norfolk State [the Scarlet Knights' opening opponent] because we can't overlook them too much. But we've also got to keep watching ourselves from last season and learn what we can do better. We all get together and look at the timing and the routes last year, then we go outside and work on that.
You didn't really throw much in games to a lot of the younger receivers last year, so how do they incorporate the film study?
TS: The spring is really what they'll be watching a lot of. The good thing is, we've got all that stuff on tape, so we can see what we did and what we can improve on.
How about outside of working out -- how are you guys building chemistry off the field?
TS: Mohamed [Sanu] and I really buddy up. We hang out a lot. We spend time with all the receivers. We're really comfortable with each other, which is good because we know how to communicate with each other.
You went through your first spring practice this year. What did you learn from that?
TS: One thing I learned is how good our defense really is. I felt like the spring gave me a chance to really slow down and understand the meaning of the plays instead of just doing it. Last year, they would just tell me the play and I'd execute and do what I could. This year, I really understand the plays more and understand the game a lot better.
Coach Schiano said he didn't want to put too much on you as a true freshman last year. Do you feel like the playbook is more opened up to you this season?
TS: I've told them numerous times that I'm ready to expand and learn as much as I can. That's what I'm ready to do. To give the team the best opportunity to win, you've got to be able to throw everything at the guys, and I want to be the kind of guy who can understand everything and really be the manager of the offense.
When you look around at the team, you see a lot of young guys. Do you have enough talent to overcome some of that inexperience?
TS: Right now we don't have that much experience, but we do have a leadership core. I think the biggest thing being able to lead and talk through things to the younger guys. I mean, I'm a younger guy, but for the younger guys to be able to tell them how it works and how everything's going to go. Our leadership core, with older guys like Howard Barbieri, helps out a lot.
Speaking of Barbieri, he's going to be your new center, but he was hurt part of the spring. How is the chemistry between you two?
TS: We take snaps all the time. I'm really comfortable with him. I know he's really trying to get back out there, and the whole team is looking forward to that, too.
There were several injuries along the offensive line this spring. Are you looking forward to seeing what that unit can do when healthy this fall?
TS: Yeah, I know we've got plenty of depth at the O-line positions. We couldn't have had too many more guys go down this spring, and it seemed like we still managed it well. I'm excited to see what the whole offensive line crew can do.