PISCATAWAY -- Chris Laviano never lost the job of Rutgers starting quarterback last season, but even he admits that he might have stopped fulfilling its requirements.
Laviano showed up for the first practice of training camp looking different -- he added 15 pounds of muscle -- and sounding different.
To be more precise, the 6-foot-2, 221-pound redshirt junior sounded like someone willing to take ownership of his past mistakes.
"It's just coming every day to work -- coming every day to the meetings -- with a positive attitude," Laviano said. "Not getting in trouble off the field. Just being a quarterback all year-round."
Laviano's first year as a starter was a roller-coaster ride from the moment that he could not officially be declared the winner of a training camp competition because he was suspended for the first half of the season-opener for getting caught using a fake ID at a bar with several teammates.
"I'm more mature," said Laviano, who completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 2,247 yards with 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. "I feel different. I am different in here. It's a very positive place."
At the other end of the tumultuous season, Laviano fired a social media shot at fans who he perceived to be booing him in the finale after he threw a career-high four touchdown passes and showed some toughness by returning to the lineup soon after taking a bone-jarring hit.
In the spring, Laviano offered a half-hearted explanation for his actions that also did not go over well with fan base. Since then, he's toughened up.
"I definitely have thicker skin," Laviano said. "I've learned throughout last season that you kind of have to. You have no choice. You are not going to play well if you have thin skin. Luckily, you don't have to do anything by yourself. You have the whole team behind you, the whole coaching staff."
First-year coach Chris Ash and offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer both said that Laviano made major leadership strides between the end of spring camp -- when he dodged the cameras after the Scarlet-White Game -- and training camp.
"For that young man, he has had a lot of turmoil and well-documented things go on in his life," Mehringer said.
"One of the things that we talked about with him -- not this past spring semester but throughout the summer -- is consistency has to be established in your life. This summer was a tribute to an individual trying to change his life and do things the right way. Credit to him."
Laviano earned a spot in the latest edition of the Rutgers Champions Club and was named an Iron Knight by strength and conditioning coach Kenny Parker. Both are considered highest honors within the program and are signs of a renewed commitment.
"I think for him it was just a matter of choosing what you want down the road versus what feels good temporarily," Mehringer said.
"He chose development, he chose committing himself to the weight room, he chose committing himself to the film room and to his academics -- versus maybe going out and having some fun with some people."
If Laviano had done those things sooner, Ash might not have felt the need to light a fire under his returning starter by adding TCU graduate transfer Zach Allen to the equation. Alas, Laviano and Allen are listed as co-starters for camp.
"I worked really hard in the weight room with Coach Parker," Laviano said.
"Football-specific stuff, doing things that we didn't used to do with players taking it upon themselves to get extra routes in or get some football work in in between those meetings or those lifts. We've all worked on our character and ourselves off the field."
One football adage is that quarterbacks often get too much credit on winning teams and too much blame on losing teams. Rutgers finished 4-8.
"We didn't have a great year, which is not the worst thing for me this year," Laviano said. "I had all that experience. I kind of know what to expect."
How will he use it to his advantage?
"Just being a quarterback all the time," Laviano said, "as opposed to just most of the time or some of the time."
Source : https://www.nj.com/rutgersfootball/2016/08/rutgers_qb_chris_laviano_you_are_not_going_to_play.html