PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Rutgers coach Chris Ash enters his third season, trying to rebuild a downtrodden program. He's hoping true freshman Artur Sitkowski quarterback can provide an instant spark as starting quarterback.
Sitkowski beat out senior captain Gio Rescigno and sophomore Jonathan Lewis to start against Texas State on Saturday. A native of nearby Old Bridge, New Jersey, Sitkowski is a big-arm talent with prototypical size at 6-foot-5, 224 pounds.
"He's a talented individual. He's got a lot of skill sets. He can make a lot of throws," Ash said. "But above and beyond that, he's a leader. People follow him. He's been able to galvanize the offense around him, not only for this training camp but in the summer and in the spring. We think he's got a very high ceiling and we're excited to let him get out there."
Sitkowski has not been available to the media since early in training camp. He'll be under the tutelage of John McNulty, who's making his second stint as Rutger's offensive coordinator.
Before leaving for the NFL, McNulty orchestrated one of the most prolific offenses in school history in 2007, becoming the first program in FBS to have a 3,000-yard passer in Mike Teel, a 2,000-yard rusher in Ray Rice and two 1,000-yard receivers in Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood.
Ash, who was 2-10 with a 0-9 Big Ten Conference record in his first season and 4-8 overall and 3-6 in the league last year, is tempering his expectations.
"He's a freshman and regardless of the position, when a freshman starts his first college game, especially, there's going to be goods and bads," Ash said. "Probably even more so from the quarterback position, because they are asked to do a lot more. We are excited about what Art can potentially bring to our football team but we also understand that he is a freshman."
Texas State is also starting a new quarterback in sophomore Willie Jones III. He'll make his first start after playing in 10 games as a backup last season, completing 18 of 37 passes for 281 yards while rushing for 43 yards.
The Bobcats were 2-10 last season, going 1-7 in the Sun Belt. They return 19 starters, with nine on defense, seven on offense and three specialists.
The Bobcats new defensive coordinator Chris Woods has said he wants to have an aggressive defense that brings a lot of pressure.
"When there's a new coach, whether it's head coach or coordinator, you have to do your research and go back and look at their history and that's what we've had to do with this guy," Ash said.
Rutgers returns the Big Ten's leader in tackles in linebacker Trevor Morris, who had 9.8 tackles per game last season.
Saturday's game will be the first between Rutgers and Texas State and first time the Scarlet Knights have taken on a team from the Sun Belt Conference.
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