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Rutgers Quarterback Evan Simon: In-Depth Analysis vs. Temple (Part 2)

In part one, we went over all of Simon’s drop backs.

Facts: Simon played well enough for Rutgers to win: he didn’t return the ball or ever really put the ball in danger. Despite an incredibly conservative game plan and no real running game threat, he completed 60% of his passes, including a critical 4th down conversion. Simon also shielded himself physically as the only healthy quarterback available for the final three quarters of the game. He took a bad sack which we still have no idea what the playcall was on his last snap. Again, he is the co-starting quarterback for a team that is 3-0.

My personal opinion is that Simon did exactly what Greg Schiano asked him to do coming into the match against Temple and surely reiterated once Wimsatt went down due to injury, nothing more, but nothing less . To say that Simon is “not the guy” is extremely premature under the circumstances. This could probably go in the column of facts, but the garbage that some people (including some journalists) are dumping about how Simon was “inaccurate” is completely false or at the very least, a redefinition of the word.

Evan was 7-7 on shots from within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, plus 2-2 on shots from 10-20 yards in midfield. It won’t stretch a defense, but traditionally ‘inaccurate’, Christian Hackenberg throws a bubble screen to 5 from his intended receiver, Art Sitkowski throws two picks of six against Kansas, or the beloved Gary Nova earlier in his career toppling NFL quality receivers like Mohammed Sanu, Mark Harrison and Brandon Coleman (still early in his career) even when they had 10 yards separation with a defensive back. Throwing a ball down the sideline that is uncatchable for a defensive player and ONLY possibly for your receiver if he jumps perfectly when playing with the head and you are trained not to stay in the pocket waiting for someone to open up to risk getting hurt is what they told him to do. Perhaps the most off-target ball Simon threw all day was the way out along the touchline when Chris Long was open and yet Long made an incredible one-handed catch for week two consecutive. Other than that, Evan probably could have given Sean Ryan a better chance on the fade road in the end zone, but it’s not like progression receivers are generally running wide-open at times that were even targeted, not to mention completely missed. I think Schiano and/or Gleeson are still a little shocked from the Illinois game two years ago when an ‘inaccurate’ Noah Vedral pitch was picked and ended up costing Rutgers a game they were about to win. Also when Vedral was intercepted on the Gator Bowl goal line last year with Rutgers on the verge of a game-tying touchdown late in the first half.

That said, we’ve only really seen Simon in extended action three times, the Maryland game last year when the offense had to try and get the ball downfield when it went 7-14 for 86 yards. , the BC game when it went 8-13 for 63 yards, and this game. None of this confirms that he will definitely even be an above-average Big Ten replacement (although what I’ve seen of QB playing the last two years in the conference, he’s better than most replacements) long term, so the jury is still out on more band fate out there. Anyone who wants to speculate on the future of Evan Simon, the Rutgers quarterback room and the team as a whole is totally welcome, we have nine games left to find out if there are more. that we haven’t seen yet.

The first of those nine games is against Iowa. Their starting QB Spencer Petras was criticized for his 48% completion and 376-yard performance in the first three games. He led the Hawkeyes to a division title a season ago, but could be benched. Does he count as “the guy” for Iowa despite winning a division title? Has he regressed or at least partially coached him? We will have more data on this parallel scenario this weekend.

Do I agree that Gavin Wimsatt has a higher ceiling than Simon? Absolutely! But so far, Gavin has completed just 19 of 44 career passes with four interceptions and just one touchdown (which required an incredibly athletic catch from Chris Long despite his wide opening). Until Wimsatt (or Simon) definitely shows he can move the ball through the air, we have to side with the coaching staff and what they see in training. “Giving the keys” to one of them like the former technical staff did with Sitkowski is probably a bad idea at this point.

You don’t have to take my word for any of this. The most telling Schiano/Gleeson action though is that last year against Maryland, with bowl eligibility on the line, down 26-9, when Rutgers had no choice but to pitch the ball since the running game was non-existent, who had him invited? It wasn’t Vedral (a guy who threw for 381 yards against Michigan in 2020), Wimsatt, Johnny Langan or even Cole Snyder; it was Evan Simon. So even with a perfectly healthy 2022 QB room, IF the team needs to pass the ball and IF the coaching staff is willing to accept that like they did against the Terps last season, they’ll probably go with Evan Simon. If he can’t pass, so be it. And even if he doesn’t do it the first time, he’s technically just a freshman in a red shirt.

The big if is whether they release him or not. I agree 100% with TrollsDestroyedNJCom’s comment that “a good college QB should be able to do 3-5 step jumps and reads while backing up and then deliver a strike at a open fraction of a second WR or TE.” Definitely yes. Funny enough, I saw Cole Snyder do that for Buffalo last weekend when he threw for 264 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs. Was he ever allowed to let him rip like that at Rutgers? No. Should he or any other QB be allowed to do that? Maybe. So this needs to be seriously considered by the fans and the coaching staff. Can Simon do it now? We will find out in the next few weeks.

If Simon is the only healthy quarterback against Iowa with Gavin Wimsatt and Noah Vedral officially considered playing time decisions, the game plan will likely start as conservative as it did last week. (one reason being, as one commentator put it, he could be running for his life) Iowa has a solid defense that’s better at forcing turnovers than Rutgers is more the best special teams unit in the conference alongside a Hawkeye offense that through three games has proven equally anemic. The Rutgers offensive line (which will be covered in the upcoming Reasons for Optimism/Reasons for Pessimism article) has been inconsistent in pass protection to put it mildly. As much as we would love a Cinderella story of a walk-on or even Johnny Langan quarterbacking a win over defending Big Ten Division champion West Iowa, it would be a borderline miracle at best.

Will Rutgers beat Iowa, even if Simon plays all game behind center? Maybe. 43.3% chance by ESPN FPI, which seems about right at this point. The mere fact that we don’t have to lie to ourselves that Rutgers has even a chance of beating a mid-pack Big Ten team is a quantum leap forward when put into context. Try guessing this trivial question: Since Rutgers joined the Big Ten in 2014, how many times have they beaten a team that ended up finishing with a winning record in Big Ten play?

The answer is ZERO. The best Rutgers did was beat a team from Maryland in the 2014 season finale, which dropped the Terps to 4-4 in conference play. The next best is a 4-5 Purdue team in 2017 and a 4-5 Illinois team last year that would also have been over .500 had they beaten the Knights. You have to go back to 1988 when Rutgers beat a Michigan State team in the season opener to the last time they beat a Big Ten team that finished with a winning conference record . This Spartans team started 0-4-1 before winning six straight to earn a bowl trip to Jacksonville… oh yes, ironically enough the Gator Bowl. Iowa may not finish with a winning conference record either due to the severity of its offense thus far, but they generally find their way to eight wins overall. And they are rarely beaten by a team that can only run the ball.

Do I hope Evan Simon and Gavin Wimsatt improve enough to play in the NFL one day? Yes of course. Do I think even one of them will? No, more statistics and history do not think so either. Does that mean one or both can’t win a big conference game in their career? Of course not. Could it be this year? Maybe, though I don’t expect either of them to be the driver of a major victory with a 300-yard, 4 TD-type performance. Hopefully Simon can lead the team to victory this week, and for the first time in a long time there is reasonable hope of a big win in a big game. And even if Rutgers doesn’t pull this one off, they have another reasonable chance in two weeks against Nebraska in a similar nighttime game environment.

Feel free to leave comments below and we won’t keep the receipt like Robert Saleh.