PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Flying under the radar because of drama regarding Saturday’s starting quarterback, backup Mike Bimonte continues to push closer to the field after more than two years of manning the sidelines.
Bimonte’s chances for early playing time evaporated when Gary Nova flipped from Pittsburg later in the recruiting season, but the third-year Rutgers quarterback could see the field soon – maybe even this Saturday.
“This is huge because I’m taking more reps now than I ever had in a game week,” Bimonte said. “I’ve always taken mental reps, but theres nothing that prepares you like actually repping it out with the ones and twos.
“[Offensive coordinator Ron Prince] is huge. He’s someone that believes in me and believes in my talents. I think I’ve definitely progressed and gotten much better as time’s gone on. It’s great that he wants me to succeed.”
Bimonte was one series away from making his Rutgers debut in the blowout against Norfolk State, said head coach Kyle Flood. He was also under consideration to replace Nova against Houston.
Bimonte and Chas Dodd battled for the backup spot this summer, and with discussions of a multiple-quarterback front against the Owls, he will be ready for anything.
“Every week I try to prepare as hard as I possibly can because I know that if I didn’t give it my all, that would be the week where the situation arises that my number is called,” Bimonte said. “I’ve been the most prepared that I could possibly be for every game. As time has gone on and I’ve sat and watched more and more, now I really feel I’m ready. If the situation arises against Temple or any other team, I’m ready.”
The 6-foot-5 Bimonte came into Rutgers raw after a successful high school career at nearby Englishtown (N.J.) Manalapan High. Bimonte expected a wait to see the field with Dodd and Tom Savage ahead of him at the time of his commitment.
That did not make the waiting any easier.
“[Sitting out] has probably been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Bimonte said. “I’m a football player. Obviously I want to play, and I haven’t been able to since high school. But I know it’s just a matter of time. I’m waiting for the opportunity, and I’ll be ready when it comes.”
Nova is in position to retain his starting job after seeing the majority of practice snaps this week. But after Bimonte pushed for an opportunity as the backup this summer, Flood likes what he saw in an increased role Tuesday and Wednesday.
“The most impressive thing to me is when I see Mike go into the team period today he knows where to go with the ball,” Flood said. “He knows where his eyes should be. He knows what the reads should be,” Flood said. “You say you have to take mental reps. You have to take reps on film. You have to watch the other guys practice. You have to do all those things as you are trying to earn your opportunities, but he has really done it well, which is pleasing to me. It was good to see him out there [this week].”
Bimonte did not expect the wait to be this long after committing to Rutgers, but saw plans change when Nova came aboard later that year. The two remain competitive, and are close off the field, Nova said.
“He’s worked really hard,” Nova said. “It’s unfortunate that he hasn’t gotten a lot of reps but the reps that he does get he’s on top of, whether it’s protection adjustments or things like that. He’s a real smart guy. It’s good to see him getting some reps out here and I think he’s making the most of it.”