PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — If Rutgers' season were starting now, Gary Nova would be the starting quarterback.
"We don't have a game today," Nova said with a wry smile when told of his head coach's endorsement. "But it feels good that he sees that I'm progressing."
The rising senior was 6 of 13 for 78 yards while also rushing for a 1-yard touchdown, leading the White past Scarlet 21-0 in Rutgers' spring game on Saturday.
The one-time starter was benched late last season in favor of Chas Dodd and is now in a three-man competition for the starting spot with redshirt junior Mike Bimonte (5-of-11 for 55 yards) and redshirt freshman Chris Laviano (0 of 9 with an interception).
Despite a strong spring by Nova, the only quarterback on the roster with game experience, Rutgers will enter the summer without naming a starting quarterback. However, coach Kyle Flood said Nova has a significant edge.
"If we had to play today Gary would be our starter," Flood said. "We're not ready to name a starter just yet. I think Mike and Chris made a lot of progress this spring and I think when you got one guy who has a lot of game experience and two others who don't, you have to give them as many snaps and opportunities as you can if you think they have an opportunity make your team better."
With the season opener four months away, Nova isn't putting too much stock in his coach's endorsement.
According to Flood, Nova threw just one interception in the fourteen practices leading up to the spring game. Last season, Nova threw 10 interceptions in a four-game stretch before his benching.
Nova said over the course of the spring he completed about 68 percent of his passes after completing 54.5 percent last year.
"Just better decision making," Nova said. "Just trying to limit that from my game."
Desmon Peoples took advantage of the absence of the top three running backs from last season, including Paul James (shoulder), and ran for 89 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. He also had two catches for 24 yards.
"It was a great opportunity. I had a chance to showcase my talent. Period. And I feel like I took advantage of it," Peoples said, adding, "I feel like I let everyone know I can play and I deserve a shot to play."
Who he and the other running backs will be receiving handoffs from as Rutgers enters the Big Ten remains the biggest question heading into summer.
"I'm pleased with all three of those guys," Flood said. "I feel we've got three quarterbacks on our team that can help us win football games and now we'll just take the time between spring practice and the first game to sort it all out."
Right now, it appears Nova's job to lose. And if he's under center when Rutgers opens the season at Washington State, he knows he has something to prove.
"The past three years have been great. A lot of ups and downs," Nova said. "But I think this last year you just want to go out the right way and with a Big Ten schedule, there's not a better way to do it."
NOTE: New offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen was not at the spring game because of a kidney stone.