Rutgers football OC Kirk Ciarrocca raves about Athan Kalaikmanis’ Big Ten experience: ‘There’s no substitute for experience’

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — For Kirk Ciarrocca, familiarity bred a desire to be reunited with Athan Kalaikmanis. So when the quarterback entered the transfer portal after two years at Minnesota, Ciarrocca was ready.

The arrival of Kaliakmanis this offseason is a net positive for Rutgers, given his experience starting in the Big Ten. He is also experienced in playing for Ciarrocca, a point that factored significantly into his portal recruitment.

With incumbent starter Gavin Wimsatt already in the fold, Rutgers now has two quarterbacks boasting significant Big Ten starting experience.

Prior to arriving at Rutgers last year, Ciarrocca was the offensive coordinator at Minnesota. He recruited Kaliakmanis to the program and oversaw him getting playing time for Minnesota as a freshman.

“I think that was very attractive to us. You know, the fact that he knew the system. He knew me,” Ciarrocca said on Thursday following practice.

“I knew what his work ethic was like, I knew what type of person he was. I knew that he would fit into our culture. So I was really excited about the opportunity to bring him here because I know it strengthens our roster, and it was going to make the position better.”

Ciarrocca and Kaliakmanis had fostered a strong relationship in their one year together at Minnesota, and it was enough to pull the quarterback to New Jersey.

In now his second year at Rutgers, Ciarrocca worked a borderline miracle with the offense, turning around a unit that was among the worst in the Big Ten for much of the past decade and making them respectable. The one area that struggled with some inconsistency was the passing game and that is where Kaliakmanis enters the competition with some strength to his game.

But the building block for this offseason is going to be that Kaliakmanis has a familiarity with not just Ciarrocca the coach but also the man. It played a major role in the player and coach reuniting this offseason.

“I’m just very fortunate that they were interested when I was in the portal,” Kaliakmanis said on Tuesday.

“You know, the portal can be a scary place. I was very fortunate that a lot of schools (were) interested but very thankful that coach Ciarrocca and coach Schiano (head coach Greg Schiano) were interested in me.

“But yeah, I mean, our relationship is very, very tight. It was at Minnesota, and just picking his brain – he’s I think he’s a very, very smart coordinator. He’s very intelligent, and I trust him.”

He certainly adds a new dimension to the quarterback room. Last season for Minnesota, Kaliakmanis completed 53.1 percent of his passes for 1,831 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Last summer, Wimsatt was named the starting quarterback during Big Ten Media Days. The decision by head coach Greg Schiano ended any talk of a quarterback competition going into training camp.

Wimsatt started all 13 games for Rutgers last year, leading the team to a win over Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl. He made gains over the season before as he completed 47.8 percent of his passes. He threw for 1,735 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. In addition, he also ran for 497 yards and 11 touchdowns.

It should be a quarterback competition that stretches into the summer, but at the very least, the addition of Kalaikmanis gives the Scarlet Knights some much-needed depth at a vital position.

“He has a big-time experience, has been Big Ten starter. I don’t know. I think he started 16 or 17 games and the Big Ten,” Ciarrocca said.

“So there’s no substitute for experience obviously has some familiarity with the system and familiarity with me. So I think that helps them a little bit. But the biggest thing is it just it brings competition to the position. Maybe a little bit more stability there when you’re adding another quality guy out of position, adds depth.”

Story originally appeared on Rutgers Wire