PISCATAWAY, New Jersey — Rutgers senior receiver Leonte Carroo had a weird feeling looking into the backfield on the opening day of spring practice.
For much of his high school and college career, Carroo has seen Gary Nova under center waiting to take the snap.
It was much different Monday. Nova has finished his college career and coach Kyle Flood is looking for a starting quarterback.
The job is wide open with Chris Laviano, Hayden Rettig and Giovanni Rescigno in the running. Only Laviano has played in a college game. The junior, who has three seasons of eligibility remaining, appeared in five games as Nova's backup.
Rettig and Rescigno have played on scout teams in college. Rettig has two seasons, a year at LSU and last year at Rutgers with Rescigno.
"They are all different quarterbacks in their own unique way," said Carroo, who is trying to build a relationship with all three quarterbacks. "I am just excited for the battle right now. I like watching things like this and seeing guys compete."
Laviano, who redshirted his freshman season, won the job as Nova's backup last season. He appeared in five games, completing 11 of 28 passes for 107 yards and an interception. He also showed an ability to run, gaining 54 yards against Nebraska.
"I haven't changed from the last two years," Laviano said. "Obviously there is a bit more responsibility because our starting quarterback is gone. Guys need someone to lead. If you plan on being that guy, you have to step up."
Laviano of Glen Head, New York, also has gained some confidence, getting practice time last season and appearing in games against Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State.
Watching practice, he appears to have the strongest arm among the three quarterbacks. He also understands nothing is set.
"He is doing a good job," senior offensive lineman Keith Lumpkin said. "He is not going out there with the mindset that he is the starter. He is going to compete and work hard, because that's his nature."
"I just have to keep working, that's it," said Rettig, who has three years of eligibility. "I am not trying to go around any questions but I have to keep working and prove I am a good player and have people see that, and become a leader."
Rettig, from Los Angeles, is the younger brother of Chase Rettig, who was the starting quarterback at Boston College from 2010-13. He also is anxious to get back on the field. As a practice squad quarterback at LSU and Rutgers, he rarely had to make decisions. The coaches told him where to throw the ball in giving the defense a look and he did it.
Rettig said it's been two years of waiting.
"You sit there, and this is the only thing you love to do and what you want to do," Rettig said.
Rescigno of Warren, Michigan, is trying to get back into a rhythm on the field after working out a lot during the offseason.
"I don't think I feel like I have been away from football," said Rescigno, a redshirt freshman. "It kind of feels like I have come back to football real fast. It's a good thing, I don't feel like I have been away from football but it feels good to be back."
Whoever gets the job will have a hard time matching what Nova did last season in leading Rutgers to an 8-5 record and a win over North Carolina in the Quick Lane Bowl in its first season in the Big Ten Conference.
Nova finished the season 178 of 307 for 2,667 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.