By Sean Anderson
KINGSTON, R.I. - Rhode Island has stacked its deck when it comes to the quarterback position in 2018. With the depth, the position group will see strong competition in training camp.
Returning for his second year with the Rams and entering camp atop the depth chart is redshirt senior quarterback JaJuan Lawson (Petaluma, Calif.). After transferring from the University of New Mexico before last season, Lawson took over the starting role and completed 105 passes for 1,198 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017. He also rushed for 270 yards and three touchdowns. His dual-capability at the quarterback position makes him all the more dangerous under center.
In his best performance of the season, Lawson earned CAA Football Offensive Player of the Week honors after leading Rhody to a 20-6 victory over Villanova in November. He passed for a career-high 336 yards and one touchdown, adding a second touchdown on a 6-yard run. Lawson completed 25-of-35 pass attempts, connecting with seven different receivers during the victory. Two of his receivers – Marven Beauvais and Khayri Denny – topped 100 receiving yards, marking the the first time in 70 games the Rams had two different receivers reach 100 yards in the same contest.
Lawson is not the only experienced quarterback coming back. Fellow redshirt senior Tyler Harris (Hoboken, Ga.), is back after transferring from UCF before last season. Harris accumulated 1,375 yards and nine touchdowns last year. He averaged 171.9 passing yards per game, showing a strong arm in the pocket. Harris' presence and strong arm gives the Rams two signal callers with significant starting experience.
Redshirt sophomore Vito Priore (Atlanta, Ga.) is returning for his third year in the program. Priore has an excellent arm and accuracy. With two years under his belt, he is ready to prove himself as a game-ready quarterback. Rounding out the group of returning players is redshirt freshman Jahkari Grant (Windsor, Conn.). Grant was on the travel squad as a true freshman and will compete for more snaps in camp this year. With blazing vertical speed and a tight spiral, Grant has a strong skillset, and this year's training camp will be a major part in his development.
The Rams also brought in walk-on Nick Dionizio (Cranston, R.I.). The 6-2, 185-pound Cranston West product passed for 1,025 yards and 18 touchdowns in his senior season last fall.
Check GoRhody.com Wednesday for a look at the safeties on the 2018 roster.