RUTGERS RECRUITING NEEDS
Part 1: Quarterbacks
Slightly over four years ago, the youngest head football coach in Division I-A stepped to the podium at the Hale Center and addressed the assembled media as he assumed control of a program that many in the college football world labeled as a coach's graveyard. 34-year old Greg Schiano, the former Defensive Coordinator of the Miami Hurricanes, announced that he and his staff were "going to recruit the State of Rutgers." Schiano established New Jersey, anything you need to drive through New Jersey to get to, and south Florida as the boundaries of the State of Rutgers.
Schiano was a different Rutgers coach. He was a Jersey guy, born and bred. He played and coached at Ramapo High School. He coached at Rutgers as a graduate assistant. And he left his role as heir apparent to Miami Head Coach Butch Davis – who would leave Miami for the NFL less than two months after Schiano departed – to return to his home state to build a championship program. Schiano eschewed the quick fix offered by heavy recruitment of JUCO players. Schiano instead vowed to "build the program on a rock foundation that once built, will last forever". This article, the first in a series of eight evaluating the recruiting needs of the 2005 Class, looks at the brain of the offense – the QB position.
On the surface, Schiano would appear set at QB with a 2-year starter and the Big East passing yardage leader returning for his senior season. However, Jr QB Ryan Hart (11 GS, 295 of 453 for 3,154 yards, 17 TDs, and 19 INTs) has tied the Rutgers single season INT record each of the past two seasons. Hart is prone to poor decisions and inaccurate throws. Such a mistake-prone trigger-man is simply unacceptable at the helm of the west coast offense, whose QB must have a 2:1 TD-to-INT ratio. Hart's problems are exasperated by a weak arm that essentially forces the Scarlet Knight offense to operate on a 30-yard field. On such a short field, opponents can smother the short passing zones and the safeties can cheat forward in run support because the deep threat is marginal, compromised further by Hart's poor accuracy on deeper throws.
While the entrenched incumbent would appear to provide stability at QB next year, the truth is that, after four years, Schiano has yet to find a reliable QB. This ongoing uncertainty increases the importance of QB recruit(s) in the 2005 Class. Not only does Schiano need a QB of the future. He may yet need a QB of the present.
RS Fr QB Terrance Shawell (3 GP, 7 of 18 for 213 yards and 2 TDs) is Backup Plan B. Shawell's experience consists of three meaningful series in two games and mop-up duty in one of them. Terrance was unimpressive in spring camp last year and temporarily left the team during summer camp. He eventually emerged as the backup QB, but saw little action because Rutgers performed so miserably against its weaker opponents and because Schiano refused to bench Hart regardless of how poorly Ryan performed. The 2nd Half of a blowout loss at Pittsburgh provided an opportunity for Shawell to gain some experience yet he took only one snap while Hart was shaken up. Shawell played one series against Navy in the 1st Half while the game was still undecided. He also contributed to two scoring drives against Connecticut. Terrance is more athletic and has a stronger arm than Hart. However, Shawell is less accurate and is a worse decision-maker. The coaching staff, which has seen far more of Shawell than have the fans, undoubtedly has a better understanding of Shawell's future role with the team. However, based upon how little Shawell played behind a struggling Hart, one cannot assume that Shawell is the QB of the future.
RS So Anthony Cali, as a Jersey recruit, received far more attention than did Hart as a freshman in summer camp. However, Cali was the one relegated to the scout team, behind Hart on the depth chart. Anthony has remained buried ever since. Cali was unable to displace former walk-on Ted Trump as the backup QB in 2002. And Cali was unable to beat Shawell for the backup job last year despite a better Spring Game performance and Shawell's temporary defection from summer camp. One can reasonably conclude, after three years, that Cali is a write-off who likely will not be invited back for a fifth season.
True freshman Mike Teel was one of the most highly touted Jersey QBs one year ago. He verbally committed to Rutgers in the summer and was never seriously in play. A high ankle sprain in the Governor's Bowl cost Teel summer camp and effectively ended any hopes of playing as a true freshman. Despite an apparent lack of effective options at QB, Schiano did not foolishly burn Teel's redshirt in a lost season. Teel is the great unknown. With practices closed to the public, the fans have not seen Teel. Only the staff can make an informed judgment about Teel's future. Is he a career backup? Is he the heir apparent? Is he the best QB in the program right now? Given the lack of proven options at QB, one would be wise not to pin all hope for the future on the arm of Teel. From a recruiting standpoint, he cannot be assumed to be the answer since he has yet to field a question where it most counts – on the field.
Schiano has four QBs already in the program. Only Hart is experienced but Ryan did not show appreciable improvement in his second full season as the starter. Given the current lack of options, Schiano ideally needs two QBs in the next recruiting class – a JUCO who can at least be a viable backup and a HS player who has the ability to be the yet-to-be-identified QB of the future. The need for a JUCO QB will be highly dependent upon the staff's faith in Teel and, to a lesser extent, Shawell. The availability of scholarships will also influence this decision. Schiano has yet to develop a legitimate QB in four years. He needs to keep mining talent until he can fill this vital need.
Coming Next: Rutgers Recruiting Needs, Part 2. Schiano pledged to build a rock foundation at Rutgers. The OLine is the foundation of the offense. In what kind of shape is the foundation and what are the needs on the OLine?
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