RUTGERS RECRUITING NEEDS
Part 1: Quarterbacks
Five years ago, new Head Coach Greg Schiano brashly set a national championship as the ultimate goal for his program. Schiano has laid the foundation for success. First, he upgraded the academic support system and raised the academic expectations for his players. Second, he improved the facilities to among the very best in the Big East. Thirdly, he vastly upgraded the level of recruiting compared to the desultory performance of his predecessor. Then, Schiano raised the level of play on the field. Rutgers was no longer a scrimmage for Big East opponents. Rutgers could compete with the best programs in the league. Finally, Schiano obtained a winning season, bowl eligibility, and the elusive bowl bid. The Insight Bowl was a month long celebration of Rutgers' arrival as a legitimate program. Sure, the schedule was dumbed down to make a bowl invitation nearly unavoidable. But Rutgers showed on the field that it belonged in a bowl game, taking Arizona State to the brink in a 45-40 shootout loss in Phoenix. After five years of selling hope, promises, and the future, Schiano has something tangible to sell. Rutgers is a bowl team. This article, the first in a series of eight evaluating the recruiting needs of the 2006 Class, looks at the brain of the offense – the QB position.
Sr Ryan Hart (9 GS, 10 GP, 155 of 255 for 2,135 yards, 18 TDs, and 8 INTs) departs as Rutgers career passing leader for attempts, completions, yardage, and TDs. Hart started the final four games of the 2002 season as a true freshman. And maintained the starting job until Schiano curiously elected to bench Hart this year in mid-season. However, Hart reclaimed his starting job three halves later and held it for the remainder of the season, when healthy. After raising questions about other options at QB in each of the past two seasons, Hart finally silenced his critics just in time to say farewell. Once viewed as a weak link on the offense, Hart belatedly emerged as a key cog in the machine. After experiencing a stable situation at QB for three years, Schiano must replace three-plus-year starter. Hart finally matured as a senior and more efficiently executed Offensive Coordinator Craig Ver Steeg's west coast offense after he twice tied the Rutgers single season INT record. His departure leaves a big hole to be filled.
RS Fr Mike Teel (3 GS, 9 GP, 51 of 101 for 683 yards, 2 TDs, and 10 INTs) is the heir apparent to Hart but must drastically reduce his mistakes, which again put Rutgers among the nation's worst in INTs for the third consecutive year. Teel suffered a high ankle sprain in the 2004 Governor's Bowl that relegated him to the scout team in 2004. Teel earned the backup QB job in spring camp last year but missed the Spring Game after a recurrence of his high ankle sprain, which subsequently required surgery. Despite a poor summer camp by Hart, Teel barely played during the early, soft part of the schedule. Then Schiano curiously started spotting Teel in Big East games. Two games later, Schiano mysteriously promoted Teel to the starting job. A shoulder injury hampered his performance and he lost his job after three halves. Mike started one more game in place of a more seriously injured Hart. Teel's play showed some promise but his frequent mistakes raised some serious questions about his prospects.
RS So Terrance Shawell transferred to a Division II school in Pennsylvania last spring. Terrance was unimpressive in spring camp in 2004 and temporarily left the team during 2004 summer camp. Incomprehensibly, he nonetheless emerged as the backup QB but saw little action. Shawell was also unimpressive in spring camp last year, with a second consecutive poor showing in the Spring Game. Though possessing a strong arm, he lacked accuracy and made poor decisions. By the end of spring camp, Terrence had been displaced as the backup QB. His departure was no loss, as he wasn't going to play if he had stayed.
QB Jabulani Lovelace was primarily recruited as a DB and accepted a scholarship to Rutgers in large part because he could play QB. Jabu spent the season running the scout team offense. Current injuries to both Hart and Teel threatened to strip Lovelace's redshirt but a timely bye week provided sufficient time to heal. The injuries did afford Jabu extra practice repetitions during the bye week. As did the extra month of practices preceding Rugters' Insight Bowl appearance. Jabu reportedly possesses athleticism and a strong arm. The last two Rutgers QBs possessing those traits played a handful of series at QB, mostly in garbage time. Given Schiano's track records with marginally recruited QBs, I've got my doubts about Lovelace. Jabu will have the answer the questions about his QB ability in spring camp.
Schiano only has two QBs in the program. Only Teel is experienced. Given the uncertainty, Schiano needs two QBs in the next recruiting class. And one must be a JUCO to add some experience to the position as an insurance policy for Teel's development. It is difficult to justify recruiting two QBs but there are simply too many questions at a position that is crucial to the west coast offense and in which player development under Schiano's staff has been poor. So far, Schiano has received verbal commitments from two high school QBs – Tom Lang of Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts and Chris Paul-Etienne of Miami Edison Senior HS in Miami, Florida. So, Schiano apparently will replenish his depleted QB ranks. However, the lack of experience has not been addressed.
Coming Next: Rutgers Recruiting Needs, Part 2. After neglecting the OLine for three years, Schiano has begun to stockpile talent on the OLine, which is the foundation of the offense. What are the needs on the OLine, which must replace two three-year starters?
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