Below, we take a look at the five most pressing questions as the Scarlet Knights progress through spring practice.
1. How will The Quarterback Position fare?
The quarterback position took a major step forward in 2005 in great part due to the maturity of Sr. signal-caller Ryan Hart. Hart entered the year with about 2.5 years of on the field experience and lived up to expectations. A quick start at Illinois was followed by games which saw the senior slow some. The contest at Connecticut, where an ineffective Mike Teel was pulled to make way for Hart's impressive second half performance, proved to be a decisive turning point that was finally capped off by a stellar 374-yard 3-touchdown performance in the Insight Bowl.
However, Hart has since departed, leaving Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano with two viable options: Mike Teel and Jabu Lovelace. Under different circumstances, the QB position may not be under the spotlight it is at Rutgers. However, Rutgers' football success is critically dependant on a prolific offense, which must start with the quarterback (the loss of last year's star bookends, Ryan Neill and Val Barnaby, underline the significant loss on the defensive side of the ball, whose production must be made up elsewhere). Despite an abundance of skill-position talent, critical moments in the span of a single game often prove decisive. The battle between Teel and Lovelace will take center stage, because of the pivotal importance of the quarterback position.
The key to the success of 2005 included, for the first time, key plays from the QB position that helped Rutgers win games (e.g., see UConn contest). Previous years the QB had been asked not to lose the game and Rutgers was forced to "hang on". The expectation this year will be to retain much of what Hart brought to the position in 2005, which admittedly, may be too much to ask for especially when considering the 10 INTs Teel threw in limited action last year.
Teel holds the advantage at this time and has been named, rightfully so, number one on the depth chart going into Spring Camp. With decent speed, Teel does possess an ability to escape the pocket - more so than his predecessor. However, his strength is his arm. His nearly two years in the program coupled with live game action, are important tangible factors that should help the former NJ HS football standout take the next step. The question is Will he?
Final Thoughts: Fans should not overlook Lovelace. Lovelace brings an athletic component to the equation that Rutgers has not had in a long time. His combination of size, strength, speed and "incredibly hardworking" attitude will be looked upon especially if Teel continues to have some of the same decision-making problems that plagued him last year. Lovelace will push Teel and the combination of the two may yet prove to be an interesting tandem come September.