Mike Teel Ready to Step Center Stage

PISCATAWAY, N.J.— Throughout his successful collegiate career, Rutgers' starting quarterback Mike Teel has maintained a strong supporting cast of teammates who have carried the burden of responsibility. This year, the torch lies by his feet.

While some may shy away from the ambassador role on a D-I football program, Teel has welcomed the challenge with open arms.

"I take that challenge on to be the leader of the offense," Teel said after Thursday's first full practice in pads. "As quarterback of this football team, I want to be the leader of the offense."

Last year, Teel demonstrated an impressive season, earning the Scarlet Knights' third consecutive bowl appearance and second straight bowl win.

Teel, the former Don Bosco Prep star, fought through a painful thumb injury to throw for over 3,000 yards in 2007, including six 300-plus yards efforts.

"The thumb is fine," Teel said. "It feels great."

In Thursday's practice, head coach Greg Schiano expressed benevolent words for his fifth-year senior.

"I think if he keeps doing what he does, he's going to be alright," Schiano said. "He's definitely our offensive (leader)."

During the previous three seasons, Teel's backfield assistant Ray Rice captured most, if not all of the spotlight.

And rightfully so.

After three years On the Banks, Rice established numerous university accomplishments, including a school-record 280 yards in his final collegiate performance at the International Bowl.

Now that Rice has declared for the NFL draft, it's time for Teel to demonstrate his competitiveness and experience.

"It's a great challenge for me day in and day out, not only on the field, but also off the field," Teel said. "There's definitely a responsibility to show the younger guys in the program how we do things."

With spring practice underway, Teel has looked sharp with the healed thumb and an experienced receiving corps.

Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt each caught for over 1,000 yards in the Scarlet Knights record-setting season.

They became the first team in NCAA history to maintain a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers and 2,000-yard running back in the same season.

However, Teel must contend with a younger and unproven offensive line that has not protected him in the past.

Mike Fladell, Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah have since graduated after allowing 11 sacks in '07 and a D-I season-best eight sacks in ‘06.

"Obviously, we lost three all-Big East caliber offensive linemen that are going to play in the NFL for a long time," Teel said about the future NFL linemen. "When you graduate good players, the next wave moves in."

Moreover, Teel remains calm and determined to educate the youth and prepare them for another success campaign under Schiano's helm.

"It's going to be great competition throughout the spring time to get these guys ready and get them reps," Teel said. "We look forward to them doing big things for us."

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