Is Change Warranted?

Rutgers now stands at 0-3 after a heart-breaking loss to Navy. What is most disconcerting is not the record, but the general feel around the Rutgers program. That general sense of discontent was further highlighted by the frustration of 5th year senior and captain Mike Teel, and his attack at the expense of teammate Glen Lee.

Although Mike Teel has invaluable experience, likely knows the offense better than any other QB on the Rutgers roster, has been a leader in the past and currently has the strong support of Head Coach Greg Schiano, Teel may just not be meant to be the leader of the 2008 version of the Scarlet Knights. And while he is not fully to blame for the struggles of the RU offense, his play will forever be remembered for his frequent locking on to receivers and moments of questionable decision-making. Finally, his punching of a teammate, irregardless of it arising out of frustration, during a televised game, is inexcusable from any member of the team, let alone from the team's leader. To add insult to injury, the Teel incident was one of the talking points on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption tonight. Not the kind of publicity Rutgers fans want for their program.

The chief question that arises is whether the time has come to make a switch at the QB position. Even though Greg Schiano re-affirmed his support of Mike Teel today as his starter for the Morgan State game, fans are wondering if this is a transient nomination and whether the back-ups will get a chance to showcase their abilities in this contest?

If a change is to be made, who is then to become RU's QB? The answer should lie with either, or both of, Chris Paul-Etienne and D.C. Jefferson. Whereas current back-up Jabu Lovelace is a threat with his feet, he has not been convincing as a passer, and given the number of years he has been in the program, RU needs to start looking toward the future.

Chris Paul-Etienne is a very good athlete with great arm strength. This is his third year in the program, enabling him to possess an understanding of what offensive coordinator John McNulty's goals are for the offense. Though lacking in-game experience, his athletic abilities and arm strength, alone, provide Paul-Etienne with the ability to provide positive output when the play breaks down.

D.C. Jefferson, though as green as green can be, is a flat-out special talent. He has a howitzer of an arm, athleticism in and out of the pocket, and possesses unique strength that will make it difficult on defenses when the QB finds himself in the open field. As importantly, Jefferson is likely to add a characteristic that is missing at this point: an ability to play with emotion. Playing with emotion from the QB position is something this team needs more than anything at this point. Jefferson is not expected to have as good of a grasp of the offense as Teel or Etienne. An important question then becomes whether the staff can simplify the scheme(s) sufficiently to permit Jefferson to grow into the position and enable him to play increasingly structured while also relying on his unique natural abilities?

The argument in favor of Jefferson can be seen in the success Baylor and Ohio State, both of which are playing true freshmen at the QB position. Both programs have chosen the youth movement and replaced them over 5th year seniors that were previously starters.

At Baylor, QB Robert Griffin took over for Miami transfer Kirby Freeman during the first game of the season. And Griffin has been outstanding ever since. He almost led the Bears to an upset win on the road against UConn this past weekend. He ran for 81 yards and a score, as well as throwing for three TDs in that contest. And while he made mistakes, including a misread in the option game during the game's last drive that could have led to a win, he also made several plays that gave his team a better chance to win.

At Ohio State, QB Terrelle Pryor displayed moxie and confidence in a loss two weeks ago at USC. The offense was simplified for him in that game, but his ability to make plays based on instinct and talent alone lifted those around him and led to his starting this past weekend against Troy. He takes over for Todd Boeckman, a 5th year senior who led the Buckeyes to the National Championship game last year. Boeckman may understand the position and is a more accurate passer, but he is not that level of an athlete. Pryor may not know the intricacies of the OSU offense, but he is too much of a weapon to keep off the field. He ran for 86 yards and threw for four Tds vs. Troy.

The conventional thinking suggests that a switch at the helm is akin to giving up on the current season. However, with the Big East season starting in two weeks, there is still a lot of important football to be played. Both Paul-Etienne and Jefferson are athletic young men that possess big-time arms. Both play with moxie and both bring an innate ability to create a play when the diagrammed scheme breaks down. Both guys have their weaknesses. But if this season, and more importantly the feel surrounding this program is to be corrected, Coach Schiano has to consider making a move with the entirety of the conference season looming ahead.


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