Rutgers Preview 2006 - Offense
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Posted Aug 1, 2006

Rutgers Scarlet Knights Preview 2006 - RU Offense

What you need to know ... The Rutgers attack turned perfectly balanced last season and should be so again with a great backfield led by fullback Brian Leonard and speedy Ray Rice to go along with the potential for a good passing game thanks to the return of tight end Clark Harris. There are question marks from the depth on the offensive line to the lack of a proven number one wide receiver to the need of Mike Teel and/or Jabu Lovelace to emerge at quarterback, but this should still be one of the Big East's most productive attacks.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Mike Teel
51-101, 683 yds, 2 TD, 10 INT
Rushing: Ray Rice
195 carries, 1,120 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Brian Leonard
55 catches, 568 yds, 6 TD

Star of the offense: Senior FB Brian Leonard
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Mike Teel and/or Redshirt freshman QB Jabu Lovelace
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Tiquan Underwood
Best pro prospect: Senior TE Clark Harris
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Harris, 2) Leonard, 3) RB Ray Rice
Strength of the offense: Running backs, tight ends
Weakness of the offense: Proven number one wide receiver, offensive line depth

It'll be a battle to replace Ryan Hart between two promising options. Mike Teel was thrown to the wolves when the offense was struggling and showed a few flashes of potential along with giving up a ton of interceptions. Jabu Lovelace is a do-it-all quarterback with the athleticism and makeup to be the leader of the offense for the next four years if he gets the starting nod. At the very least, both quarterbacks will see playing time.
The key to the unit: The young quarterbacks have to avoid as many mistakes as possible while growing in the offense. However, they can't be afraid to not go for the big play.
Quarterback Rating: 6

Projected Starter
- Mike Teel, Soph. - 51-101, 683 yds, 50.5%, 2 TD, 10 INT
The 6-4, 220-pound sophomore with a live arm and great upside. He even has a little bit of experience filling in when Ryan Hart got hurt and seeing time in nine games with mixed results. Interceptions were the big problem with four games with two picks and ten overall to go with two touchdown passes; chalk that up to inexperience and trying to do too much. He has all the tools to be great with far more mobility than Hart to go along with his big arm.

Top Backups
- Jabulani Lovelace, RFr.
Don't count Lovelace out of the starting race just because Mike Teel has more experience. He's a hard worker and a tremendous athlete adding another dimension to the attack with his rushing skills. Now he needs experience and time in the system, which he'll get. The coaching staff has hinted that there might be a quarterback rotation.

Running Backs
The emergence of Ray Rice was one of the keys to the team's success. It settled the tailback situation and allowed Brian Leonard to be Brian Leonard and do all the fullback things he does. The senior can be a workhorse for the running attack and is the perfect outlet receiver out of the backfield. Now the team needs to develop more tailbacks needing Dimitri Linton to be healthy and to find someone who can take over for Leonard next year.
The key to the unit: Continue to get the same production out of the backfield with Brian Leonard the do-it-all weapon and Ray Rice the main speed runner while finding some new talented to take some of the pressure off.
Running Back Rating: 8.5

Projected Starters
- Ray Rice, Soph. - 195 carries, 1,120 yds, 5.7 ypc, 5 TD, 8 catches, 65 yds, 9.1 ypc
Rice turned in a fantastic true freshman season leading the team in highlighted by a 217-yard day against Connecticut and a 195-yard day against Cincinnati. He's a quick back who bursts through the hole and is able to crank out big yards in chunks. More physical than his 5-9, 195-pound size, he's not afraid to take a big hit. With his athleticism and home-run hitting ability, he needs to be used more in the passing game.

- Fullback Brian Leonard, Sr. - 173 carries, 740 yds, 4.3 ypc, 11 TD, 55 catches, 568 yds, 10.3 ypc, 3 TD
One of the nation's best all-around offensive players, the 6-2, 235-pound Leonard is back for his fourth year as a key cog in the Rutgers offense. He has 2,352 career rushing yards with 27 touchdowns to go along with 1,574 receiving yards and 13 more scores, and he can block. Not only a bruising between-the-tackles runner, Leonard has the speed to break off big gains and makes plays on the outside.

Top Backups
- Dimitri Linton, Soph.
Linton saw a little bit of time as a true freshman rushing for 40 yards, but missed all of last year after getting hurt in fall practices. He has the talent and the speed to quickly grow into a major player behind Ray Rice. He's a tough 5-9 and 195 pounds.
- Jean Beljour, Jr.
While not a true fullback, the 218-pound junior is a physical back who could see time as a blocker to go along with his special teams duties. He's a good enough athlete to potentially be used as a receiver out of the backfield.

Several receivers needs to step up their games. Clark Harris is an all-star tight end joining fullback Brian Leonard as the two most reliable targets, and now a wide receiver has to emerge as a deep threat, number one guy. Shawn Tucker has the experience, but he hasn't been explosive so far. Even so, he'll be the main man until someone else emerges. Tiquan Underwood has the potential to be the team's best playmakers, while Willie Foster and Marcus Daniels have to come up with big senior seasons.
The key to the unit: A consistent deep threat needs to emerge and Shawn Tucker has to be a five-catch-a-game type of receiver.
Receiver Rating: 6.5

Projected Starters
- Shawn Tucker, Sr. - 32 catches, 48 4yds, 15.1 ypc, 1 TD
Tucker returned from a groin injury to be the number two wide receiver behind Tres Moses. He's a steady target with good size and nice hands. Now he has to be the main man in the passing game with Moses gone and has to be more of a scoring threat considering he only has four career touchdowns and didn't get in the end zone over the final nine games of last year. He has been very good, now he has to be great.

- Willie Foster, Sr. - 8 catches, 129 yds, 16.1 ypc
The team's top return man has to grow into the role of a deep threat. Speed isn't the issue with some of the best jets on the team, but he has to prove he can handle the workload after being used sparingly last season. He's dangerous enough to be used occasionally as a runner and on end arounds. In other words, the coaching staff will look to find ways to get the ball in his hands.

- Tight end Clark Harris, Sr. - 38 catches, 584 yds, 15.4 ypc, 4 TD
The two-time All-Big East performer is back as one of the nation's better receiving tight ends and a should up his already considerable draft stock even more. He's 6-6 and 255 pounds with great route-running ability and soft hands catching 109 passes over the last three seasons. He has developed into a dependable blocker.

Top Backups
- Marcus Daniels, Sr. - 5 catches, 101 yds, 20.2 ypc, 1 TD
Daniels was a pure possession receiver as a sophomore and then averaged 20.2 yards per catch last season helped by a 55-yard score against Illinois. He was phased out of the rotation as the season went on being used mostly as a special teamer, but now he'll be the third man in the rotation playing behind Shawn Tucker.
- Tiquan Underwood, Soph. - 4 catches, 47 yds, 11.8 ypc
A speedy deep threat with tremendous athleticism, the 6-2, 175-pound sophomore should soon be the team's most dangerous receiver. He's not physical, but he's a blur in open space. Expect him to push Willie Foster for a starting spot.
- Tight end Sam Johnson, Sr. - 9 catches, 76 yds, 8.4 ypc, 3 TD

Johnson has grown into a perfect number two tight end behind Clark Harris and a bruiser for the ground game. He's a big-time 250-pound blocker with great hands around the goal line with three of his nine catches going for touchdowns.

Offensive Linemen
One of the Big East's best lines has to patching to do losing all-star guard John Glass and tackle Sameeh McDonald from a group that allowed a mere 19 sacks and paved the way for close to 2,000 rushing yards. Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah are rising stars at tackle, while Darnell Stapleton is a steady rock at center. The guards will be a little shaky early on needing former defensive lineman Cameron Stephenson to shine right away, and there's little to no depth anywhere. Backup center is a big issue.

The key to the unit: The tackles have to take another step forward in their consistency. Depth is needed everywhere.
Offensive Line Rating: 7

Projected Starters
- OT Pedro Sosa, Jr.
Sosa will make an All-Big East before his career is over. He's 6-5 and 300 pounds with long arms and good feet in pass blocking. He's a physical blocker who'll be the team's main man up front now that John Glass has graduated.
- OG Mike Fladell, Jr.
The 6-8, 318-pound junior saw a little bit of starting time last season at left guard filling in for an injured Jeremy Zuttah, and he can also play tackle if needed. He'll step to an open spot next to Pedro Sosa and should be a strong run blocker from day one.
- C Darnell Stapleton, Sr.  
Stapleton turned into one of last year's biggest surprises starting from game one and turning into a reliable man in the middle. The 305-pound former JUCO transfer is athletic enough to see time at tackle if needed. He's great on the move.
- OG Cameron Stephenson, Sr.
The former defensive lineman is moving over to the offensive side to try to fill in John Glass's former spot. He started out his career on the offensive side getting a little bit of starting experienced before moving to help fill the void at tackle.
- OT Jeremy Zuttah, Jr.
Easily the line's most versatile player, the 6-4, 290-pound junior was the main man at left guard last year and now will move to tackle. He's a physical run blocker with the potential to be a special pass protector.

Top Backups
- G Mike Gilmartin, Soph.
One of the few reserves with any experience, the 6-6, 285-pound sophomore got one start and saw time in three games. He'll start out backing up Cameron Stephenson, but he could play either guard spot.
- T Carl Howard, Soph.
At 6-4 and 300 pounds, Howard has the size to grow into a productive tackle. The former Virginia Tech Hokie is also a former defensive lineman who's still learning the ropes after moving over to offense where he struggled with a broken foot last season.

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