Preview 2007 - Offense
2007 Rutgers Preview |
2007 Rutgers Defense Preview
2007 Rutgers Depth Chart
2006 CFN Rutgers Preview
need to know:
Although Rutgers is more than content to pound the ball between
the tackles 30 times a game with All-America running back Ray
Rice, it wouldn’t mind a little more offensive balance this
year. Whether that happens depends on the development of junior
quarterback Mike Teel who struggled badly last year, but did
play his best ball at the end of the year and has a speedy group
of receivers needed to author a rebound. While question marks
exist on the interior of the offensive line, the tackle tandem
of seniors Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah is one of the best in
Passing: Mike Teel
164-296, 1,794 yds, 12 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Ray Rice
335 carries, 1,794 yds, 20 TD
Receiving: Kenny Britt
29 catches, 440 yds, 2 TD
Star of the
Junior RB Ray Rice
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior QB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Kenny Britt
Best pro prospect: Rice
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Rice 2) T Pedro Sosa
3) T Jeremy Zuttah
Strength of the offense: The running game, the tackles
Weakness of the offense: Consistent passing game
Now that the training wheels are off, it’s time for junior
Mike Teel to cut down on his mistakes and develop into a
more consistent passer. Rutgers’ ability to sustain last year’s
excellence could depend on it. That Teel had a rocky first
season as the starter was no startling revelation, however, 23
picks in just over a year of work simply won’t cut it for a
program that wants to be recognized as a perennial Big East
contender. The good news is that Teel did play his best ball in
the Knights’ final three games, finishing with 12 touchdown
passes and 2,135 yards, giving hope that the light was beginning
to turn on. A drop-back passer with good arm strength, he’s not
going to be a threat to leave the pocket and scramble for
Projected Top Reserves: For the second straight
year, sophomore Jabu Lovelace will be the backup to Teel
behind center. A classic dual-threat with great speed and
elusiveness, he could tempt head coach Greg Schiano into using
him as a situational change-of-pace to the far more stationary
Teel. Lovelace got a few snaps in blowouts last year, allowing
him to get a little more comfortable with the speed of the
Redshirt freshman Chris Paul-Etienne is just 6-1 and 180
pounds, but can throw the ball a mile and, like Lovelace, has
terrific mobility. If he remains buried on the depth chart, the
coaches may be forced to temporarily find him a new home just to
get his athleticism on the field.
Watch Out For…sophomore Domenic Natale.
Just two years ago, Natale was off to Michigan State as one of
the top-rated high school quarterbacks in the country. Since
then, he’s left the Spartans and settled on Rutgers as the place
where he’ll try to resuscitate his career. A crisp passer,
Natale is ready to challenge for the No. 2 spot if he can get
back quick enough from elbow surgery.
Strength: Experience. Teel is just a junior, but
he’s seen and done more than any returning quarterback in the
history of Scarlet Knight football. He’s already won a bowl
game, played under the national microscope and handled the media
crunch, all of which will further his development over the next
Weakness: Consistency. Teel got better pass
protection than any other quarterback in the country, yet you
couldn’t tell by watching his first nine games. It’s an
absolute must for the junior to improve at reading defenses, cut
down on his turnovers and make better use of a receiving corps
that’s loaded with speed and upside.
Outlook: With a year of starting experience behind
him and a very solid supporting cast around him, Teel should be
vastly improved from 2006. If not, Schiano might turn to a
roster that features the most depth and young talent at the
position since he arrived seven years ago.
Projected Starters: With most of the pre-season
attention going to star fullback Brian Leonard, then-sophomore
Ray Rice unexpectedly rose up to become the face of the
program and the catalyst for an 11-win year. In the greatest
individual season in Knight history, he scampered for 1,794
yards and 20 touchdowns, en route to landing on numerous
All-America teams and finishing seventh in the Heisman voting.
At 5-9 and 200 pounds, he’s neither the biggest nor the fastest
back in the country, but his vision and balance are impeccable.
Filling the massive void left by Leonard will take a lot more
than just 423 rushing yards and 38 receptions.
Besides Greg Schiano, he’s been the single most important factor
in Rutgers’ ascent, putting Jack Corcoran in the
unenviable position of following in his footsteps. The
sophomore played in 12 games as a true freshman, displaying
hints of the skill set that made Leonard so special. He’s a
very physical blocker, but also has soft hands out of the
backfield and can pick up the tough yards when asked.
Projected Top Reserves: Schiano plans to use
Kordell Young for more than just the occasional breather for
his franchise back. The coach recognizes that the 5-9,
185-pound sophomore is a genuine game-breaker, and will invent
ways to get the ball in his hands. Whether he’s taking handoffs
or a swing pass, Young has the speed and quickness to hit a home
run with even a sliver of daylight.
In the event that Corcoran gets hurt or can’t handle the
pressure of replacing Leonard, the Knights will turn to Jean
Beljour, a senior whose primary responsibilities have come
on special teams and as a lead blocker.
Watch Out For… Young. In this sport, the name
Kordell conjures up images of a versatile athlete that can dent
a defense in a multitude of different ways. Young has the
skills and the giddyup to be excellent in a reserve role this
Strength: The presence of Rice. Even without the
hint of a passing game for most of the year, Rice was
magnificent as the focal point of the Scarlet Knight offense.
If Teel gives opposing defenses reason to reconsider stacking
the line, the junior back might actually be more dangerous in
Weakness: Absence of a true power back. Rice is
plenty tough and proved he’s a legit workhorse, but both he and
Young are not the types of backs that are going to move a pile
or intimidate a linebacker. As a complement, it wouldn’t hurt
to have a 230-pound bruiser that could soften a defense or wear
it out late in games. If Rice is lost for any length of time,
Young doesn’t have the heft to handle 20-25 carries, and after
him, the backfield is perilously thin.
Outlook: As long as Rice is healthy, the running
game will be fine, but without Leonard, Rutgers will be playing
without a net this fall. In complementary roles, Young and
Corcoran will blossom, giving the offense a couple of unique
weapons to divert some attention away from No. 27.
Projected Starters: The Scarlet Knight wide
receivers are young, fast and prepared to offset the loss of two
really good tight ends, future pros Clark Harris and Sam
Johnson. The budding star of the group is Kenny Britt, a
6-4 and 205-pound sophomore who exploded for 29 catches for 440
yards and two scores in the second half of last season. Long
and strong, he has the stride to get behind a secondary and the
big mitts to win jump balls with defenders.
When Shawn Tucker broke his ankle last September, junior
Tiquan Underwood moved into the lineup, catching 23 passes
for 290 yards and four touchdowns before getting injured
himself. He can make the spectacular grab on one series and
then drop an easy ball on the next, needing to sharpen his
consistency to remain on the first unit.
The successor to Harris at tight end is likely to be junior
Kevin Brock, although the competition lining up behind him
is deep and diverse. He’s been used mostly as a blocker during
his Knight career, however, the 6-5, 245-pound former wide
receiver also has the soft hands to be a factor in the passing.
The coaching staff believes if he can stay healthy, Brock will
continue the school’s recent run of outstanding tight ends.
Projected Top Reserves: After Underwood injured
his leg, sophomore Tim Brown burst onto the scene with a
touchdown in the finale against West Virginia and two more
versus Kansas State in the Texas Bowl. He’s a mere 5-8 and 150
pounds, but has legitimate 4.2 speed which means the staff will
be looking for more ways to get him involved in the offense in
After playing in all 13 games and catching seven passes, Rutgers
is counting on more production from James Townsend, a
6-1, 195-pound senior who previously played for Iowa.
Senior Marcus Daniels is poised to be one of this year’s
pleasant surprises after sitting out all of last season with a
groin injury. Finally back to 100%, he has the size and
experience to finish his college career as a key contributor.
Speedy sophomore Dennis Campbell played in 12 games in
2006, catching 11 balls and laying the groundwork for more
playing time this year. While he won’t do any damage over the
middle, as an outside receiver, he’ll test opposing corners on
deep routes. There’s a logjam at tight end which is actually a
good thing for the Scarlet Knights.
No one of Harris’ caliber is on the roster, but the depth is
actually pretty solid. Indiana import Chris Rudanovic is
actually the most experienced of all the tight ends, courtesy of
his three seasons in Bloomington. A 6-5, 255-pound veteran, he
won’t catch many passes, but does bring senior leadership and
will be a factor in the running game.
Yet another Big Ten transfer, former Michigan State Spartan
Craig McGovern, is also starting over in Piscataway.
Considered one of the nation’s top tight ends two years ago, the
sophomore has the speed and hands to be an ideal option in a
Watch Out For…redshirt freshman Shamar Graves.
Along with Britt and Brown, Graves helped make 2006 the best
one-year haul of wide receivers in program history. For now,
however, he’s a 220-pound tight end who’s trying to learn a new
position. Wherever he plays, at 6-3 with great leaping ability,
Graves is going to be a factor in this year’s offense.
Strength: Size. With the exception of Brown and
Campbell, who can both fly, every Rutgers receiver is athletic
and over six-feet tall which will present major challenges to
secondaries with undersized defensive backs.
Weakness: Inexperience. It sure would have helped
to get back Shawn Tucker who lost his appeal for a sixth year of
eligibility in February. The receivers have a ton of potential,
but most of the key players are young, and with youth will come
the occasional dry spells, missed assignments and dropped balls.
Outlook: There’s a lot of upside, including at
tight end where more than one player will be counted on to
contribute. If Teel matures alongside them, the wide receivers,
especially Britt, have a chance to be one of the team’s
strengths by October.
Projected Starters: The Scarlet Knights are set at
tackle with all-Big East seniors Pedro Sosa and Jeremy
Zuttah. After that? A degree of uncertainty. The Rutgers
offensive line may have been the single most underrated unit in
the country in 2006, paving the way for Ray Rice’s heroics and
allowing the fewest sacks in America. Gone, however, from that
group are right guard Cameron Stephenson and center Darnell
Stapleton, the heart of the line.
Replacing Stapleton will be sophomore Ryan Blaszczyk who
hasn’t taken a snap in two years. He’s worked extremely hard in
the off-season for this opportunity and now has to go out and
prove that he can be the team’s rock in the middle.
The guards will be senior Mike Fladell and junior Mike
Gilmartin. At 6-8 and 325 pounds, Fladell is the line’s
most imposing figure and a returning starter that played very
well as a run blocker on the left side. Gilmartin is ready for
a promotion after logging valuable minutes as a backup the last
two seasons. A versatile player that can also play tackle if
needed, he’ll settle in next to Zuttah at right guard after
recovering from off-season surgery.
Zuttah and Sosa began their careers as cornerstone recruits and
will end them as all-Big East performers and candidates for the
Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy. Sosa is 6-5 and 290 pounds
with the long arms to wall off pass rushers and the agile feet
to protect Mike Teel’s blindside. Zuttah is a model of
versatility, having started at left guard and right tackle the
last two years. With a chance to finally play the same position
two years in a row, he could be special this fall.
Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman tackle
Mo Lange represents a prominent part of the future along
the Rutgers offensive line. The 6-7 native of Germany will soak
up as much as he can from Sosa and Zuttah because he’ll be
battling to replace one of them next April.
Ditto Kevin Haslam, the Knights’ other 6-7 backup tackle
who played in four games a year ago and is a turned ankle away
from being in the starting lineup.
Although senior Dan Mazan has played sparingly since
transferring from Penn State, he’s a 6-4, 290-pound veteran of
the trenches who’ll be an insurance policy behind Fladell at
left guard. Rutgers beat out Louisville and Purdue to land
Dave McClain in 2005, and now it hopes to start collecting
the dividends. A physical drive blocker that can either play
guard or center, he’s a no-nonsense plugger that’s ready to make
Watch Out For… incoming freshman Anthony Davis.
Ohio State, Miami, USC and Florida State wanted him. Rutgers
got him, a testament to how far the program has progressed at
keeping local talent from leaving New Jersey. Arguably the top
high school tackle in the country, Davis is a massive 6-6 and
350 pounds, yet is surprisingly light on his feet and agile.
Literally the biggest thing to hit the campus in a long time, he
could skyrocket up the depth chart once he arrives.
Strength: The tackles. With Sosa and Zuttah
sealing off the edge, good luck getting pressure on Teel from
the outside. If opposing defenses want to disrupt the Scarlet
Knight quarterback, they better be equipped with defensive
tackles that can get penetration right up the gut.
Weakness: Center. At arguably the most important
position on the line, Rutgers will be making the transition from
ultra-steady Stapleton to Blaszczyk, an inexperienced sophomore
with big shoes to fill. If he struggles at being the
quarterback of this line, don’t be shocked if the staff asks
Zuttah to make one more position switch, opening the door for
Davis to start, while solidifying the pivot.
Outlook: Considering the job line coach Kyle Flood
has done the last two years, he has more than enough returning
talent in 2007 to whip this gang into a cohesive unit. The
Scarlet Knights will run and pass block equally well this fall,
even if the underbelly is a little softer than it was a year