2008 CFN Rutgers Preview
Rutgers QB Mike Teel
Rutgers QB Mike Teel
Posted May 13, 2008

Seemingly on the verge of becoming a superstar program, Rutgers took a step back last season and now needs to show it has staying power. Can Mike Teel and the Scarlet Knight passing game make up for the loss of star RB Ray Rice? Check out the CFN Rutgers preview.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Preview 2008

By Richard Cirminiello

- 2008 CFN Rutgers Preview | 2008 Rutgers Offense
- 2008 Rutgers Defense
| 2008 Rutgers Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Rutgers Preview | 2006 CFN Rutgers Preview 

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After rising expectations made the 8-5 2007 season a major disappointment, just what kind of a trajectory is Rutgers on? Is it still building toward an eventual Big East championship, or did it plateau in 2006? The upcoming campaign should show where the program is at and just how far it needs to go … maybe.

Head coach: Greg Schiano
8th year: 38-46
Returning Lettermen: 50
Lettermen Lost: 23
Ten Best Rutgers Players
1. S Courtney Greene, Sr.
2. WR Kenny Britt, Jr.
3. WR Tiquan Underwood, Sr.
4. DL Jamaal Westerman, Sr.
5. OT Anthony Davis, Soph.
6. QB Mike Teel, Sr.
7. CB Jason McCourty, Sr.
8. LB Kevin Malast, Sr.
9. DT Pete Tverdov, Sr.
10. CB Devin McCourty, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 7-5
2008 Record: 0-0

Sept. 1 Fresno State
Sept. 11 North Carolina
Sept. 20 at Navy
Sept. 27 Morgan State
Oct. 4 at West Virginia
Oct. 11 at Cincinnati
Oct. 18 Connecticut
Oct. 25 at Pitt
Nov. 8 Syracuse
Nov. 15 at South Florida
Nov. 22 Army
Dec. 4 Louisville

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 10-2
2007 Record: 8-5

Aug. 30 Buffalo W 38-3
Sept. 7 Navy W 41-24
Sept. 15 Norfolk State W 59-0
Sept. 29 Maryland L 34-24
Oct. 6 Cincinnati L 28-23
Oct. 13 at Syracuse W 38-14
Oct. 18 South Florida W 30-27
Oct. 27 West Virginia L 31-3
Nov. 3 at Connecticut L 38-19
Nov. 9 at Army W 41-6
Nov. 17 Pitt W 20-16
Nov. 29 at Louisville L 41-38
International Bowl
Jan. 5 Ball State W 52-30

It’s a sign of the times in Piscataway that eight wins is seen as underachieving, but more was expected after the Scarlet Knights appeared to be in a position to contend for a league title and a BCS spot. Instead, they beefed up on a rotten out of conference schedule and wound up in a fifth place tie with Louisville and Pittsburgh, two schools that didn’t even go bowling. Now it’s about recapturing the swagger they had two years ago and not losing any more ground to others in the improving league.

If the Scarlet Knights are going to get back to competing for a spot in a BCS bowl game, they’ll do so without two of their most influential players, RB Ray Rice and DT Eric Foster and will have to change things up a bit offensively.

Rice, in particular, leaves a gaping void in the offense that’ll potentially be filled by a slew of unproven backs, but the passing game has the parts to be prolific and will have to carry the team for a while. That means QB Mike Teel will become the team’s signature player, at least he has to be, but he’s been an enigma who saves his best games for the cushiest opponents.

On defense, the Scarlet Knights have the potential to be downright nasty, provided they can solidify things up the middle. Middle linebacker Ryan D’Imperio is a first-year starter and the tackle tandem of Pete Tverdov and Jamaal Westerman could struggle against north-south running games, but head coach Greg Schiano always get his defenses to play well

While Rutgers is hardly at a crossroads, Schiano’s team needs to begin flexing its muscles again.  It’s not going to be easy without Rice and Foster, especially in a year with trips to West Virginia, South Florida, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. A fourth consecutive bowl game is within reach, but it won’t be one of the high-profile games that Schiano has targeted as the next step in the program’s evolution unless everything comes together. Considering where Rutgers was at just a few years ago, getting an extra game isn’t all that bad.

What to watch for on offense: The receivers. After relying so much on Ray Rice to carry the offense, now Rutgers could have both first team All-Big East receiving slots occupied by Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt. It’s not like the offense will stop running the ball, but the bread will now be buttered with the passing game. With these two targets to work with, there’s no reason to go with anything else in tight games.

What to watch for on defense: Pressure in the backfield. There might be a slew of problems stopping the run early on, and the linebacking corps might be a bit suspect, but there should be no issues when it comes to getting to the quarterback and making plays behind the line. Greg Schiano’s defenses are great at attacking, and even though this is a relatively young, inexperienced group overall, the dogs will be sent early and often to try and be disruptive. Jamaal Westerman has Big East Defensive Player of the Year potential.

The team will be far better if… Teel is as productive in league games as he is against non-conference pushovers. Teel’s 2007 numbers look respectable overall, but more than half of his 20 touchdowns came against Buffalo, Navy, Norfolk State, and Ball State, while disappearing acts versus the Big East were too common. Part of the reason was the reliance on Ray Rice and the running game, but if the team is to regain its 2006 momentum, it needs Teel to be the main man and the reason why the offense works. More importantly, Teel now needs to rise to the occasion against the tougher teams on the schedule.               

The Schedule: Picking up a loaded Fresno State at the last moment in the season-opener will show just how good the Scarlet Knights are from the start. Playing North Carolina and at Navy aren't going to be easy, and then there's October with the Big East schedule kicking off with three road games in four weeks playing at West Virginia, Cincinnati and Pitt. The other conference road game is at South Florida in November; hardly a breather. Fortunately there are two off weeks in November and three home games in the final four.

Best offensive player: WR Kenny Britt. Britt gave a hint of his potential as a freshman before erupting as a sophomore. A fluid, 6-4 target with a long stride, he abused Big East defensive backs for 62 receptions, a school-record 1,232 yards, and eight touchdowns. Often looking like a man among boys, Britt teamed up with Tiquan Underwood to form the most dynamic receiving duo in team history.          

Best defensive player: S Courtney Greene. He covers. He fills the lanes and delivers punishment in run defense. He intimidates opposing receivers. Greene does a little bit of everything for the Knight D, including putting off the NFL Draft and returning for his senior season. A durable and complete defender who’s capable of playing free safety or strong safety, he led the team with 101 tackles.              

Key players to a successful season: The running backs. Rutgers won’t be shy about turning loose the passing attack, but any Big East team with championship aspirations knows it needs to run the ball. No single back is going to replace Rice’s production, so it’ll be up to multiple runners to pick up the slack. Kordell Young is the heir apparent, but he first needs to prove that his surgically repaired knee is healthy. Keep an eye on Mason Robinson, a Young clone, and Jourdan Brooks, a 255-pound pile driver.          

The season will be a success if ... the Scarlet Knights return to that small group of Big East contenders right behind West Virginia. While going 8-5 and winning a second straight bowl game is respectable, falling behind Connecticut and Cincinnati in the league standings isn’t. The coaching staff believes Rutgers is the biggest threat to the Mountaineers, but now it must go out and prove it in tough road trips to Morgantown, Cincinnati, Tampa, and Pittsburgh.     

Key game
: Oct. 4 at West Virginia. It won’t take very long to learn if the Scarlet Knights are going to be Big East pretenders or contenders. It’s the Big East opener and a chance to pull off the program’s first win over the Mountaineers for the first time since 1994. A loss here likely means the BCS dreams will be over before they can really begin.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Sacks: Rutgers 41 for 278 yards – Opponents 11 for 91 yards
- Fumbles: Opponents 20 (lost 10) – Rutgers 14 (lost 12)
- Average yards per play: Rutgers 6.4 – Opponents 4.9