2008 Rutgers Preview - Offense
Rutgers WR Kenny Britt
Rutgers WR Kenny Britt
Posted May 13, 2008

CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Rutgers Scarlet Knight Offense

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Preview 2008 - Offense

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

What you need to know: Now life has begun without Ray Rice, the attack will be forced to find a new horse in the backfield while reinventing the offense a little bit. While the O will continue to strive for balance, it’ll be tempting to completely turn things over to a passing game that’s home to a third-year starter under center and a pair of 1,000-yard receivers. Now more than ever, the onus is on Teel to break through with the best season of his life, and the pressure will be on from the start. Three starters are gone from the offensive line, but one holdover, new LT Anthony Davis, is poised for a special sophomore season.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Mike Teel
203-349, 3,147 yds, 20 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Jabu Lovelace
82 carries, 332 yds, 4 TD
Receiving: Tiquan Underwood
65 catches, 1,100 yds, 7 TD

Star of the offense: Junior WR Kenny Britt
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore RB Mason Robinson
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman G Caleb Ruch
Best pro prospect: Sophomore T Anthony Davis
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Britt  2) Senior WR Tiquan Underwood  3) Davis
Strength of the offense: The receivers
Weakness of the offense: The backs, Inexperience of the line


Projected Starter: Although senior Mike Teel took a big step forward in his development as the starter, he still needs to do more, especially now that Heisman candidate Ray Rice is off to the NFL, and he has to be more consistent. He had plenty of highlights as a junior, playing through pain to throw for 3,147 yards, a school-record 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions as a key cog in a record-setting attack. However, peeling the onion on Teel’s numbers reveals he feasted on the likes of Norfolk State and Ball State, while throwing more picks than touchdown passes in Big East play. A pure drop-back passer at 6-4 and 220 pounds, he has the arm strength and complements at receiver to be the offensive hero in his final season in Piscataway.

Projected Top Reserves: Teel is no threat to tuck it and run, which creates situational opportunities for 6-2, 205-pound junior Jabu Lovelace. The Scarlet Knights’ second leading rusher a year ago with 332 yards and four touchdowns, Lovelace excelled in packages designed to leverage his speed and elusiveness in the open field. The likely starter in 2009, he has only thrown 24 career passes and should get more opportunities to show off his quick release and powerful right arm. 

The battle for the No. 3 job will be between sophomore Chris Paul-Etienne and junior Domenic Natale.  While the staff loves Paul-Etienne’s potential as a dual-threat, Natale has been an enigma who has yet to approach his advanced billing as one of the nation’s top prep passers. 

Watch Out For…Teel to emerge as the face of the offense. For all of his problems with interceptions, he is a senior and one of the vocal leaders of the offense. With Rice out of the picture, Teel will step into the spotlight, commanding a much bigger role than the last two years.
Strength: Downfield passing. Teel shows nice touch on his deep balls making great use of the field-stretching speed of Tiquan Underwood, Kenny Britt, and Tim Brown. Underwood and Britt averaged at least 17 yards a catch, which he helped by yards after the catch along with the deep ball.
Weakness: Consistency. Particularly in big games, Teel has shown a tendency to disappear, or worse, turn the ball over. He’s still prone to making poor reads and forcing the ball, bad habits that have to be eliminated.
Outlook: This is Teel’s team. Now a senior and a third-year starter, he must step out of the background and lead an offense that’ll be searching for a new identity without Rice.
Rating: 7.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: The Scarlet Knights begin life after Ray Rice a year earlier than they would have hoped. As anticipated, the All-American bolted for the NFL Draft meaning sophomore Kordell Young would be the obvious choice before he tore his ACL in Week 3 last September. Before the injury, the 5-9, 185-pounder was a gamebreaker capable of taking a pitch or a swing pass and jetting into the secondary. Young sat out spring to continue his rehabilitation, so it won’t be known until August whether he’s lost any zip or cutback ability. 

Sophomore Mason Robinson has already drawn even with Young atop the depth chart and will have a chance to win the job in August. The 5-10, 180-pounder played in 10 games as a true freshman, gaining 202 yards on 36 carries and showing off some of the fastest wheels on the roster. 

At fullback, junior Jack Corcoran and sophomore Andres Morales will battle it out all summer after splitting time last season. At 6-1 and 230 pounds, Corcoran has a similar skill set as former Scarlet Knight Brian Leonard, yet didn’t carry the ball in 2007 and caught just five passes. He can help his chances by becoming a more physical lead blocker, a tall order considering his size. 

Morales, on the other hand, is a 6-2, 250-pound masher with no designs of getting his hands on the ball. A converted defensive end, he becomes the equivalent of an extra guard when Rutgers lines up in short yardage. 

Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshmen Jourdan Brooks and Joe Martinek will all be looking to step out of Rice’s shadow and begin authoring their own legacy at Rutgers. At 6-1 and 255 pounds, Brooks is the Knights’ biggest option in the running game, a back who reminds Greg Schiano of former Penn State great Curtis Enis. Surprisingly fast for such a large player, he offers a different look for defenses. 

The 2006 Player of the Year in New Jersey, Martinek left high school as the state’s all-time leading rusher.  At 6-0 and 210 pounds, he’s a no-nonsense, north-south runner who rarely goes down on first contact.       

Watch Out For… a running game by committee. Gone for now are the days when one back carries the ball more than 300 times, a la Rice the past two seasons. There isn’t a runner of that caliber or durability, meaning the touches will get spread out over at least two players.
Strength: The future. Things may be unsettled in the near term, but the big-play ability of Young and Robinson combined with the power of Brooks and Martinek could give Rutgers a thunder and lightning rotation for the next three seasons.
Weakness: Experience. The Knights’ active rushing leader is QB Jabu Lovelace. Behind Lovelace is Young, who’s recovering from major knee surgery. Yes, Rice had an extra year of eligibility.
Outlook: While Rutgers has recruited well at the position, the combination of losing Rice and all-league tackles Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah spells a down year for the running game. Out of the quartet of contenders, someone has to emerge as a go-to back who can handle 25 carries when needed. That might take half the season to figure out.
Rating: 6


Projected Starters: Led by a pair of 1,000-yard targets, senior Tiquan Underwood and junior Kenny Britt, Rutgers brings back its top four pass-catchers. Underwood was sensational in his first year as a full-timer catching 65 passes for 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns while cutting down dramatically on his drops.  At 6-2 and 180 pounds, he’s an athletic mismatch for most corners. As long as he keeps hanging on to the ball, he should blossom into an even more reliable target.

After two seasons, Britt has quietly emerged as one of the nation’s premier wideouts thanks to a combination of great speed and huge hands in a 6-4, 205-pound body.  In a memorable breakthrough season, he pulled down 62 passes for a school-record 1,232 yards and eight touchdowns highlighted by a 12-catch, 173-yard, two touchdown day late in the year against Louisville. Britt’s 19.9 average yards per catch ranked second nationally among players with at least 50 receptions.

Senior TE Kevin Brock did a decent job of replacing Clark Harris, catching 23 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns, with most coming down the stretch. A former wide receiver, the 6-5, 250-pounder  showed off the soft hands and crisp route running that’ll earn even more looks from Teel as defenses commit to stopping the outside receivers. He could be the team’s breakout offensive weapon.

Projected Top Reserves: Undersized Florida speedsters Tim Brown and Dennis Campbell are mirror images of one another.  Brown, a junior, is the third man in the rotation used as a dangerous slot receiver catching 24 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns. Although only 5-8 and 160 pounds, he has the bona fide 4.2 speed who doesn’t get touched in the open field.

Campbell can also fly, but the junior is raw with iffy hands forcing him to be used mostly on special teams. After dropping more balls than he caught a year ago, he needs to win back the coaching staff’s confidence in order to earn more touches. 

Like Brock, sophomore Shamar Graves is a converted receiver trying to add more weight and make a permanent home at tight end.  Still just 6-3 and 230 pounds, the offensive coaches are intrigued by his toughness and ability to go up and pluck balls out of the air. Graves should improve upon last year’s three grabs in his final audition before taking over the starting job in 2009.   

Watch Out For…Brock. He came on as his playing time increased catching all of his 23 passes in the final nine games. With defenses paying so much attention to Underwood and Britt on the outside, Brock will play pitch-and-catch with Teel all day in the middle of the field.
Strength: Long balls. Underwood and Britt are two of the better deep threats in the Big East, and they just happen to run patterns at the same time. Teel’s strong arm and comfort with his receivers is a lethal combination that makes even quality secondaries defenseless.
Weakness: Depth after Brown. Campbell has been a disappointment and none of the other receivers on the roster have caught a pass. That means is rookie receivers, such as Keith Stroud and Malcolm Johnson, could scale the depth chart and fill a need on the two-deep.
Outlook: The receivers have come a long way in one year to become the most explosive unit on the Rutgers roster. Britt and Underwood form a virtually unstoppable pair of sluggers who eliminate the possibility of double teams. Both are poised for monster statistical seasons as Teel’s favorite targets, while Brock will surprise with 40 receptions of his own.
Rating: 8.5

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: The line has to replace All-Big East tackles Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah along with LG Mike Fladell. The new cornerstone of the front wall will be massive sophomore Anthony Davis, a 6-6, 325-pound budding superstar who’s making the move from right guard to left tackle. As good as advertised, he started the final eight games as a true freshman, showing off the brute force and light feet that make the coaching staff giddy. 

Davis will be joined at tackle by senior Mike Gilmartin, whose 28 games of experience include just a single start two years ago. A versatile 6-5 and 290 pounds, he needs to prove he can handle the regular gig at tackle in order to avoid getting jumped by the next generation of recruits.

The stability at the pivot can be traced to the return of junior Ryan Blaszczyk, a 13-game starter who exceeded expectations as Darnell Stapleton’s successor. With a full year of experience, the 6-4 and 285-pound converted defensive tackle should be even more effective in his second full season handling snaps.      

The favorites to take over at guard are junior Kevin Haslam on the left side and redshirt freshman Caleb Ruch on the right side.  Seemingly ready for a promotion after starting games at guard and tackle in 2007, he’s one of the best athletes of the linemen. However, at 6-7 and 280 pounds, Haslam needs to add more bulk to avoid getting obliterated by powerful tackles who play with leverage. 

While Ruch may eventually be the program’s answer at center, for now, he has a great shot of contributing at guard. One of the highlights of the 2007 recruiting class, the 6-4, 290-pounder is explosive off the snap and tough enough to hold up at the point of attack.

Projected Top Reserves: The most experienced backup is sophomore G Mo Lange, a 6-7, 315-pound product of Germany who saw action in 13 games on special teams. Still very raw, but with a ton of potential, the Knights do like his potential to evolve into an important part of the rotation.

The other No. 2 guard will be 6-5, 290-pound sophomore Howard Barbieri, who has made up a lot of ground since walking on to the program. He played a little tackle and blocking tight end before settling in as one of the Knights’ backups at guard.  

Plenty is expected of redshirt freshmen tackles Desmond Stapleton and Richard Muldrow.  Although neither has played a down, both flash the potential to push for a starting job if Gilmartin leaves an opening. Even though he’s 6-5 and 320 pounds, Stapleton looks comfortable on the move and gets down the line in a hurry. If he can transform more fat to muscle, look out. 

Muldrow is also an imposing figure at 6-6 and 300 pounds, possessing the kind of frame that coaches crave in a tackle.  He’s a little behind Stapleton in terms of development, but has the long reach and upper body strength to believe his best days lie ahead. 

Watch Out For… incoming freshman T Art Forst. Forst didn’t graduate early and take part in his first spring drills to redshirt this year. One of the nation’s top prospects, he’s 6-8 and 290 pounds, and capable of being the second true freshman in as many years to crack the two-deep.

Strength: Davis. While Sosa and Zuttah were outstanding tackles, Davis has an All-American ceiling and will eventually be better. If nothing else this fall, Teel’s backside will be well protected by one rising young stars of the Big East.
Weakness: Depth. While the coaching staff loves the upside of the kids on the second unit, there’s a little too much emphasis on youth on the B team and not nearly enough experience. If injuries strike the regulars, the Knight offense will be in big trouble.
Outlook: After back-to-back rock solid years, the line could be a bit vulnerable up front. The departure of Rice at running back and question marks on the right side mean the Knights won’t dominate in the trenches like recent years.
Rating: 6.5