July 10, 2008

Quarterback Preview: The scarlet gunslingers

This August, a talented group of gunslingers will be firing away with the hope of making their way onto the field this fall. Mike Teel has already blasted his way into the starting role, although there are a number of other quarterbacks who hope to be called for that #2 spot. Here's a look at the group of gunslingers who will be taking target practice this summer in Piscataway.

The Sharpshooter
Mike Teel is by far the most accurate passer of all Rutgers' quarterbacks. When he gets into a rhythm with his receivers, his accuracy is deadly. While Teel may not be equipped with the most powerful arm, the ability to hit a receiver in stride is his forte. Last season, an injured thumb hindered Teel significantly for almost the entire season. Nevertheless, he fought through injury and gutted out games in which he probably should have been standing on the sidelines.

This season, if Teel can keep all his trigger fingers healthy, he could be poised for his best performance yet. The early indicators pointed to an extraordinary season for Teel in 2007, prior to the injury. Now, after a strong spring practice in 2008, the outlook remains the same for Teel.

The Double-Barrel Shotgun
The player starting the summer session at #2 on the depth chart can hurt defenses in two different ways. Jabu Lovelace can put holes in a defense with his ability to run the football and he can also do damage through the air. However, the aerial attack never made its mark last year.

As a runner, Lovelace was always able to grind out yards even though the defense usually knew a run was coming. The "Jabu package" will probably keep firing away at defenses this year, but his ability to throw the ball could elevate the danger level of that package. This summer, a lot of attention will be paid to how well Lovelace gets the ball to his receivers. He'll need to have better aim if he truly wants to secure the #2 spot.

The Rifleman
With a seemingly effortless flick of the wrist, Chris Paul-Etienne can fire a football more than halfway down the football field. No other Rutgers quarterback can equal his arm strength. But there is more to playing quarterback than just having a strong arm.

Etienne didn't have a bad spring, but he also didn't do enough to push Lovelace for the number two spot. Also a fleetly runner, Etienne can pose a threat with his feet. If he can polish his aerial attack, Etienne can push for playing time. He'll have another opportunity to steal the number two position away from Lovelace this summer.

The Revolver
Thus far, the college football career of Domenic Natale[/db[ has been a revolving door that has led to the same destination, the sidelines. After joining Michigan State in 2005 as a highly touted prospect, Natale sat out his first season. He then transferred to Rutgers where he was forced to sit out the 2006 season as a transfer. Last year, an elbow injury led him to the sidelines once more. This season, Natale will have a lot of ground to make up. If he starts to live up to the hype that accompanied him to college, then the race for the back-up spot could get even more interesting.

The Young Guns
Prior to this recruiting season, [db]D.C. Jefferson was coming into Rutgers as perhaps the most heralded quarterback prospect in school history. Now, even though Tom Savage has surpassed him in that department, it doesn't negate the fact that Jefferson brings an abundance of talent to Rutgers. Playing as a true freshman may not seem probable, but it is definitely possible.

In 2006, Rutgers demolished an Illinois team in the second game of the year by a score of 33-0. One game later, Illinois gave quarterback Juice Williams his first real taste of college football. For the rest of that year, Williams took his lumps only to return as the starter a year later and lead Illinois to the Rose Bowl. As history proves, such a feat can be done.

For freshman Stephen Shimko, given the upperclassmen ahead of him, the chances of such an occurrence are much slimmer and may even border on astronomical. On the upside, Shimko benefited from an early enrollment and is a big body who possesses great arm strength. If he can learn some control, his chances of seeing the field will undoubtedly increase in the future.

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