Scarlet Knights can’t be Cinderella again

By Darrell Laurant  |   Thursday, August 23, 2007  |  Comments( 0 )

Rutgers Scarlet Knights
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(Sixth in a series of previews of Big East teams).

There is no sequel to "Cinderella."

She went to the ball, met the prince, turned out to have the right foot size. Nice story, but where do you go from there?

It's like that in sports, too. The history of college football is full of teams that thrust themselves above the pack for a year or two, then slipped back into mediocrity. So if you're Rutgers University, which transitioned from being consistently bad (in the old sense of the word) to being B-A-A-D, you can't stay put. You either slide back down or continue to climb up. Either way, your Cinderella days are over.

Good as it was, the Scarlet Knights' 12-2 season could have been better. After upsetting Louisville on a late Jeremy Ito field goal, the Scarlet Knights were stunned by Cincinnati, a loss that simultaneously crumpled their Big East title and BCS bowl hopes. Greg Schiano's team still gave West Virginia all it could handle, but wound up losing in triple overtime.

This time around, most of the key components (with the exception of fullback Brian Leonard and part of the offensive line) are back. Tailback Ray Rice (1,794 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns in 2006) is a legitimate Heisman candidate, and DT Eric Foster is on the Outland Trophy watch list.

The key to reaching the top of the Big East (besides finding ways to stop Steve Slaton, Pat White and Brian Brohm) may well rest with quarterback Mike Teel. With the ground game clicking on all cylinders, Teel was more of a game manager than a game breaker. And when Cincinnati stacked the box against Rice and Leonard, Teel didn't exactly rise to the occasion, throwing four interceptions.

In a Texas Bowl victory over Kansas State, however, Teel was 16 of 28 for 268 yards.

He'll have three outstanding receivers to target in Kenny Britt, Tim Brown and Tiquan Underwood. Brown, a Florida kid who runs a 4.3 40, hauled in four passes for 101 yards against K-State and gives Rutgers one of the Big East's most lethal deep threats. Rice is also effective catching passes out of the backfield.

On defense, Foster is somewhat undersized for his position (6-foot-2, 265), but he's tireless and aggressive. He had 51 tackles last season -- a high number for an interior lineman -- 14 tackles for loss and six sacks. DB Courtney Greene is another who could wind up with some postseason honors.

Rutgers opens with Buffalo, Navy and Norfolk State, which should enable Schiano to work in the new parts to his machine. Cincinnati, South Florida and West Virginia all come to New Brunswick, while the Scarlet Knights play Louisville in the season finale on the road.

The Scarlet Knights won't be a good story this year. They'll just be good.
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