Mike Teel: Underrated and Underappreciated

Adam HelfgottCorrespondent IJune 14, 2008

He threw for 3,147 yards last season, he was just named to the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list for 2008, he has a record of 20-8 as a starting quarterback, and he has led the team to two consecutive bowl victories.

It's time for fans to give Rutgers QB Mike Teel some love and trust for 2008.

With the great Ray Rice leaving for the NFL after breaking the school's all-time rushing record, everyone analyzing the 2008 Scarlet Knights are saying the offense will have to prove itself again without a great running game.

There is no need for a new identity, and there is no need not to trust Mike Teel. He has been a solid fixture at his position for the past two seasons. Coming into his senior season on the banks, he has a heralded bunch of talented receivers to throw to.

I am not saying Ray Rice and Brian Leonard and a very strong Rutgers defense did not help Rutgers win in the past. Of course they're all the main reasons, but Mike Teel's role was just as important as the others in turning this Rutgers program around.

Mike Teel was a winner way before he came to Piscataway. Teel was a two-time First Team All-State selection; was a two-time All-Parochial and All-Bergen County pick; and led Don Bosco to 23-consecutive wins and back-to-back state championships.

Teel understood how to win and came into his career at Rutgers with a winning attitude. That is exactly what head coach Greg Schiano was looking for. When he was called into the starting role full-time in 2006, he helped enable Rutgers to go onto one of its most successful seasons ever, winning 11 games.

A successful program has good players at all major positions. Rutgers had the talented running game, a solid defense, but also had a very strong-minded and tough quarterback to lead as well.

Everyone knows the blame of losing falls on the coach and quarterback, and no one took more blame last year than Mike Teel for an 8-5 season. He took the most blame after throwing a game-ending interception against Cincinnati as RU looked like it was driving for a game-winning TD in the last seconds.

Even with a badly hurt thumb for more than half the season, Teel kept on playing—and playing well.

Teel wound up throwing 20 touchdown passes, setting an all-time school record for a single season; was second in Rutgers history for yards in a season (3,147); and threw for six 300-yard games in 2007.

Most importantly, Teel looked completely healthy against Ball State in the International Bowl, in which Rutgers trounced BSU 52-30.

Now fans ask if Teel can still be good without Ray Rice behind him. The answer is yes. The running game behind Teel this year is not that bad, and his receivers are better than in years past.

Kordell Young and Mason Robinson will see lots of playing time in the backfield and will be nice compliments to Teel. Both are quick and can cut anyway in an instant.

Teel also has leading wide receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood back from last year. Keith Stroud, Kevin Brock, and Tim Brown will also make fine targets for Teel.

Maybe the greatest number from last year's team was that Rutgers was the first team in NCAA history to have a 2,000-yard rusher, a 3,000-yard passer, and two 1,000-yard receivers.

Mike Teel is athletically skilled, mentally tough, and a proven winner. He is one of the main reasons the Rutgers program is where it is today.

Now the senior QB has a chance to really prove himself to all the fans out there, and I believe he will do that. Mike Teel may have been the quiet one behind Rice and Leonard, but this is now his team to lead.

Leading is exactly what Mike Teel has done the past two seasons.