Thursday, October 02, 2008

Q&A With Bleed Scarlet

With the West Virginia-Rutgers game this weekend we took time out to talk with Bleed Scarlet about their thoughts on the upcoming game.

So, this season hasn't exactly turned out the way either of us expected. Both teams are relatively new to this winning thing, at least on the level that we have over the last three years. Along those lines, is the season a total loss, or is it just a bump in the road of successful programs?

It's premature to make any assessments until after the season. There are a lot of questions - what will happen with fan support, will there be any personnel attrition, can the returning players and coaching staff learn from the mistakes this year? I think most programs are due to have up and down years and some point. It's difficult to be sober about how poorly the team has played with trying to not completely panic.

What has been the biggest disappointment on the team this year? On the flip side, what's impressed you that you didn't see coming?

The easy answer is not just that Mike Teel has played poorly, but that he's significantly regressed from 2007. He's been worse than even his critics expected. That's true, but it doesn't do justice to how poorly the defense and special teams have looked. There haven't been a lot of big positive surprises to this point - a lot of fans were cautiously optimistic about the linebackers this year, and expected something from Jordan Brooks if he received playing time. The right side of the offensive line hasn't been dominant, but it hasn't been a complete turnstile either.

You've got a young stable of running backs, but none have really seemed to have taken charge. (Young is hurt, though, right?) Is it better that several people get the ball, or do you see one taking over as the season wears on?

Jordan Brooks has established himself during the past few games. I'm not really down on Kordell Young or Mason Robinson per se. However, the offense is best in rhythm with Brooks. He has the most power of any of the options at RB. He's the best at moving the chains, and letting the team play a ball-control style that minimizes mistakes on offense and keeps the defense off the field. Rutgers will probably ride the hot hand throughout the year. Honestly, running the football hasn't been a big problem to this point. None of the backs are as good as Ray Rice, but who is? The passing game isn't struggling merely because they're not seeing eight or nine in the box on every down. There are open receivers downfield, Mike Teel is just making horrible decisions.

Mike Teel hasn't had the year anyone was expecting. Any chance he gets benched to develop someone for next year?

There are a couple reasons why this is unlikely to happen. Ever since Teel arrived on campus, he's been Greg Schiano's "guy". Schiano would move heaven and earth for him.
One of the major failings of the current coaching staff is that they've failed to develop viable alternatives to Teel. Last year, they rarely pulled Teel (or Rice) even in garbage time. Even against Morgan State last week, Teel played almost the entire game. Jabu Lovelace, who might be out of the year, was more of an option QB who's an even worse passer than Teel. Neither of the true freshman are likely to play this year. That leaves the alternatives as Chris Paul-Etienne, who's somewhat similar to Teel, and Dom Natale, who has battled injuries, and his game is based more on accuracy and scrambling.

It'd be a mistake to expect some kind of addition-by-subtraction at QB next season. Rutgers has a lot of youth on the two-deep this year, but QB is one position where backups don't normally see a ton of time. That's why 2008 needed to be RU's year, and next season is such a big question mark.

I've made it known that I'm not happy at all with what I've seen out of West Virginia this year. What's your take on the 2008 Mountaineers?

There were a lot of losses on defense, so if that unit keeps playing as well as they did against Colorado and Marshall, would that be a positive surprise? Anyone who's not intimately familiar with the program is going to point at Rich Rod leaving as the primary cause, At least on paper, West Virginia returned a lot of talent on offense. It's stunning that they haven't been more productive up to this point.

The Big East as a whole is way down this year. You think this is something we are going to see more of, or just a case of several teams being down?

When a conference only has eight teams, this kind of year is an inherent risk. The Big East needs to add another football team; the right team; in order to guard against this happening again in the future. The conference bowl affiliations are up for renewal in a year; which is precisely when the NCAA will allow expansion.
The Big East football schools are going to have to think long and hard about splitting from the basketball-only schools. The current conference leadership, led by Mike Tranghese, primarily has the interests of the basketball schools at heart, and I think that is one of many reasons why the past few years have been such a rollercoaster. How is Big East football ever going to be secure when seemingly the only criteria for being commissioner is to have once carried Dave Gavitt's water at Providence?

Ever been to Morgantown for a gameday? Is so, what was your impression? If not, what stories if any have you heard and do you plan on making a trip down?

Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to visit Morgantown at this point, and have no idea about whether I'll have the opportunity to visit in the future. I've heard good and bad stories from visiting Rutgers fans. In general, the two fanbases are cordial enough to each other. Maybe there's some more animosity below the surface waiting for the series to actually be competitive.


The only chance Rutgers has to win this game is to control time of possession and force a couple turnovers on defense. On the off-chance Pat White doesn't play, I think Jarrett Brown is actually a worse matchup for the Rutgers defense. Rutgers did a good job containing the edges against Navy, but had no answer for the Iso plays. If West Virginia has a RB with some power, they should try to run the ball between the tackles versus RU's undersized DL. West Virginia 27, Rutgers 13.

As always, thanks to Bleed Scarlet for stopping by to answer a few questions. Check with them often for all the latest on Rutgers Football.

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