|With Simms' help, Teel quietly becoming Mr. Reliable for Rutgers|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 05 September 2007 23:20|
You won't see Mike Teel's name up in lights or on anybody's Heisman watch list, yet his steady improvement at quarterback has been one of the driving forces behind the Scarlet Knights' transformation into a Top 25 team.
In his last four games, dating to last season, Teel is 61-of-92 (66 percent) for 970 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. In Rutgers' season-opening 38-3 win over Buffalo, he threw for a career-high 328 yards and two touchdowns.
Part of the credit can go to New Jersey's first family of quarterbacking.
When Teel struggled last season - Rutgers was still winning, but largely on the strength of Rice and the Big East's best defense - and became the focus of criticism, he sought the advice of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms and sons Chris and Matt, who live in northern New Jersey.
Teel has trained with all three, and led Ramsey's Don Bosco Prep to an undefeated season and state title in 2003 when Matt Simms was a freshman.
``I've thrown with Mike and watched him many times, and we just kind of talk about everything,'' Phil Simms said Wednesday. ``I've always said he's got the mentality and a lot of the mannerisms that you want your quarterback to have. He's extremely cool under pressure; in fact, that's kind of when he's at his best.''
Teel could do worse for role models. Phil Simms took the brunt of Giants fans' ire until he led them to the Super Bowl in 1987, while Chris Simms won over skeptics at Texas and became one of the best quarterbacks to play at the school.
``I was able to talk to these guys who had played in the NFL and in college football and who had gone through that type of criticism,'' Teel said. ``I have a good relationship with them, and talking to them really helped me.''
Last season, Teel faced a bizarre predicament in which he was blamed by some commentators and fans for not racking up huge numbers even as Rutgers won its first nine games and cracked the top 10 for the first time in school history.
The sniping reached a crescendo after he threw four interceptions against Cincinnati in a 30-11 loss on Nov. 18 that snapped the winning streak. Looking back, Teel conceded some of the comments stung.
``When you're human and people talk about you, it bothers you,'' he said. ``But you can't let it affect anything you do. The quarterback is the center of the offense. It's just the way the position is, and I understand that. I'd rather it be me than someone else.''
Teel's 2006 performances hovered between adequate and uninspiring for the first two-thirds of the season. Against North Carolina, Illinois and Navy he was a combined 43-of-70 for 505 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, but against Ohio, Howard, Connecticut and South Florida he was 37-of-76 for 439 yards with one touchdown and six interceptions.
Part of that can be attributed to an inexperienced receiving corps that lost senior Shawn Tucker in the third game of the season. Teel also was in his first year as the full-time starter.
With everyone on the same page this season, Teel has an abundance of weapons to choose from. Sophomores Kenny Britt (6-feet-4, 205 pounds) and Tim Brown (25.2 yards per catch in '06) provide size and speed, while junior Tiquan Underwood has recovered from a broken leg and caught 10 passes for a school-record 248 yards and two touchdowns last week against Buffalo.
``It's great when Mike opens it up like that, because it means teams can't stack it up and put nine men in the box,'' Rice said.
The workload won't decrease much for Rice, who ran for 1,794 yards and 20 touchdowns last season and began this season with a three-touchdown, 184-yard performance against Buffalo.
``Ray Rice is Ray Rice, and he's still going to get his touches, even if there are eight or nine guys in the box,'' Teel said. ``But we have so many skill guys that can do good things when they have the ball in their hands that you have to get it to them.''