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Tom Savage Is not the Messiah

And that shouldn't even be up for debate, because we all know that that the messiah is Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

Last week, I tried to gave a vague account of the appeal of following the recruiting process. The thought that a blue chipper, a quarterback, who could go anywhere, but decided to spend the next three to five years in scenic Piscataway, New Jersey. Of course, that's not even half the battle; it's just getting your supply lines in order. Games are won and lost on the gridiron. Let's be clear about one thing: I'm thrilled to have Savage on board. His presence alone was enough of a lure to get several other key additions to this year's class. What he represents is potential. Maybe, a chance greater than zero and less than one, that he will develop into a top-tier quarterback.

Please keep that caveat of praise in mind, because what I want to do is take a realistic look at two of the bigger challenges with Savage going forward. Simple as that.

Quarterbacks bust. Often. Do you recognize the names "Ben Olson", "James Banks", "Kyle Wright", "Rhett Bomar", "Xavier Lee", or "Ryan Perrilloux"? Probably not, and if you do, it's not for the right reasons. According to (and not to single them out on this point), they were five-star quarterbacks over the past few years. Quarterbacks are under more pressure than any other position in organized team sports. Correctly or not, fans place most of the burden for winning or losing on their shoulders? It's completely insane that the likes of Peyton Manning or Donovan McNabb would ever face scrutiny for their on-field play, but here we are.

If that wasn't enough pressure, Rutgers fans do look at Savage as, if not a savior, then at least the one figure destined to take the team to the next level of consistently finishing in the top 25. Can't you just imagine Coach Schiano contemplating that notion and shaking his head? He'd tell you; it's a drawn out process. It has to be brick by brick, not with smoke and mirrors. There is never one player who will make or break a team all by his lonesome.

Is Savage a very good quarterback prospect? Absolutely. He's big, he has the arm, he's a natural leader, and he dazzled on the Combine circuit. That's why everyone wanted him. Every QB is a question mark, and he's as good a bet as any to succeed.

Savage also completed 51% of his passes, and threw for 1268 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008. Those are the statistics that the naysayers will highlight, but they don't necessarily tell the whole story. Savage played behind a porous offensive line, and was without the services of the team's top playmaker (Corey Brown) for most of the season. It recalls another Philadelphia-area quarterback of a few years past, who had a 52% completion percentage, and threw for 1,300 yards and 9 touchdowns. That quarterback was Matt Ryan, and it just goes to show why fans should leave the evaluations up to the experts. A great deal of them wanted Savage, and he was the top choice of Greg Schiano, John McNulty, and Joe Susan. That's what matters.

It's not realistic to expect; but the best thing Rutgers fans can do for Tom Savage, if they really want what's best for him and the entire football team, is to give him some space going forward. I hope he'll be a good player. If he's not, then if we don't turn him into Superman, it won't sting as much if he doesn't live up to expectations on the field.

It's easy to understand the Savage hype. He lives just hours from campus, and everyone has been singing his praises for the past year. What would be a mistake, however, would be to automatically coronate him as the quarterback of the future. Wasn't it just a year ago that the coaching staff's years of effort in Florida finally culminated in luring one D.C. Jefferson north? Following a redshirt year of staying out of the spotlight, Jefferson has become invisible.

That is not fair, not even in the slightest. Jefferson shows his inexperience on the practice field, but physical tools cannot be taught, and he has the ability in spades. In just a few short weeks, we'll finally start to learn how he has progressed over the past year. He's in the exact same boat as Savage, with a very large ceiling, and a ways to go before reaching it.

If Savage had decided to go to Georgia, or if Lane Kiffin or any other suitor had been able to sway him during the past few months, the future of Rutgers football would rest squarely in D.C.'s enormous hands. If he would have been responsible for such an enormous burden if things had veered off track, surely he deserves a chance with everything looking a bit sunnier. With LSU and everyone else knocking at his door, Jefferson had to go through a lot of pressure of his own in order to attend Rutgers, including a high school coach who made no qualms about wanting the prestige of sending a player to Baton Rouge.

Furthermore, Jefferson needs to be treated fairly if the Rutgers brand is going to survive intact in Florida. It's no secret that Rutgers is sticking closer to home now, but the Scarlet Knights still have aims on getting a few players from there every year. When Greg Schiano first took over, local prospects wouldn't give him the time of day. Those initial pioneers from Florida had the confidence and swagger, if almost the cockiness, to have no fear of losing. Not even remotely. They knew that anywhere they went, they would win through sheer force of will. Give them all the credit in the world, because that's exactly what they did. If the quarterback job is just handed to Savage (and I am absolutely confident that there will be an open and fair competition), it's figuratively a slap in the face to Tres Moses, Eric Foster, Ryan Hart, and everyone else from Florida who had the courage to come here when Rutgers was not an easy sell.

Rutgers fans should be quite pleased at the moment. Regardless of whether the spotlight falls on Savage, Jefferson, or another contender, there's a reasonable chance that the future of the team's quarterbacking is in capable hands. I just ask, in light of the (much deserved) excitement over the impending arrival of Savage, that we don't overlook Jefferson, and give him the fair shake that he deserves. It's going to be an open competition, and may the best man win.