Battle Scars: What Position Battles Will Take Place During Rutgers Training Camp?
Just like the team’s uniform suggests (battle “scars” throughout the uniform, an iron plate look, pants that look like they have a sword holder, chrome look, and a knight-driven number and font system) Rutgers football will enter training camp with major position battles on tap, and those who win out, will be “knighted” as starter. Here are a few to keep an eye out for:
This one is obvious.
Rutgers entered spring practice with a wide-open competition to replace four-year, on-and-off starter Gary Nova, and a pair of redshirt sophomores in Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig came out of the heated battle ahead of everyone else. However, head coach Kyle Flood said after spring ball ended that the Long Island native Laviano is a step above the LSU transfer Rettig. The 6-3, 210-pound Laviano capped off spring practice in the Scarlet-White game completing 8-of-10 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns.
Rettig will have about a week to 10 days to make up ground on Laviano.
Flood likes to have one quarterback and ride-or-die with him for the season. It’ll be interesting to see how the competition plays out during the summer and the season if a switch is in the cards. NJ.com provided a nice write-up on how each signal caller matches up against one another.
We have a running poll where you can vote who you think will take the first snap under center this season that can be found here.
2) Offensive Line
Rutgers will have to replace three starters from an experienced group that began every game together last season for the first time since 2006. In order for the quarterback to throw to senior star wide receiver Leonte Carroo, or for any of the stable of running backs to show their talents, the big uglies up frot have to pass protect and create lanes for the backs.
Redshirt senior Keith Lumpkin will man the left tackle spot, and redshirt junior J.J. Denman – who played some last year – is coming off a solid spring and will take the right tackle opening. Redshirt junior Derrick Nelson is an x-factor in a sense because if he is not ready to grab hold of the center spot, another redshirt junior in Chris Muller, who has 25 straight starts at right guard, could be slid a spot over and start at center.
If that is the case, the guard positions could be taken by redshirt sophomore Dorian Miller, or redshirt freshman Tariq Cole. Redshirt junior Ryan Brodie could make a push as well.
In the spring, we talked about middle linebacker being a huge hole in the second level of the defense. In fact, the whole linebacking corps lack depth. However, junior college transfer Isaiah Johnson played well during the spring, and the team welcomes N.J. native, and South Carolina graduate transfer Kaiwan Lewis to the fold this weekend and is less of a concern.
The cornerback position, however, is in more flux. There are questions about junior Nadir Barnwell’s eligibility, which hopefully, will be clearer very soon as summer classes end. In addition, juniors Delon Stephenson and Anthony Cioffi are now safeties, Darian Dailey was dismissed from the team, and Kam Lott transferred. The cornerback position took some hits, and as Rutgers fans know, the past two years, especially in 2013 when they finished 125th in the country in passing yards given up, you can never have enough defensive backs.
A couple freshmen, true and redshirt, in Isaiah Wharton and Blessuan Austin will get a chance to show they want a starting spot. Redshirt junior Ruhaan Peele, who was moved from wide receiver, will get some wind as well.
Sophomore Dre Boggs likely is penciled in as a starter to open camp.
Other battles to watch for: tight end to replace Tyler Kroft who is now with the Cincinnati Bengals, nose tackle on the defensive line as Rutgers tries to get bigger, the aforementioned middle linebacker spot, and how the running back time-share shakes out.
Players report on Sunday, Aug. 9. First practice is the day after on Monday the 10th.
Rutgers football media day is next Sunday, Aug. 16, and Double G Sports will be there and have you covered.
Keep it here at Double G Sports as we update you throughout the summer.
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