Rutledge Continuing to Develop

A team can never have too much depth at the left tackle position. Anyone that plays offensive line is one injury away from stepping into a starting role. That is why sophomore Chris Rutledge's development is important this spring and summer for UM.

Chris Rutledge played in four games as a reserve right tackle during the 2005 season, making two pancake blocks. This spring Rutledge has been somewhat hampered by a wrist injury which makes him wear a cast covering his entire hand.

Rutledge injured the wrist last December and had surgery on it in January. He expects to have the cast off soon after the spring game.

"I am coming along good," Rutledge said. "I would like to get better and better everyday. It is hard with a cast on, but you have to work past your injuries and look away from the negatives and deal with the positives of being out here. I have to work on a little bit of technique things. I am trying to get better everyday and there is always room for improvement."

Rutledge says that he has seen great improvement from the offensive line as a unit this spring. In the beginning of the spring, the offensive line had to adjust to a new offensive system which used three, five, seven, and nine step drops from the quarterback.

"We are getting better everyday as a unit," Rutledge said. "We still have a ways to go, but as long as we have each others back, we will be fine. I think we need to improve our communication the most. As long as we communicate, everything will be alright."

The offensive line has not only had to adjust to a new offense, they have also had to learn under a new offensive line coach, Mario Cristobal. Rutledge first met Cristobal when he recruited Rutledge as a coach at Rugters. Rutledge still has a good relationship with his new coach.

"Coach Cristobal is a great guy," Rutledge said. "He was recruiting me when he was at Rugters and he was a big factor in me almost going to Rugters. Now that he is here, he makes playing a lot easier.

"He communicates with you and lets you know what you are doing wrong and what you are doing good. It is a lot easier to talk to him. He is very fiery. He loves the game and is about the game. He doesn't want anyone going less than 110 percent."

Cristobal has also brought a new attitude to the offensive line.

"Practice is a lot more serious now," Rutledge said. "Before, we could joke around a lot. With Coach Cristobal, it is enough of the kids stuff. He wants us to be focused on football and football only. When you are on the field it is straight aggression—100 percent aggression at all times."

This spring Rutledge has been engaged in a friendly competition with second team defensive end Calais Campbell. Rutledge and Campbell go at each other every day and raise the level of competition and intensity of the practice for one another.

"We go at it everyday and we talk to each other in the locker room. That is the guy I mostly go up against, so we have got it real bad for each other. It is great competition. We get each other better."

David Lake is a Staff Writer with CanesTime and can be contacted by emailing him at lake@canestime.com


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