Rutledge Ready for Opportunity vs FSU

After seeing his playing time last year end quickly following a very poor performance against Temple last year where he allowed back-to-back sacks, the second one that saw Kyle Wright hurt his thumb, offensive tackle Chris Rutledge is looking a start in the Hurricanes season opener against Florida State Labor Day night square in the face.

And he will be expected to perform at the highest level now that he's being given a second chance after never seeing the field following the injury to Wright's thumb.

But with an injury to fellow offensive tackle Tyrone Byrd, the hometown boy and graduate of Michael Krop High School in Northeast Miami-Dade, Rutledge will be living a dream on September 4 more than likely when he lines up with the first unit against Florida State.

"I am very excited," Rutledge said. "You come here for those big games you know. I am just trying to take the opportunity and take it one day at a time."

But that opportunity didn't look too promising following last year's game against Temple. He found his way into Larry Coker and Art Kehoe's doghouse because of what happened, particularly Wright getting hurt following the second sack.

Rutledge, a redshirt sophomore, admits he wasn't ready and it showed.

"After the Temple game, (my confidence) went downhill a little bit," Rutledge said. "But I wasn't mentally ready to play. I've forgotten about it and am trying to move on and do bigger and better things and winning a national championship with my team and starting the season out with a bang against Florida State."

However, he recognized that with the coaching changes, he'd get another shot at it. Tyrone Byrd had be slated as the first team tackle, but currently nursing a knee injury, Rutledge got his chance and just wants to take advantage of it and run with it.

"Before fall practice began, everyone has the opportunity and has to be ready. One line goes down and next guy has to be ready with no fall off," Rutledge said.

And that's exactly what happened as Byrd went down with a knee injury. It was up to Rutledge to step in and take he position and do what he needed to do to be a great offensive tackle that must protect Wright.

"It was unfortunate that Tyrone Byrd got hurt, but that was my opportunity and I have to run with it and still try to run with it because nothing is final. Everyday is a fight for your position," Byrd said.

The main thing that Rutledge said has improved in is his pass blocking. His setting is better from last year and that will be key in protecting Wright because he doesn't want to be the reason Wright sustains another sprained thumb.

"The trust factor was there, but I wasn't ready," Rutledge said. "I think he has the confidence in me to protect him the way he talks to me. I am very confident."

Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat can be reached at rudy@canestime.com

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