Battle for Right Tackle Position

There is a battle in the trenches at the right tackle position during the Miami Hurricanes fall practices.

Chris Rutledge and Reggie Youngblood, are vying for one position on the depth chart, the starting right tackle spot, and both have taken their game to the next level.

"I'm like 10-times a better player than I was last year," Youngblood said. "And I'm healthy, that is a plus too."

Youngblood, a junior, the incumbent starter from the 2006 season returns, but with some added competition, a slimmed down, focused, and ready Rutledge, who is already working out with the first team.

The off-season saw him shed his weight down to 309 pounds, which has been a catalyst to his improved play along with a new regiment, Head Coach Randy Shannon has them on.

"Everything is a big improvement," Rutledge said. "From how we are conditioned, how we eat, how we practice, the tempo (of practice). There is no singular thing that is making us better, everything overall is making us better. Coach Shannon and the coaching staff have us going, they are doing a great job at getting us ready."

An improved life away from the football field is also a vehicle to improved play on the field, for not just Rutledge, but the entire offensive line.

"Just working with the coaches, they all have a plan for us, that is the main thing," Rutledge said. "They told us what we need to do and it is up to us to stick to it. The coaches can't be with us 24-hours a day. What you do outside of football is what all makes you a better athlete, so, they tell us what we need to do outside of football, perform it, and it shows on the field."

As a unit, both Youngblood and Rutledge believe the offensive line will be vastly improved from last season.

"The offensive line as a unit is running well," Rutledge said. "I mean there is always room to get better…the offensive line is doing a real good job, just from years past. Coach Shannon does a great job with keeping us motivated and working real hard."

The line as a whole dropped nearly 30 pounds of weight on average per player in the offseason.

Tomorrow, the players participate in their first scrimmage, which has the players excited for their first real contact of the season.

"If you don't love contact, you shouldn't play, you shouldn't come out here," Youngblood said. "I'm excited, man. The offense is looking good, we moved the ball well in the drills."

"We feel real ready tomorrow, Rutledge said. "After we are done, we are going to watch the film and correct the minor things and we are (going to) come out here tomorrow with the same mentality and have a great practice."

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