Notes: Special Teams, OL's Confidence

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers has built a reputation as being a very good on special teams, particularly when it comes to blocking kicks. In two games this season, the Scarlet Knights blocked four punts. Joe Lefeged got two of them against Florida International, and talked to about the reasons for success. Also, center Howard Barbieri discusses the offensive line.

Joe Lefeged was talking about the blocking formation of a punt protection, and how Rutgers special teams coach Robb Smith refers to as a smokescreen. At the end, the smoke disappears and many times a Scarlet Knights finds himself in position to block a kick.

Lefeged, a senior, experienced the smoke screen phenomenon twice Saturday at Florida International, blocking two punts and showing why time after time the punt-block unit puts its faith in whatever Smith designs.

"It's a big confidence boost," Lefeged said. "I'm not sure how many blocks we had in the past 10 games, I heard it was 10 or something like that, but it's shown that if you do what he's coaching you to do, you will have success. We trust him."

In the opener against Norfolk State, it was Brandon Bing who appeared through the blocking smoke and get to a pair of punts. Last year, Devin McCourty made his name doing the same thing.

"It's something the coaches see," Lefeged said. "Coach Smith, we work all night figuring out their schemes on how they block it, and things like that. And we go out and try to execute it in practice, and in the games, they block it just like the scout team blocks it in practice. It opens up just like we do in practice."

Bing said after the opener there was no chosen individual deemed the punt blocker in a game, and Lefeged echoed it, saying it is the scheme and not a person's ability leading to the blocks. And although Lefeged's two blocks came from the middle and Bing's blocks came from the edges, the blocks came from different schemes.

"We had about three different blocks going into the (FIU) game, and we hit two of them," Lefeged said. "You're really not sure who is going to come through. Just because we see it like that on film doesn't mean they're going to block it like that in a game. You just run to the block point and hopefully somebody comes free."

Fixing the OL
The running game woes cannot all be pinned on the offensive line, but center and captain Howard Barbieri knows his unit has not performed as well as planned.

And as the captain of the offense, and leader of the line, Barbieri said a loss of confidence will not be an issue.

"I think we'll be fine," he said. "Our confidence …if the leaders stay confident, it'll pave the way for what everything else should be feeling."

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said after Tuesday's practice red-shirt freshmen Antwan Lowery, who played significantly at guard against FIU, and recently converted defensive lineman Andre Civil are progressing well, and will add competition to the unit during the bye week.

But even with Rutgers struggling offensively against FIU, Barbieri believes some good things are taking place, and he talked about them.

"Just seeing how physical we've been playing," he said. "It's only a matter of time before we get it all clicking. I hope it will be the next game, but it's only a matter of time before everything starts clicking. All the hitting is there. We're hitting more and better than we've have since '06."

Barbieri said the melding together of an offensive line with three new starters, as well as the inexperience of unit, is creating assignment errors that are leading to a stifled running game. But he added the film session in reviewing the FIU cleared a lot of things up.

"Coach made an emphasis on what we did wrong, and we came out today and they were throwing us the same stuff," Barbieri said. "I think we got everything fixed, but I have to watch the film."

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