Position Analysis: Offensive line

With the season over and no bowl berth for the first time in six years, it is time to see where Rutgers stands looking to the future. ScarletReport.com begins its after-the-season analysis of the positions by looking at the offensive line. What options does the future hold? Where is the strength of the unit? And who can make a move in the spring?

It is all-hands-on-deck for Rutgers' offensive line this offseason, but at least the Scarlet Knights have a lot of hands.

Whether any of them can make the type of offseason improvement needed to be serviceable (not great) in 2011 is another matter, but between scholarship players, walk-ons, already one committed player coming in early and another coming in June, the Scarlet Knights have 20 players at their disposal.

The wildcard in the offensive line's offseason development lies in the junior colleges. Rutgers is recruiting a handful of junior college players, but do not have any commitments from the lot.

Based on what happened in allowing 61 sacks, and the offensive line's inability to block well enough to utilize a two-back power scheme on third-and-1, every spot is up for grabs.

The most telling aspect of what coach Greg Schiano said after the loss to West Virginia and in the season-ending press conference was about the need to add strength.

He said it isn't about how much a guy can bench or squat, but whether he is strong enough so when the technique isn't perfect, he can still block. While endorsing strength and conditioning coach Jay Butler, Schiano said some of the training aspects will have to be altered.

In reality, the hope for the offensive line's improvement (hard to imagine it can get worse) is the youth of the group.

When spring practice commences in March, there will be four seniors among the unit, and three of them are returning starters in left tackle Desmond Stapleton, left guard Desmond Wynn and right guard Caleb Ruch. The fourth senior is guard/tackle Art Forst, who started as a freshman and sophomore but lost his starting job midway through this past season and was moved to blocking tight end in Wildcat formations.

Right tackle Devon Watkis, who be a red-shirt junior, needs to add strength and improve his technique, but has the physical mobility to play on the edge.

The strength of the returning group lies in the class that will be red-shirt sophomores next season as guard Antwan Lowery, right tackle Andre Civil, center David Osei, tackle Matt McBride and Jamal Wilson. Another member of that class is Michigan transfer Anthony LaLota, who was a highly touted offensive tackle coming out of high school but enrolled at Rutgers as a defensive end.

If Rutgers can land a junior college transfer (or three), they will enter school in January and compete for playing time in the spring. Already, Rutgers commit Marquis Lucas of Miami Central plans to enroll in January and has the feet and strength to compete for immediate playing time at right tackle.

There group of players who will be red-shirt freshmen are led by guard Betim Bujari, who played in the opener but is in line to get a red-shirt season because of an injury. Center Frank Quartucci, tackle Jorge Vicioso and tackle Chris Fonti are further back, but an offseason of strength training and consistent technique work could allow one of them to jump into the two-deep by the end of spring.

There are also a number of young walk-ons in freshmen Hugh Ahern and Brian Leoni as well as red-shirt sophomore Beau Bachety and Nicholas Libonati.

St. Peter's Prep (Jersey City, N.J.) lineman Keith Lumpkin also comes to campus, but is not expected to contend for playing time right away.

Rutgers also remains in the mix for several high school offensive lineman, including Edward H. White High (Jacksonville) tackle Kaleb Johnson and Union (N.J.) High's Josue Matias.

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