10 Questions Entering Spring, Part II

Rutgers begins spring practice Tuesday morning, and as a primer ScarletReport.com is taking a two-part look at the major questions the Scarlet Knights will try to answer leading up to the April 30 spring game. Here is the second installment.

Rutgers begins spring practice Tuesday amid loads of questions after a 4-8 season and a plethora of position changes.

Keep in mind players like receiver Mohamed Sanu and fullback Joe Martinek will not be used much, if at all, because of offseason surgery, and the bulk of the 2011 class do not arrive until June.

So, in the second part of our "10 questions entering spring" package, we take a lot at Nos. 5 through 1.

5. How has TE D.C. Jefferson developed?
Now a red-shirt junior, D.C. Jefferson has had plenty of time to make the transition from quarterback to tight end. The offense is also built for the tight end to be a central figure in the passing game, and it is time for Jefferson to shine.

He needs to show he has developed strong blocking skills, can run precise routes and make the catches when he gets his hands on the ball. His ability to do that opens up the rest of the passing game, be it underneath or on the perimeter.

4. How fast will the defense look?
Manny Abreu was shifted from linebacker to defensive end, Khaseem Greene from safety to weakside linebacker, Jordan Thomas from running back to cornerback, Steve Beauharnais from middle linebacker to strongside linebacker, Rashad Knight and David Rowe from cornerback to safety and Kalial Glaud from weakside linebacker to middle linebacker.

The moves were done with the explicit design being to make the Scarlet Knights' defense faster. Sure, there will be a learning curve, but in those instances when assignments aren't busted, the defense should move to the ball with great speed.

3. Is QB Chas Dodd ready to be "The Man"?
Tom Savage is headed to Arizona, Gary Nova and Mike Bimonte don't enter school until the summer and the backup is walk-on Tyler Bellia. The Scarlet Knights already said Dodd is a tremendous leader, but he is playing in a system conceptually different than he played last season, or in high school.

He has had limited time to learn the playbook, and that could impede the passing game in the spring.

He has to show he can he handle the installation of all the plays and make the proper reads to deliver the ball on time to give the offense confidence heading into the summer. And to make sure there isn't talk about a budding quarterback competition (i.e., controversy) when Nova and Bimonte arrive.

2. Can Jeremy Deering play running back?
Deering understood running lanes while carrying the ball out of the Wildcat, but it is much different running in a two-tight end alignment with a fullback.

He also will be asked to pass protect, which is never an easy thing for running backs making the move from high school to college. Making the move to running back in college is not an easy thing, but Deering has the size to be an effective blocker, and his versatility as a runner and pass catcher could create run matchups.

The banging of playing running back is always an adjustment, but his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame should be able to handle it.

1. Will the offensive line be able to block?
A precursor for the 2010 season came when the offensive line had trouble blocking in the spring. The lone loss from last year's line is center Howard Barbieri, but it doesn't mean the rest is status quo.

The only given is junior college transfer Dallas Hendrikson at center. The rest of the spots are up for grabs, and expect plenty of mixing-and-matching during the 14 sessions leading up to the spring game.

Desmond Stapleton is the left tackle, but the competition for the guard positions will be strong with Art Forst, Antwan Lowery, Betim Bujari and Caleb Ruch all having a shot. At right tackle Andre Civil and Desmond Wynn will compete, but both of them could also wind up playing one of the guard spots as well.

It would have been intriguing if signee Kaleb Johnson was involved in the spring, but he won't arrive until June and gets looks as a guard and right tackle.

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