Spring Lesson: The players may be the same, but this isn't the same offensive line that gave up an NCAA-worst 61 sacks. For one, there are major changes in first-team and second-team reps and a series of position changes.
The biggest change, however, is in the mindset.
The offensive line is admittedly embarrassed by its performance last season and put in a lot of work this spring to make sure this season is different.
Starters out of Spring: In the spring game, the starters (from left tackle to right tackle) were Andre Civil, Caleb Ruch, David Osei, Antwan Lowery and Desmond Stapleton. Dallas Hendrikson would be in there at center, but his torn ACL midway through the spring has him sidelined until next spring.
Desmond Wynn would also factor into the first-team line at either left or right guard, but he will not be full-go until training camp.
The best way to see how different this offensive line is from last year is to simply look at the makeup. Civil, after moving from defensive end less than a year ago, is the first-team left tackle. Stapleton, who was probably the most consistent lineman last season, is no longer the protector of Chas Dodd's blindside.
Ruch's strange journey between the bench, the starting lineup and three different interior line positions has the fifth-year senior as a left guard for now. Art Forst and Devon Watkis started multiple games last season and are now second-teamers at best.
Lowery, another converted defensive lineman, is probably the most consistent interior lineman. Osei received a lot of spring praise from coach Greg Schiano for his massive improvements. With no other true centers on the roster, his time is now.
Got a Chance: Of the second-team starters in the spring game, all but left tackle Jorge Vicioso have first-team experience.
Left guard Betim Bujari came on strong as a true freshman before an injury curbed his progress. Former starters Watkis and Forst checked in at right guard and center on the second team. Watkis' versatility as a guard or tackle give him a chance to find his way back onto the gridiron with a strong training camp.
Forst was very candid about his move to center after the spring game, and is very positive about the next step of his journey. Now a senior, Forst just wants to keep playing.
Matt McBride will be a wildcard to watch through training camp. When Stapleton went down at the spring game, the Hofstra transfer became the first-team right tackle. Now two years into the Rutgers program, the 6-foot-6, 280-pound lineman could be extremely valuable as a backup at guard or tackle this season.
For incoming freshmen Kaleb Johnson and Keith Lumpkin, their chance at immediate playing time comes down to what kind of shape they arrive in.
Johnson and Lumpkin are both academically cleared and set to enroll at the end of May. Offensive line coach Kyle Flood told Lumpkin that he needs to show up in great shape to compete for a starting job. For Johnson, who does not know what position he will play to start, center may be the quickest path to playing time.
Needs more Time: Of the rest of the scholarship linemen — Chris Fonti, Frank Quartucci, Jamal Wilson and Vicioso — second- and third-team reps were all that were available in the spring game.
Wilson's (6-foot-5, 307) and Fonti's (6-foot-7, 315) respective size will make them extremely valuable members of the scout team this year, but that's all they will likely be barring injuries.
Walk-ons Hugh Ahern, Beau Bachety, Brian Leoni and Nicholas Libonati make up the rest of the third- and fourth-teamers going into training camp.
Schiano's Take:"We made significant improvement because of cumulative repetitions at a limited number of run plays. We are playing to the strength of what our offensive line can do. Pass protection we have improved.
"We still have a long way to go, but we've improved. Again, if we could have made it through without Dallas getting injured (that would have been a positive). When Des (Wynn) got injured, I was fearful that was going to be a surgery and missing the season. It was a blessing when it wasn't. A couple of practices later, we lose Dallas, which is significant.
"Like I said that day, it is an opportunity for us to all learn how to deal with adversity. I truly believe someone – and that someone right now is David Osei – will rise up there. Now it takes away a little bit of the flexibility we had with David playing some other spots, but that is the way it is."
Transition to Training Camp:
Transition to Training Camp: Offensive Line
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