Commentary: Two-Deep Released

Rutgers coach Kyle Flood released his post-spring two-deep today with a small series of position changes and shakeups. ScarletReport.com is here to break down what the two-deep tells us about the Scarlet Knights going into training camp.

By the amount of "Or"s on Flood's depth chart, it is clear that not a lot of in-game reps were won or lost in the spring. Many spots on the two-deep remain wide open to be fought for in training camp.

Instead, Flood used his first spring to analyze his depth at key positions and make the necessary changes. Highlighted by the pre-camp move of Betim Bujari to center, Flood announced a handful of changes to the two-deep and ScarletReport.com is here to tell you what that means.

Center of Attention — Bujari moves from left guard and junior Dallas Hendrikson drops to second-team center. The concerns here are ability and experience. If Bujari was ready to be a center, he would have moved there a long time ago.

His challenge will be learning assertiveness and the ability to call out and react to protection adjustments at the line of scrimmage. Putting more of this responsibility on the quarterback under Dave Brock's system should help, but Bujari has a summer of studying to do regardless.

There is no doubt that Hendrikson got stronger during his injury, but the spring showed he is not yet ready to be the starting center. Dropping to the second team, Hendrikson will be able to focus on his fundamentals and continue to improve his strength with hopes to get on the field this season.

There was no other major tinkering on the offensive line, but look for the two guard spots to be a three-horse race. Though Taj Alexander is listed as the outright starter at right guard, look for Antwan Lowery and David Osei to not only battle for the left spot.

DL Tinkering — A few players on the defensive line are listed at different areas, but this appears to primarily be an attempt to get the best four starters on the field and the best eight rotating in during the game.

Senior Scott Vallone and junior Isaac Holmes are clearly the top two defensive tackles on the roster coming out of the spring and Flood will try to get both on the field as much as possible. Junior Jamil Merrell is listed as a defensive tackle, but he will continue to mix in with both units in the same way that Justin Francis did last year.

Michael Larrow, listed in a competition with Marcus Thompson for a starting spot, will have to prove that he can stay healthy to win that job. Thompson, however, has had multiple health concerns as well. Look for Merrell and true freshman Darius Hamilton to become involved in this battle.

Double Duty for Snyder — Sophomore linebacker Kevin Snyder is the only player to make the list twice on defense. This is partially due to the lack of linebacker depth and partially because of what Snyder showed in the spring.

Snyder can play all three linebacker spots off the bench and is smart enough to back up Steve Beauharnais in the middle as the quarterback of the defense. Of course, if Snyder outright wins the strongside linebacker battle with Jamal Merrell, everything changes.

Notable Absences — Despite heavy praise from Flood during the spring, neither wideout Miles Shuler and defensive end Max Issaka did not crack the two-deep. As Flood said, both are greatly improved but still not ready for action.

The most notable absence, however, is that of defensive tackle Kenneth Kirksey. Kirksey saw a ton of playing time last season under Greg Schiano, but did almost nothing this spring with a knee injury. While Kirksey recovered, redshirt freshmen like Al Page and Marquise Wright ate up his reps and won spots on the two-deep.

Federico Named Starter — True freshman Kyle Federico may have been the MVP of the spring. Instead of arriving early and leaving the staff worried about replacing its penalty kicker, the Ponte Vedra (Fla.) athlete was on the money and inspired enough confidence in Flood to be the sole first-team kicker going into training camp.

Instead of focusing recruiting efforts on hunting down an extra kicker, Flood and his staff can focus elsewhere.

The James Gang — Redshirt freshman walk-on Paul James is on the two-deep as a backup kick returner. Flood has made it clear that he wants to give James a chance to make plays with the ball in his hands. As last year's backup KR, Jordan Thomas returned just one fewer kick than Jeremy Deering. Plenty of teams will kick away from Deering this year and happily risk putting the ball in other players' hands.


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