Spring Time: 5 Questions on Offense

Spring football is fast approaching and ScarletReport.com is here to preview all of the action heading to Piscataway. Today, we look at the top questions to be answered on the offensive side of the ball.

The Rutgers offense showed signs of shining in the spotlight in 2012, but eventually struggled in a three-game losing streak to end the season. Heading into the spring, ScarletReport.com is here to break down five questions that will be a focus during the upcoming practices.

5.) What happens on special teams? – This fits into offense and defense, but there are a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to special teams and the field position game. Who punts this spring before Nick Marsh arrives in training camp? What happens at punt returner with Mason Robinson gone? Is Kyle Federico healthy? Special teams made impact plays but also shot Rutgers in the foot at times last year with poor field position and costly mistakes.

Pre-spring answer -- Anthony DiPaula is still an option at punter and could even compete with Marsh for kickoffs and punter time. Federico is the favorite to beat out Nick Borgese in terms of field goals, but his hip injury needs to be fully healed. Without Robinson returning punts, look for Miles Shuler and Quron Pratt to get early looks.

4.) Will anyone push Nova?Gary Nova was far ahead as the starting quarterback by the time training camp rolled around last year and he did not get a hard push after coach Kyle Flood named him starter. Flood stuck by Nova through an inconsistent (though statistically strong) season and named him the starter for spring.

Senior Chas Dodd has the experience of a starting quarterback and Blake Rankin now has a year in the program to adjust to the college game. Spring is a great time for second- and third-team quarterbacks to work with top receivers and the spring scrimmages will be an interesting opportunity to see if anyone can truly push Nova at the position. Spring is also big in the development of Mike Bimonte and Chris Laviano.

Pre-spring answer -- No. Flood is big on a "one quarterback" offense and Nova was consistently the best option as a sophomore. Unless there is an unexpected regression or injury on Nova's part, don't look for changes at the position.

3.) Who becomes right tackle? -- R.J. Dill was a homerun as a fifth-year transfer experience and did more than hold a spot on the line. But as Dill moves on with NFL aspirations, right tackle is yet again a top concern for a growing offensive line.

Flood and position coach Damian Wroblewski have a lot of options to try out in the spring and must use the 15 practices to try out multiple guys with the other four starters relatively solidified. Sophomore Keith Lumpkin is vastly improved from his high school days and youngsters Chris Muller and Ryan Brodie both grew quickly on the scout team as true freshmen. Right guards Andre Civil and Taj Alexander both having experience at tackle and left tackle Kaleb Johnson was a freshman All-American on the other side.

Pre-spring answer -- Combination. Civil and Alexander are the most seasoned but are not locks to hold down tackle and right guard respectively for multiple reasons. Flood had no problem rotating guys at right guard last year and tackle could be the same in 2014 unless one guy emerges. Lumpkin, Muller and Brodie could all benefit from more experience and the spring is the best time.

2.) How do things change with Ron Prince? -- Prince has had time to assess his slew of offensive weapons and begin building his offensive scheme. The fourth offensive coordinator in as many years, Prince is a former head coach and has a history of developing quarterbacks into NFL caliber players. The Rutgers offense struggled in 2012 with Nova taking the brunt of the criticism because of turnover issues and inconsistencies. Do not expect Prince to simply install his offense overnight, but he will have the chance to get a head start in the spring. He told reporters last month that the entire offense would not go in this spring, but that it is not a concern because the goal is to be ready by the end of training camp.

Pre-spring answer -- Giving play-makers a chance to make plays is going to be the emphasis for Prince. That means finding ways to get the ball to Brandon Coleman down field, Miles Shuler in open space and enough carries for Huggins to build a head of steam. At the same time, Prince cannot ask for too much or overcomplicate things. Spring is about finding the right balance and getting a read for the development of each individual player.

1.) Who will steal the show at running back? Jawan Jamison is a tough loss at running back but he isn't nearly as irreplaceable as some of the other early departures in the last six years. Junior Savon Huggins is the leading contender, and starter, for spring practice but there are a lot of rushing attempts available. Huggins showed flashes of his high-school potential with a 41-rush, 179-yard game against Cincinnati but injuries and inconsistencies in his first two years prevented him from holding a starting job.

Paul James, Desmon Peoples and Dontea Ayres will all get a shot to shine in the spring spotlight this spring. James has the best body of work with two years in the program to develop but Peoples and Ayres will both get their best chance to stand out and must make the most of it. Remember, Ray Rice did not earn running back time until the last week of August when he came to Rutgers. Tailback is a position where a dark horse can always emerge.

Pre-spring answer -- Paul James. James has been one guy away from getting a role on game days. Walking on and working scout team takes patience and devotion and the spring is his best chance to make that time start paying off. Huggins should do enough to maintain his role as the feature back, but Rutgers needs three trustworthy tailbacks by the time it gets to Fresno State.

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