New Guards Meshing in Camp

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers projects to have two new starting guards when kickoff comes in three weeks. Moving Kaleb Johnson inside from left tackle and elevating Chris Muller to first team after a strong spring, Rutgers is four days into camp with its new-look line.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers guards Kaleb Johnson and Chris Muller describe their relationship off the field as a brotherhood. And like most siblings, Johnson and Muller developed a major rivalry.

"Nobody [on the roster] pushes me harder than Chris Muller," said Johnson, who will start at his third different position in as many seasons. "Chris Muller is doing a great job. He's one of my biggest competitors with everything. We work out together a lot and I look up to him. I know he's younger, but I learn stuff from him."

Johnson and Muller attacked their conditioning tests over the offseason and said the competition between each other has them playing at a high level.

"We work together," Johnson said. "I push him, he pushes me right back. If he does something, I'm going to try to top him every time and vice versa. It's great competition."

The 6-foot-6, 300-pound Muller redshirted last season and is now ahead of fifth-year senior Antwan Lowery in a battle for the right guard spot.

Muller likes to say he "came in fat," after an All-American senior year at Boyertown (Pa.). Trimmed down after a year on the scout team and in the weight room, the former three-star tackle feels ready to play.

"I'm in the best shape of my life, definitely," Muller said. "… Kaleb and I try to push each other every day. If he does something, I always try to do one better and he's the same way and we're both improving."

Johnson and Muller will be the starting guards for Saturday's scrimmage, which is the first true test for Muller at his position.

"[The scrimmage] is big for me, I know that," Muller said. "We played well in the spring game and it's our chance to show how much we improved. Kaleb kind of took me under his wing [since then]."

For Johnson, a former freshman All-American at right tackle, left guard is his third position since coming to Rutgers.

Johnson took over at left tackle as a sophomore and spent half the spring at the position before moving inside during a series of personnel changes. Former coach Greg Schiano initially recruited Johnson as a guard out of high school. Coach Kyle Flood moved him inside for the final week of spring practice, and Johnson feels like it is a good.

"I still have room to get where I need to be," Johnson said. "I'm getting used to playing next to Betim [Bujari] and Keith [Lumpkin]. I'm learning the plays all over again, but I feel strong."

Rutgers has a long-time line coach, Flood, running its program and a series of coaches with offensive line backgrounds behind him – offensive coordinator Ron Prince, offensive line coach Damian Wroblewski, graduate assistant Darnell Stapleton and associate head coach Norries Wilson to name a few.

With so many people to turn to, Johnson said the offensive line is off to a strong start.

"We kind of picked up where we left off," Johnson said. "Last training camp, it felt like we were starting all over and trying to build something new. This training camp, I feel like we picked up where we left off in the spring and we're doing nothing but getting better."

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