Nova Remains in Position to Play against Hogs

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers does not plan on changing its protection schemes if Gary Nova returns from concussion and starts Saturday. Probable to go against Arkansas, Nova and the Rutgers offensive line will use the same strategies they have all season in protecting the passing attack.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Protecting the quarterback is the first responsibility of any offensive line, but becomes more of a necessity for Rutgers Saturday against Arkansas. Junior Gary Nova is in good position to play seven days after suffering a concussion and his line will be on high alert to keep him safe.

But according to coach Kyle Flood, the Scarlet Knights are not changing their game plan and will not go out of their way to protect the quarterback this week.

"No more [effort] than we usually do," Flood said. "We always have an assortment of five, six, seven, eight-man protections in the game plan. We don't use more in a week like this or less. It really just comes down to the matchup."

Arkansas has athleticism on its defensive line that Rutgers has not seen this year and the Razorbacks are a lock to be aggressive in their pass rush. Rutgers gave up just one sack to Arkansas last season, but the Razorbacks sit at No. 14 in the country with three sacks per game in 2013.

"One thing we need to focus on is protecting the quarterback no matter what," said junior right tackle Taj Alexander. "Whether Gary is coming back from a concussion or not, it's something that we need to improve on. We don't like how much the quarterback has been touched up to this point. That's one thing we're focusing on."

Kaleb Johnson matched up at left tackle against Arkansas as a sophomore, but moved inside to his natural left guard position during the offseason. Protecting Nova, his roommate, remains his top priority on Saturday against a rotation of four defensive tackles that average 6-foot-2, 322 pounds.

"We expect [Arkansas] to go after our quarterback, but that's every game," Johnson said. "We don't want anybody to touch our quarterbacks ever. Obviously because of the injury we will have more of an emphasis on it."

Protection roles also depend on the status of starting center Betim Bujari, who missed the Eastern Michigan game with a head injury. Assignments in pass protection come through Nova and the center, making Bujari's experience at reading defenses and making play calls critical in his expected return.

If Bujari does not play, the job falls to senior Dallas Hendrikson, who handled duties against Eastern Michgian.


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