Big Ten Overview: Offense

Rutgers is six weeks away from the Big Ten, and learned a lot about itself during 15 spring practices. The roster returns to campus in less than two weeks for summer workouts, and ScarletReport.com is here to overview the Scarlet Knights – continuing with offense.

Rutgers received juice from unexpected faces on the offense during the 2013 season while battling through quarterback questions and inconsistency.

The quarterback position goes into camp without a starter officially named, but five returning starters on the offensive line, a big-name hire at offensive coordinator and growing depth at tailback are all reasons for excitement heading into the Big Ten.


Quarterback

Barring injury or earthshattering developments, Gary Nova is in line to start against Washington State. Coach Kyle Flood refrained from closing the quarterback battle this spring, but it remains Nova's job to lose after a solid spring and no others stepping up to challenge him consistently.

Nova's turnover numbers were down in spring. The production from all quarterbacks remained limited because of inconsistencies at wide receiver. Junior Mike Bimonte took the biggest step forward in terms of efficiency. He put himself in a position to win the backup job while Chris Laviano showed the need for more developmental time and Blake Rankin left the program.

Nova approaches his fourth year as a starter or co-starter at his position, with the chance to sit at 30 starts when Penn State comes to town to open Big Ten play.


Tight End

Tight end will continue to be the Tyler Kroft show in 2014 after an All-American sophomore season at the position. Kroft continues to improve as a blocker, and should be fresh for camp after resting during spring practice on the injury report.

Rutgers could use a boost when it comes to blocking tight ends, meaning room for true freshmen George Behr and Logan Lister to see the field.

Sophomore Nick Arcidiacono made the most of spring opportunities. With Kroft down, Arcidiacono worked as the starter for most of spring and played well. Arcidiacono improved his strength, and was one of the most consistent receiving targets on the roster.


Offensive Line

Three starters and two co-starters return to an offensive line that will be under the spotlight in a conference known for NFL caliber blocking. Rutgers battled some injuries this spring, which allowed for younger players to make cases for spots on the two-deep.

Rutgers projects to have all five starters healthy for training camp, and has a better depth outlook with emerging names like J.J. Denman, Derrick Nelson and Bryan Leoni.

Star Watch -- LT Keith Lumpkin– The 6-foot-8 big man has done nothing but improve since taking over the starting job at the end of 2013 spring practice. Lumpkin is light on his feet as a former basketball players, and his height does not stop him from bending when needed. This junior 100 percent looks the part of a Big Ten blindside protector, and he can expect plenty of scouts to express interesting during the season.

Underrated -- C Betim Bujari – Bujari never gets enough credit, and some of that comes with injury issues over the last two seasons. He was off his game with injuries as a junior, but was nearly unbeatable during spring practice. He brings a nasty blocking mentality to center, and is the most crucial piece to the 2014 offensive line best on depth, production and leadership.

Something to Prove-- RT Taj Alexander – Alexander battled with Andre Civil for playing time last season, and had some strong moments at the position. Injuries kept him off the field for most of spring camp and a strong surge by Leoni has Alexander needing to show something in summer training camp. Alexander projects to win the job, but will have to earn it in camp.

Wildcard -- OL Bryan Leoni – The fifth-year senior walk-on can fill in at every position with practice reps at all five over the last two camps. Leoni is finally built into what he wanted to be after dropping more than 100 pounds in high school. Look for value as a sixth man and the chance to push for a starting spot in training camp.


Receivers

Injury and consistency issues arose in spring practice. Depth remains a concern heading into the summer, where Rutgers lost two players to the NFL and brings in only Dre Boggs and walk-on Ntwademela Perry. Rutgers continues to explore fifth-year options at the position with a group of young, inexperienced players rising on the depth chart.

Star Watch -- Leonte Carroo – He probably will not be the best receiver in the country despite the way his teammates bill him. But Carroo is going to be one of the true faces of Rutgers' first Big Ten season. He was beyond explosive as a sophomore before his injuries at SMU and UCF shut him down for the season. Carroo, specifically in the fourth quarter, led to special stat lines from quarterback Gary Nova.

Underrated -- Ruhann Peele – This sophomore proved he can be a playmaker at any position. He went down for surgery midway through spring camp, and needs to be back as a physical, aggressive receiver in the slot. Peele was Chas Dodd's top receiver after he moved back to the position for good in game 10. He caught a team-high 10 passes for 118 yards in the final three games of the season. Peele likely lost ground to Janarion Grant based on spring production, and will need to earn it back in summer 7-on-7 workouts.

Something to Prove -- Carlton Agudosi – Bigger and more developed than last season, the 6-foot-6 Agudosi needs to build consistency before he takes his place as an every-down receiver. Agudosi gets open, and is aggressive in the red zone. His hands proved unreliable in spring practice, and he will have to show improvement before the staff can trust him with a major role.

Wildcard -- Janarion Grant – Grant is x-factor of the Rutgers offense. What does Friedgen have planned for the electric special teams standout? Grant is getting better on the line of scrimmage, and clearly impressed the coaching staff with what he did in spring practice. He once scored six different ways in a high school game, and brings an incredible amount of versatility to what Friedgen does when it comes to trick plays.


Running Backs

The story starts with former walk-on Paul James, and continues with a crop of young players. Senior Savon Huggins' offseason surgery keeps his availability in question while Desmon Peoples gained significant ground in spring camp.

James is locked into the starting spot against Washington State, barring injury. Injuries remain a concern for James, who has been unable to stay healthy for a full season since his junior year of high school. Durability is a concern for Peoples, but assignments are less of one after what he showed this spring. Peoples improved in the playbook as a pass protector. He improved his ball security as well.

Sophomore Justin Goodwin made big plays behind strong blocking last season. His triple overtime winner at SMU was one of the plays of the year for the Scarlet Knights. Goodwin consistently lost playing time as the season went on because of inconsistent blocking and missed assignments. Goodwin saw limited action in spring before the staff shut him down. Training camp will be about improving the little things for Goodwin.


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