Rutgers returns both starting tackles in 2014, but has depth concerns behind them to answer in training camp. With one serious NFL prospect and a budding position battle as the leading storylines, ScarletReport.com takes a deeper look at offensive tackle.
Junior Keith Lumpkin will have major eyes on him this year when it comes to NFL scouts. Lumpkin is in his fourth year under Rutgers offensive line tutelage and he now adds Big Ten to his resume. Lumpkin started all 13 games as a sophomore after a strong spring camp won him the job. Lumpkin brings basketball footwork, a 6-foot-8 frame and even larger wing span. He’ll need it all to protect his starting quarterback’s blind side in the Big Ten.
Look for seniors Taj Alexander and Bryan Leoni to make for an interesting battle in training camp at right tackle. Alexander has starting experience. Leoni has the edge coming out of the spring. Alexander sat out most of spring with an injury while Leoni impressed at right tackle. Leoni also offers versatility as the fifth-year senior walk-on has playing experience at all five positions on the line.
Alexander has been solid since moving from the defensive line three years ago. He started four games in 2012 and 10 in 2013 in constant competition with Andre Civil. The competition likely continues in camp with Leoni, who will be just as important as a backup elsewhere.
Sophomore Ryan Brodie came to Rutgers with lofty expectations and he still has plenty of time to develop as an offensive lineman. Brodie likely rounds off the two deep at tackle, and could throw his name into the mix with a strong training camp under new offensive line coach Mitch Browning.
Freshman Marcus Applefield began his development after enrolling early. He has the edge over other 2014 signees Zack Heeman, Jacquis Webb and Tariq Cole. All four expect to begin their time as tackles at Rutgers.
Head coach Kyle Flood went into spring concerned about depth on the offensive line and left feeling better after what Leoni showed him through 15 practices. Leoni both provides a push to Alexander on the right and a strong backup barring injury at other positions. Lumpkin is NFL material at left tackle, and has a tough decision to make this December if he mimics his 2013 success in the Big Ten.