Spring Warm Up: Burning Questions

What are the biggest questions around Rutgers football when spring camp begins two weeks from now in Piscataway? Scout attended virtually every spring practice of the Kyle Flood era, and looks ahead to another one inside.

5. Who fills the gaps? -- The defensive line is three men down in what could be as large as a 10-player rotation. No David Milewiski, Daryl Stephenson or Kenneth Kirksey means room for young players in critical Big Ten roles. Guys like Kemoko Turay and Sebastian Joseph go from support players to impact responsibilities, but who steps in behind them?

Spring practice should include the emergence of names like red-shirt freshman nose tackle Kevin Wilkins, red-shirt freshman end Jimmy Hogan, red-shirt freshman three-technique Eric Wiafe and sophomore R Myles Nash.

4. Where do Hester and Johnson fit? -- Safety Kiy Hester and linebacker Isaiah Johnson mark two impact additions to the spring roster. Hester, a former Scout four star and Miami transfer, is finally eligible. Rutgers has experienced names in both Delon Stephenson and Davon Jacobs at the position, but Hester outperforming both is a possibility.

Johnson begins spring as L.J. Liston’s replacement at middle linebacker, but he is not a lock to stay there. Could Johnson move to the weakside and allow Steve Longa back at his best position? What if Johnson struggles and Kaiwan Lewis catches fire after he joins the roster?

3. What changes come on the offensive line? -- Rutgers lost three multi-year starters on its line, and has just 10 bodies fresh for spring practice. It could be a rough spring for the line, with much more experience on Jim Panagos’ side than Mitch Browning’s. The Scarlet Knights still have left tackle Keith Lumpkin as its anchor, but a lot of uncertainty elsewhere.

The biggest question mark checks in at center, where sophomore Derrick Nelson has minimal experience and Chris Muller worked as a backup in 2014. Left guard Kaleb Johnson and Taj Alexander also require replacements, but will Dorian Miller and J.J. Denman answer the call?

2. How does life change under McDaniels? -- Newly promoted coordinator Ben McDaniels is a BCS play-caller for the first time, and that means change from the Ralph Friedgen days. Another year and another offensive coordinator for the Rutgers offense means tough transition. The faster McDaniels installs his terminology and philosophy, the better.

McDaniels has the endorsement of Friedgen, and an impressive pedigree despite his lack of play-calling experience. An endorsement, however, does not force McDaniels to stick with the same offense. McDaniels has a new starting quarterback to mold, a less experienced offensive line and one of the best wide receivers in college football.

1. Is there one answer? -- When you have two quarterbacks, you really don’t have any (unless you’re Ohio State). Rutgers has its most anticipated quarterback battle in a decade, and it intensifies this spring. Sophomores Hayden Rettig and Chris Laviano get their most significant opportunities to date when the Scarlet Knights return to the F-3 turf in less than two weeks.

This is a battle destined for training camp, but Rutgers needs one guy to step up and take the job. Flood showed with his management of Gary Nova that he is a one-quarterback coach. The longer the quarterback battle drags, the harder it becomes for proper season preparation. Give both a fair shot in spring with the first team via scrimmage situations, and enter the summer with a clear plan at the position.

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