The Rutgers quarterback battle is the headline-grabber, but someone has to get him the ball. Center and the offensive line as a whole are equally important battles for head coach Kyle Flood in training camp.
The former offensive line coach wants his old group settled early in training camp in what he called “One-A” in terms of its importance as a position battle.
“I don’t know if I’d use the word concern, but the most important decisions we’ll make because of how the game is played will be quarterback first and offensive line second,” Flood said. “I think there’s no doubt about that. … Football in the Big Ten starts up front and you can’t play football without a quarterback that makes great decisions.”
Flood rotated right tackles last season, and platoon jobs could be in store yet again for the 2015 season.
“That offensive line situation, I don’t see us playing five,” Flood said. “I see us playing more than five players. Who those players are right now, I couldn’t tell you. I really feel good about those players that are at that position. I’m really excited about those young guys but they’re still competing for a starting job.”
All three interior offensive line spots come with question marks in training camp. Sophomore Dorian Miller is a heavy favorite at left guard, but it isn’t his job yet. The center battle comes down to how much young gun Derrick Nelson shows compared to the versatile and experienced Chris Muller.
Right guard belongs to Muller if he stays there, otherwise the job opens up for another newcomer.
“Is Chris Muller a right guard or is Chris Muller a center? I don’t know that yet,” Flood said. “I think we’ve got a lot of work to do this training camp. When you play a game against an FCS opponent week one, it’s a great test for us to make sure that we’re doing what we say we’re going to do. That’s playing our best game every week. We need to do that. There’s enough examples around the country of teams that don’t show up and get beat.”
Left tackle Keith Lumpkin is the most entrenched in his role. Heading into his fifth and final college training camp, the big bookend spoke highly of young players like Miller, Cole and Marcus Applefield.
“These young guys, they’re hungry,” Lumpkin said. “Ever since our last game where the seniors left, once that next time came where we could all be together and lift, they really attacked it. It’s exciting to see what will come Aug. 10 when we start practice, what the younger guys are going to bring to the table. I know they’ve been working extremely hard and competing against each other in the weight room and on the field.”