Marcus Applefield is his own toughest critic, but even he is proud of his performance last week under fire.
Applefield saw his first significant action as a Rutgers football player, and it came in front of 103,000 opposing fans after starter Chris Muller went down with a leg injury.
“Of course even if you’re an artist you’re not going to think your work is as good as it is,” Applefield said. “I look at every tiny little thing that I’m doing. That could have been better. Then people are coming up to me saying, you did a great job. Myself, I know what I need to improve.”
The red-shirt freshman from Weeki Wachee, Fla., could be in line for his first start Saturday against Kansas. Muller could not return against Penn State, and Applefield is the next in line.
“I would just take it as any other regular game or practice,” Applefield said. “I’m just going out there to do what I’m taught to do. I don’t think there’s anything special about it. I love football. That’s what I do. It will be a cool experience obviously, but my job is to put my hand in the dirt and go to work.”
Applefield is effectively Rutgers’ sixth man because of his versatility on the line. He spent most of training camp as the backup left tackle, then moved to right tackle after Zack Heeman returned from injury.
He worked at center during spring practice, and both guard spots since the start of the season.
“It’s two totally different skill sets you have to learn,” Applefield said. “At guard, you’re in a coffin and at tackle you’re sitting back. I think that once you understand one, the second will be easier. If you’re at guard and go to tackle, you’ll always know what the new guard is doing because that used to be your job. I know what the guy next to me is doing.
“It’s extremely helpful to [know every position]. I’ll stress to other guys that won’t play other positions that they still need to learn them. I’ve had to learn all of the positions, and that makes me a better football player.”
Applefield said he received praise from offensive line coach Mitch Browning for his Penn State performance.
“I didn’t do a bad job,” he said. “I did a pretty good job, and he complimented me on a good job filling in. We didn’t talk much more about it than that. I need to get more comfortable with being at guard. Of course I feel good, but I need to adapt to working with both the center and the tackle. It’s different than when I’m at tackle.”