Preview of the RU Offensive line for 2008

This article is the first of a ten part review of the Rutgers football team as we speculate on depth for each area of the team for next season. In 2007 spirits may have been dampened and critics came out of the closet, but the 2008 Scarlet Knights may be a sleeping beauty set to reawaken. As with every year, Rutgers fans have a new hope.

It all starts up front. Offensive Line Coach Kyle Flood has done an outstanding job since arriving on The Banks, and each season has managed to put together a group of quality blockers. The Rutgers offensive production has improved each year since his arrival, with the current team credited with a record setting season. Average rushing yards, passing yards and points per game all exceeded the 2006 standard. Although total sacks given up increased from 8 to 10, there were 54 additional pass attempts, 298 vs. 352. This year’s line will be losing three veteran starters who will most likely be plying their trade on Sundays. The three represent their all important bookend tackles, both named to the All Big East team, and a massive but mobile guard. Obviously this is an area of concern for many, myself included. Coach Flood with the assistance of Strength and Conditioning Director Jay Butler will have their work cut out for them, but they are a proven commodity for this program and I have no reason to doubt their ability to do it again.

Starters Lost

  • T – Jeremy Zuttah 6’4” 295 A first team All Big East selection, he was a major recruit out of high school, who became an immediate starter after amazing the staff with his ability.
  • T – Pedro Sosa 6’5” 305 A second team All Big East selection, he was the top lineman in his Rutgers recruiting class who was initially considered a project player by some, in need of confidence and about 50 lbs of muscle.
  • G – Mike Fladell 6’8” 320 The first “big” lineman to commit to Rutgers, many thought not only was he a project player when he arrived at a soft 380 lbs, but one that may not make it. Diligence and hard work resulted in two great years up front.

Returning Starters

  • C – Ryan Blaszczyk 6’4” 285 rsJR Recruited as a DT, the first team all-state player was asked to switch to center. Ryan now has a full year of experience under his belt and will most likely remain the starter for 2008. To improve, I’d like to see him add about 10 lbs of pure strength to his frame. If he were to learn to be a proficient long snapper his personal stock would soar dramatically.
  • G – Anthony Davis 6’6” 320 SO The most highly touted recruit in the history of the school, a High School All-American, ranked in the top 10 at his position, he did not disappoint the coaches or the fans. A year of experience coupled with another year of conditioning he should become an early candidate for All Big East. His size, strength, athleticism, quick feet and ability to move downfield for blocks, makes him an indispensible player. He may be asked to move to left tackle to protect the blindside of the Rutgers quarterback, while opening holes off tackle.


  • G/T – Kevin Haslam 6’7” 280 rsJR Not heavily recruited out of high school, but believed to have the athleticism to be either an offensive or defensive lineman, he gained muscle, worked his way onto the two deep, and has been both a starter and top backup at both guard and tackle. Kevin needs to become much stronger, gaining about 20lbs of muscle, as he was overpowered at times by defensive tackles and some of the rush ends he faced. His best position may be right tackle, where he need not go up against shorter, powerful defensive tackles.
  • G/T – Mike Gilmartin 6’5” 295 rsSR Considered a solid recruit out of Estero, Fla. HS, and a “good get” for Rutgers, Mike experienced his first start as a redshirt freshman against Buffalo. He’s become a mainstay on field goal and extra point units and may be ready to contribute next year.
  • C/G – Caleb Ruch 6’4” 290 rsFR A top Pennsylvania lineman from Quakertown Pa. HS, Caleb has worked very hard to resculpt his body into that of an imposing line prospect. Although he may be our center of the future, Caleb may have the tools to contribute immediately at guard. A strong young man with good run blocking skills, he may be the answer to offsetting the abilities of the defensive tackles.
  • G/T – Keith Newell 6’6” 290 rsFR Another high profile recruit from Trenton NJ, he declined offers from many “big program” schools, including Ohio State, to stay at home with Rutgers. Although banged up a bit in practice during 2007, he’s an intriguing candidate that may make some noise during the spring and summer sessions
  • G/T – Howard Barbieri 6’5” 300 rsSO Not heavily recruited out of Middletown South HS, he joined Rutgers as a walk-on candidate, working his way onto the depth chart. Obviously athletic, he actually saw time as a blocking tight end. Committed to success, he may become a long term diamond in the rough, as was Giants center Shaun O’Hara.
  • G/T – Moe Lange 6’7” 320 rsSO A native of Germany and a soccer player as a young boy, he was a late find for the Scarlet Knights coming out of Hillsborough HS. Limited to only two years of high school football, he is another intriguing big man. He played all 12 games on the extra point and field goal units as a guard, but clearly needs to slim down and bulk back up with pure muscle. He looked good for his age during last year’s spring game. I like him.
  • T – Desmond Stapleton 6’5” 310 rsFR Brother of former RU center Darnell Stapleton, he was a top prospect out of Union HS. An athletic player with a mean streak he has the ability to work his way onto the two deep.
  • T – Richard Muldrow 6’6” 300 rsFR An imposing figure on the sideline while he redshirted, it’s now up to him to commit to greatness. He appears to have an athletic frame and certainly looks the part, but he needs to develop confidence and display an attitude on the practice field.
  • C – Marlon Romulus 6’3” 285 rsSO He had nice reviews and many accolades coming out of high school, but he needs to step up and work harder so as not to get lost amongst these great young linemen. His value and future may lie strictly at center, where he should have the time to develop while gaining self confidence..

Other Candidates

  • Wayne Thomas – 6’5” 290 rsFR Although recruited as a defensive tackle, he personifies the value to a D1 program of signing big athletes. He has the physique, feet and natural strength to be an outstanding offensive lineman.
  • Desmond Wynn – 6’6” 270 rsFR another defensive line recruit who is an imposing figure with a mean streak. A young candidate that could easily carry 305lbs. I like mean, athletic offensive linemen and Desmond may fit best in this area.
  • Art Forst – 6’8” 290 trFR Scheduled to enroll this January, he is a major recruit who turned down offers from Notre Dame and Florida. It would be best if he could redshirt for a year, but if he has nearly the ability of Jeremy Zuttah or Anthony Davis, he may see playing time sooner than imagined.
  • Devon Watkis – 6’7” 280 trFR Another highly regarded recruit. He looks like a player and is built like a player. You can’t coach size and the staff likes him… a lot.

That’s fifteen candidates for the three deep chart. To the surprise of some, I’ve included two defensive linemen that I feel could be tremendous players on the offensive side of the ball. When I cover the defensive front, I think you’ll find we may have adequate depth without Thomas and Wynn. These candidates represent a very young, athletic, highly regarded group with twelve of them ranging from true freshman to redshirt sophomores. All but two of the fifteen will have the advantage of bowl game practice time, plus, all but one candidate will be on hand for winter conditioning and spring practice. At least 8 players need to develop quickly and begin to work together with the two returning starters. Come September, they will all be a year older with another year of practice time. Five solid starters is a guarantee, while the actual two deep may not be completely determined until the final weeks of August. Time has shown that Kyle Flood is great at what he does and can be trusted to be the coach that blends these kids into another formidable unit.

Coming next: a review of the defensive front

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