OL and backfield complement each other

PISCATAWAY, N.J. - In football, there are important relationships on the field, between center and quarterback, middle linebacker and his defensive corps, and another that should not go unnoticed: between an offensive lineman and his backfield.

Prior to the 2007 campaign, Rutgers' football program recruited Anthony Davis to clear the way for running backs Mason Robinson and Kordell Young.

That rapport will be crucial in 2008, as Robinson slowly matures into an extended role, especially with Young still rehabilitating an injured knee and Ray Rice's early departure for the NFL draft.

Robinson believes that Davis has not nearly peaked, barely reaching the tip of the iceberg.

"AD, has a lot of potential. He's going to keep growing mentally and since he's young, he's going to keep getting stronger," Robinson said of the Piscataway native. "The scary part about it is that he hasn't shown what he can do yet. Once everything starts clicking and he knows everything as second nature, that's going to be scary once you'll see what he can do."

During the huddle, there is little time to appreciate Davis's capabilities, only in the film room.

"It's going real quick (in a game), you can't stop and be a fan, you have to keep going, but once you watch film and see what he's (Davis) doing, it's like whoa," Robinson said.

Running behind a much younger line will present a challenge for both Robinson and Young, when he will make an expected return by the second half of spring training, according to head coach Greg Schiano.

The nationally recognized trio of Jeremy Zuttah, Pedro Sosa and Mike Fladell graduated, but not before leaving their mark at Rutgers. Throughout their praiseworthy career, they allowed Ray Rice and Brian Leonard to run free, while rarely permitting a sack of quarterback Mike Teel. In fact, defenses barely reached Teel at all, tying for the nation's second best in terms of fewest sacks allowed, in Football's Bowl Subdivision.

With the threesome now having left to pursue a promising NFL career, the youth must grow up quickly to replace them.

"There are young guys on the line now that are good, that have the potential to be great," Robinson said. "With AD, you can run behind him anywhere and you know you are going to benefit."

Davis, a true sophomore, signed with Rutgers, after receiving offers to play for basically the entire nation. The Scarlet Knights have certainly reaped his run- and pass-blocking benefits.

"Watching film and understanding what his job is, I can start pre-reading the run a little bit and see holes that might be there, that if you didn't watch film, you wouldn't know," Robinson said.

Moreover, Davis started as a freshman, a feat rarely seen of offensive linemen, gaining experience before making the difficult transition to left tackle where he will be protecting Teel's blind side in the upcoming season.

Meanwhile, Robinson attributes his quick learning to Young, who competed briefly in 2007 before his season-ending surgery.

"Kordell's going to help anyway he can," Robinson said. "When we're watching film together, or when he's out here, he's going to tell you what the defense is going to do. I'll lean over and ask him what he sees in this situation."

Although Robinson and Young maintain similar physique and styles, each adds a different dimension to the offense.

"We both benefit off each other because our styles are different, but very similar," 5'10 180-pound Robinson said of his 5-9 185-pound teammate. "We make similar cuts, but there is some stuff that he may see differently than I do. That's where we can both help each other out."

It certainly helps running behind Davis, a 6-6 350-pound massive force, who earned First Team Freshman All-American honors by the Football Writers Association of America last year.

When asked for one word to describe the Jersey native and integral lineman, Robinson quickly said, "Potential."

Now that's scary.

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