Ready To Take His Starting Position

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Mike Gilmartin makes his way through the locker room, tapes his fingers and prepares for coach Schiano's pre-game speech. Unlike most starters though,

Gilmartin only has one year to extend Rutgers' offensive line legacy.

"I feel like last year I was still learning from (Jeremy) Zuttah, and I think that's probably been going on for the past four years really, learning from all the guys I was a backup for," the fifth-year senior offensive lineman said. "But this year I get the chance, with Art (Forst) behind me, teach him, and while I'm teaching him, skills I'm reminding myself of."

Although the PA announcer rarely introduced Gilmartin as a starter, in fact, only once in his collegiate career, he confidently prepared throughout his final training camp for an extended role this season.

"I personally feel like I've come out here and competed," he said. "By earning a certain job, I feel like I've completed what I wanted to get done right now, a lot of good competition with out defensive line with Jamaal (Westerman), George (Johnson) and Pete (Tverdov).

Initially a right guard, Gilmartin rotated to tackle following shoulder surgery.

"I had an injury, right shoulder surgery in Jan. ‘07 and I spent a lot of the offseason rehabbing it and getting back to strength by fall camp," he said of last year's training session. "I was just getting there, but then I moved back out to right tackle.

"I was in the mix for right guard but midway through camp, I started taking more right tackle reps. It was best for the team. Zuttah needed a backup and the coaches felt like I was a good move for that."

But the circumstances have changed. The Knights three O-linemen, Mike Fladell, Pedro Sosa and Zuttah, who earned the limelight for their quarterback protection of Mike Teel, have since graduated. Anthony Davis has shifted to left tackle and Forst has quickly progressed since he joined the program in the spring semester.

"Coach Schiano and (Offensive Line) coach (Kyle) Flood always talk about how they put the best 11 on the field and what really drives that is competition between all the O-linemen," Gilmartin said.

That competition increased with the addition of Forst, listed at 6-8 310-pounds.

"I don't really put too much thought into that ‘he just came out of high school,'" Gilmartin said of Forst. "He's still a big guy. He looks like a college offensive lineman. The age thing isn't that big of a deal, but I just have to show my best and hopefully do anything I need to start."

From Zuttah to Gilmartin and eventually to Forst and his successors, the Scarlet Knights' rich offensive line tradition commences outside Rutgers Stadium.

"Oh yeah, we're a very tight group of guys off the field and we always hang out together," Gilmartin said. "What's important and what the coaches think is important, bringing that camaraderie onto the line, and that's another important thing we tried to establish this camp."

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