Looking ahead: TEs

Questions about whether Rutgers tight end Shamar Graves will be back for the 2010 season makes for an interesting tight end situation. The Scarlet Knights have plenty of talent, but most of it lacks experience. If Graves is not part of the upcoming season, what does it mean for the rest of the tight ends? And when will the Scarlet Knights know if he is back?

The experience D.C. Jefferson gained at tight end in 2009 will be invaluable in 2010 because he may be Rutgers' most experienced tight end.

Shamar Graves' return is in the NCAA's hands. He did not receive a medical red-shirt despite playing in only two games before injuries cost him the rest of his freshman season.

Because of that, a favorable NCAA appeal ruling is needed for Graves to play in 2010. Otherwise, he will have exhausted his eligibility with his 14-catch, 159-yard season in 2009. A decision could be months away.

If Graves does not return, it leaves the Scarlet Knights' tight end situation in the hands of the youngsters, led by Jefferson.

The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Jefferson, who will be a third-year sophomore, showed flashes of ability in the passing and blocking aspects, but now must utilize the offseason to train his body and mind to be a tight end after spending his football life as a quarterback. Consistency is vital to his development.

Jefferson's size and athleticism could give the Scarlet Knights' a wonderful mismatch on offense, but only if he is committed in the offseason. Jefferson had five catches for 108 yards during the season, but his blocking was suspect, which was anticipated since he made the move from quarterback late in training camp and had to learn on the go.

But Jefferson possesses the skills to become Rutgers' next great tight end, following Marco Battaglia, L.J. Smith and Clark Harris.

The Scarlet Knights are also extremely high on a pair of freshmen who red-shirted in 6-foot-4, 230-pound Malcolm Bush and 6-foot-2, 250-pound Paul Carrezola. Both players possess tremendous skill sets to get down the field and make catches, and big frames to be formidable in run blocking.

Both players made enormous strides while red-shirting but the question, more so with Bush, is how they will respond to the offseason workout programs.

Walk-on Tony Trahan played early as a true freshman and caught two passes for 27 yards, but he lined up primarily in the slot to take advantage of his size and speed down the field. Blocking was an issue for the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Trahan, who must increase his strength markedly in the offseason to factor into the position now that Bush and Carrezola will be ready to play.

Converted defensive end Evan Lampert was a run-blocking specialist, used when the Scarlet Knights were in obvious short-yardage running situations. It is a niche should continue to play in

. Also, it is time for 6-foot-4, 245-Fabian Ruiz to show he is ready to contribute offensively. He was one of the top tight ends out of Miami in the 2007 class, but injured his freshman season and relegated to special teams thereafter.

Even before the Scarlet Knights learned the possibility Graves will not return is very real, the comfort they had in the tight end position was obvious given the way they approached the 2010 class.

Rutgers offered several players, including Barnegat (N.J.) High and Boston College-bound Jarrett Darmstatter, but it was never a high priority and the Scarlet Knights are not signing a tight end in February.

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