Hate to Love for RU's new OG Antwan Lowery

Rutgers red-shirt freshman Antwan Lowery came in as a heralded defensive tackle recruit, but in the offseason asked to be moved to offensive line. He had his first practice there Tuesday, and he gave himself mixed reviews. Lowery talks about the move, the work ahead, why he did it and who is helping him the most with the transition. Find out all those answers inside.

PISCATAWAY – Antwan Lowery stayed on his block until it was time head to the second level, when he sought out middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais.

So, Lowery lined up the block, moved toward his target and …

Air. And not the did-you-see-my-vert type of air..

"He put a move on me and I went right by him,'' Lowery said.

During any other time during Lowery's football career, it would have been perfect. The problem now is Lowery is no longer dodging blocks, he's supposed to make them.

Lowery, the heralded red-shirt defensive tackle recruit from Miami in the 2009 class, made the move to offensive line in January after spending the fall on scout team defense trimming nearly 50 pounds. His first practice came Tuesday, when he lined up as the right guard with the second team offense.

"I did better than I thought I would, just in listening,'' Lowery said. "It's all about listening. It's all about hearing what the center says. I came out kind of nervous, but as the practice want on, I was looking at Caleb (Ruch) and Howard (Barbieri) call plays and then it was going smooth.''

The only other time the 6-foot-43, 315-pound Lowery played offensive line was as a freshman in high school. It was for one game, and Lowery didn't envision a future there.

"I hated it because I was so in love with defense, running and hitting and everything and stuff like that,'' he said. "College is a different level. You have an opportunity to go to the NFL. You have an opportunity to blossom at the position.

"I feel like with my size and weight and strength and the coaches guiding me, I feel like I can definitely get to the next level on the offensive line.''

Now, Lowery categorizes his level of contentment playing offensive line in a much different way.

"I love it,'' Lowery said while shaking his head and smiling. "Love it. Absolutely love it.''

What makes the move better for Lowery, and for Rutgers, is how it materialized.

Both parties wanted it, but it was Lowery who made the first move. Upon returning from winter break, he met with coach Greg Schiano to discuss the move.

"I was excited. I was in coach's office and I brought it up to him,'' Lowery said. "He said, ‘I was going to talk to you about it anyway.' I talked to him about it. I put in the work from Day One.

"I got my playbook and got everything settled in, and from there I've been studying and trying to get my feet wet with technique, and everything else.''

Lowery immediately began gleaning knowledge from his experienced teammates. He typically hangs out with Barbieri, Art Forst and Desmond Stapleton, who are projected to be three-fifths of the starting offensive line.

And Lowery has turned into a film-aholic.

"I went home for spring break and I was on the airplane with my portable DVD looking at film,'' he said. "I was even at home looking at film, got back and was looking at film.

"It's definitely a new move where I have to watch film, and have to be in my playbook because offensive line is not easy. If you don't know your plays, you're not going to play. There's a lot of detail.''

Not to mention oodles of work.

Lowery is tremendously athletic, has quick feet, understands pad levels and is strong. He also has no base in his memory for playing offensive line, so everything (including the color of his practice jersey) is new.

"It will be a learning curve, we are not naive to that,'' Schiano said during his pre-spring practice press conference. "It is good that we are doing it in the spring and he gets a chance to work at it. If he is as natural as I think he will be, he will have a chance to compete for playing time."

One day of practice taught Lowery one of the many lessons still ahead, and accentuated one of the early things he needs to improve.

"Coming off of the linebackers and breaking down,'' Lowery said. "My biggest thing is holding on to a double team as long as I can, then move on to the linebacker, break him down and block him.''

Well, that's the plan, anyway. Sometimes an agile linebacker isn't too interested in the "blocking him'' part.

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