Spring review: The Offensive Line

Injuries kept a few key members of Rutgers' offensive line out of parts or all of spring practice, but it allowed some of the young and inexperienced players an opportunity to prove their abilities. Although plenty of work is still needed on the offensive line, plenty was learned by the mixing and matching that took place.

Many questions were answered during spring practice, but a glaring uncertainty remains the state of the offensive line.

With a shoulder injury keeping Desmond Wynn out and a knee injury ending center Howard Barbieri's spring after only a few of the practices, the mixing and matching continued throughout much of the 15 practices.

More problems arose when tackle Devon Watkis (ankle) and guard Antwan Lowery (hand) were injured late in spring practice, but all was not lost.

Desmond Stapleton did well at left tackle, Lowery showed he can be a dominant offensive lineman in time, freshman Betim Bujari proved he should be ready to play in September and Art Forst got experience at right tackle, in case something goes awry during the season and he needs to move from right guard.

Rutgers also learned it needs to find a reliable backup center, and got plenty of reps for its young and inexperienced players.

The offensive line could undergo a transformation by the Sept. 2 opener against Norfolk State, but there is an outline of what the first unit will look like when training camp opens.

Based on Stapleton's strong spring, expect him to slot in at the crucial left tackle position as he protects quarterback Tom Savage's blind side. Bujari, who possesses the strength and athleticism to play immediately, likely will open at left guard, with the unit's leader, Barbieri, playing center.

Forst got plenty of looks at right tackle, but his home to start training camp will be at right guard and Wynn, providing his shoulder is healthy, should open at right tackle.

On paper, it is a solid offensive line with plenty of room for development since Barbieri is the only senior.

Depth wasn't settled, but it did gain clarity. Getting Forst experience at right tackle was crucial so he could move there during the season in case of injury to either Stapleton or Wynn, who would move to left tackle if Stapleton is injured.

Lowery, the converted defensive tackle, proved he belongs on the two-deep. Although backup center David Osei, a red-shirt freshman, had a few snap issues, he is strong, smart and showed improved technique and could factor into the two-deep if he can beat out red-shirt junior Caleb Ruch, who can also serve as a backup at either guard position.

Watkis spent plenty of time getting reps with the first unit, but he will have to have a big training camp, or there will have to be an injury, to unseat either Stapleton or Wynn at the tackle positions.

Fifth-year senior Mo Lange finished the season playing right guard with the first team, but that was because of injuries. He will have to make a big leap to factor into the two-deep.

Neiher Jamal Wilson, Matt Harison nor Richard Muldrow stood out, and will have to battle to prove they deserve two-deep consideration.

Hofstra transfer Matt McBride was interesting in that he showed good technique, but strength is an obvious issue for him. True freshman Frank Quartucci learned good pad level and proper technique are keys to success in college. He struggled with both, but should be markedly better in the fall because of the spring experience.


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