's Top 25: C Howard Barbieri (No. 15)

Rutgers fifth-year senior Howard Barbieri wore many different hats for the Scarlet Knights, but the one he is putting on this season gives him the most responsibility. Barbieri moved from guard to center in the offseason, and for this he is No. 15 in's daily series counting down the Top 25 most important players of the 2010 season.

Howard Barbieri played tight end, left tackle, left guard and right guard during the last three seasons. If he was asked to return punts, hey, without batting an eye he would embrace the challenge.

That is the type of commitment he has for the Scarlet Knights.

He is also a film junkie, a team leader, the consummate teammate and, as Art Forst told in the spring, never late for anything. Never.

For those desiring examples, Barbieri sets a tremendous one.

His current charge is not only to become the head of the offensive line as he moves to center for his red-shirt senior season, but to mold the unit into a synchronic group capable of re-establishing a running game and protecting quarterback Tom Savage.

Those reasons make Barbieri No. 15 on's countdown of the Top 25 most important players for the 2010 season.

With the graduation of Ryan Blaszczyk and none of the other centers on the roster developed to the point of leading the offensive line, the cerebral and hard-working Barbieri was moved from right guard after the 2009 season.

Barbieri's development in the spring was curtailed by a knee injury a few practices in, but he said earlier this month he is healthy and ready to begin training camp.

The 6-foot-5, 304-pound Barbieri is smart and picks up offensive concepts well, and has the mind to make the offensive line blocking calls as defensive fronts change during pre-snap reads. He also has the strength and understanding of pad level to be an effective blocker in the running game.

All the aforementioned is tremendous, but where Barbieri's value is immeasurable is in the locker and meeting rooms, and on the practice field. His credibility is high within the team structure because he rose to a starting position after beginning his career as a walk-on out of Middletown (N.J.) South High.

In fact, after red-shirting in 2006, Barbieri began the following season as a left tackle, but moved to a blocking tight end role out of necessity.

In 2008, Barbieri returned to the offensive line and made three starts before becoming a fixture last season. His versatility was also on display when he began the season starting at left guard but finished the season as the starting right guard. In all, he made 10 starts last season as the coaching staff tinkered with the interior of the line in an attempt to find a successful combination.

His chore entering the 2010 season is to prove he has the mental and physical capacity to run the offensive line during games, and also make the unit more cohesive and functional than last season despite the need to replace three starters.

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