Top 25: OL Desmond Stapleton (No. 14)

Anthony Davis brought comfort the last two seasons. Playing left tackle the last two season gave Rutgers the knowledge the blind side of the quarterback was protected. Well, Davis is in the NFL, and red-shirt junior Desmond Stapleton is being asked to fill the spot. It is why has Stapleton at No. 14 in its countdown of the Top 25 players for the 2010 season.

When Anthony Davis was late to a team function last season, Desmond Stapleton moved into a starting spot at right tackle while Kevin Haslam moved to left tackle.

The transition was seamless … but with a caveat?

It was against Army, and only took place in the first half because Davis' discipline wasn't for a full game, and Stapleton's ankle didn't last the night.

With Davis taken in the first round of the NFL draft and Rutgers one hit away from freshman Chas Dodd or Steven Shimko playing quarterback, protecting starting quarterback Tom Savage's blind side is paramount.

It makes Stapleton, who will enter training camp as the starting left tackle, uber -important to Rutgers, and why he is No. 14 in's daily series charting the Top 25 most important players for the 2010 season.

The 6-foot-5, 285-pound Stapleton performed well in the spring and solidified his spot as the protector of Savage's back side. He has the length and the footwork to play alone out there, and the strength to be a factor in the running game. And although Stapleton is confident, it doesn't mean confidence won't be an issue until he proves he can play the position.

Stapleton, a red-shirt junior, is lacking experience, having played in nine games in his three seasons at Rutgers.

A product of Union (N.J.) Hill High, he red-shirted in 2007 before playing two games in 2008.

With three seniors on the offensive line, including Davis and Haslam at the tackle positions, there wasn't must playing time available for Stapleton last season. And when he was thrust into action, he sprained his ankle against Army and missed the next three games.

Rutgers is used to leaving its left tackle alone and used to not needing to help him with a tight end, running back over even the left guard to slow down a pass rush from that side. That was the comfort Davis brought to the offense.

Stapleton's brother, Darnell, played center at Rutgers and then went to the NFL, so the genes are there for success.

The question is whether Stapleton can step in with limited experience and make sure Savage remains comfortable in the pocket?

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