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March 8, 2008Rutgers loses four offensive starters, three of which played on the offensive line. There will be quite a few players fighting to fill those vacancies. Each vacancy is a rather huge one with all three linemen now vying to play in the NFL. Here's a look at group who will by vying for spots atop the depth chart.
Anthony Davis: The Piscataway native lived up to all the hype that followed him to Rutgers last season. By the midway point of the season, he had worked his way into the starting lineup. Davis made huge strides from the beginning of training camp to the end of the season. If those strides can continue, Davis has the potential to be an All-American tackle. He will be more at home at the tackle position and figures to be the anchor on the offensive line.
Ryan Blaszczyk: He started every game at center last year after spending the previous season on the scout team. Blaszczyk had an excellent year in which he continually progressed and seemed to be in sync with quarterback Mike Teel since spring practice. He will have to assume more of a leadership role with three new linemen starting alongside him.
Kevin Haslam: Haslam won the starting right guard position last summer before giving way to Davis. He has good feet and very long arms. Haslam just needs to add some more strength. A stronger Haslam should be able to lock down a starting spot for the entire season. His experience will help him on a young offensive line.
Mike Gilmartin: The senior will be looking to win the starting right tackle position. Last season, Gilmartin was expected to make more of a push for the starting right guard position. He had trouble pass blocking and needs to improve his footwork if he wants to win a job this season. He is a decent run blocker who may be the early favorite to win the spot. However, his seniority plays a big role in that early edge. He will have to match the quick feet of the younger players who will be battling against him.
Caleb Ruch: Ruch is a very physical, strong player who has a good chance of becoming the starting right guard in his red shirt freshman season. He may make the switch to center later in his career, but for now he will be vying for the spot next to Blazsczyk. He will have to show an understanding of the position and not simply rely on sheer muscle. If Ruch can grasp the mental part of the game, he could wind up being the team's starting right guard on opening day.
Mo Lange: Big Mo has to show improvement with his feet. He towers at 6-foot-7, but needs to show a bit more agility. He is a big body who could definitely move defenders out of the way, but the biggest question mark is his quickness. Better footwork and some added quickness will be prerequisites for Lange to win a starting spot.
Desmond Stapleton: Stapleton may have done the best job of any freshman when it came to transforming his body over the last year. He slimmed down and added some muscle. Currently, he is slotted behind Davis at left tackle and may remain a backup this season. Nevertheless, he should prove to be a valuable player off the bench in the event of an injury. Before his career at Rutgers is over, it is very likely that Stapleton will be a starter for more than one season.
Richard Muldrow: The staff has been impressed with Muldrow's progress over his red shirt season. He has good size and could make a push for the right tackle position. He is still young and could benefit immensely from a good showing in the spring.
Howard Barbieri: Last season, Barbieri saw some action at tight end. This year, he will rejoin the fight for playing time on the offensive line. Where he will play is not yet clear, although last season he was good enough to see the field. Barbieri is a good blocker who also possesses a decent amount of versatility.
Art Forst: The freshman has tremendous size, but may be a bit too raw to play this season. One of the most highly touted recruits of the 2008 class, Forst will be a big part of Rutgers' future. After graduating early and joining the Scarlet Knights for the second semester, he will have the advantage of spring practice, which could enable him to make a push in the summer.
Keith Newell: From offense to defense to offense, Newell has finally found a home. He will have to pass quite a few players if he has any ideas of playing this season. Early on, it looks as though Newell may spend another season on the scout team.
Marlon Romulus: He was expected to compete with Blazszcyk for the starting center position last year but never really made a push. He will have another chance this season, but unless he can do some extraordinary things on the field, he will once again me relegated to a back-up role.
Keoni Harrison and Chris Santiago will also participate in spring practice but probably won't be able to get past the scout team this season.
Heading into the summer session, we'll take a look at how players who missed spring ball, as well as the freshmen, figure into each positional battle.