|I don't know why Alexander and Lumpkin were cropped out of this picture|
Betim Bujari has been the anchor of Rutgers offensive line for the last two seasons at the center position. It was when he was injured and subsequently benched when healthy that things started going south for this position group, and I don't think that is a coincidence. Bujari is a very intelligent player and he plays a vital role in making calls at the line and setting up protections. He is solid as both a run blocker and a pass protector and he is adept at double team blocks and getting to the second level. For the second consecutive season, he was named to the preseason watch for the Rimington Award given to the best center nationally.
Returning at left guard is four year starter Kaleb Johnson, and this is the first time he will start at the same position in successive seasons. Although he was very good as a tackle, the coaching staff felt that his best position as guard, and that's where he is a fairly highly regarded pro prospect after another very good season as a junior. Johnson is a well rounded lineman, providing the toughness and strength to move people at the point of attack and the athleticism to pull, execute reach blocks and protect the passer. He is arguably the top NFL prospect on the team, and he very well could earn some all Big 10 recognition with the big season he is expected to have.
Opposite Johnson at right guard is Chris Muller. Muller was a heralded recruit and he had some ups and downs in his red shirt freshman campaign that saw him start 12 games. Muller is a very good run blocker who has the strength, power and nastiness to move big defensive lineman out of the way and create a hole with extreme prejudice. However, he struggled mightily in pass protection and not only allowed some sacks and pressures, but committed a number of holding penalties when he got beat. He played in a run heavy offense in high school, so he was pretty raw last year and should be better this year. Muller has a ton of upside and it's on new offensive line coach Mitch Browning to help him achieve that potential.
At left tackle is Keith Lumpkin, who checks in at a massive 6'8'' and posses rare athleticism for a player that size. His length and athleticism should make him an outstanding pass blocker, but he struggled at times last year with his technique and gave up a few sacks. Like with Muller, this is a guy who has a very high ceiling and will need Browning to push him there to achieve it. If he added some strength to help him in the run game and he worked out the kins in his pass blocking technique, he will be a guy who will catch the attention of pro scouts.
And finally at right tackle is Taj Alexander. The converted defensive lineman has started a bunch of games for the Scarlet Knights the last two years and the coaches really seem to like him. He is a bit undersized for a right tackle, and he doesn't fit the traditional road grater mold,, but he is very athletic and can seal the edges in the run game and provide solid pass protections.
Rutgers does not have a sixth lineman who can back up every position, but they still have some quality depth up front on offense. The trio of red shirt sophomores Derrick Nelson (center), Ryan Brodie (guard) and JJ Denman (tackle) were big parts of the outstanding 2012 recruiting class Rutgers brought in and they figure to get their feet wet at the college level before potentially stepping into starting roles a year from now.
Red shirt freshman Dorian Miller --the lone offensive lineman from the 2013 recruiting class-- could see some playing time as well, and Kyle FLood's biggest recruiting victory in the 2014 period Marcus Applefieldcould be the future at left tackle.
I am cautiously optimistic about the offensive line. Obviously Big 10 defenses are known for having very good defensive lines so they will be challenged week in and week out, but I think they will be up for it. Browning has a ton of talent to work with and if he can polish these players who have strong tool sets, it's easy to envision the offensive line being one of the team's greatest strengths like it was supposed to be last year.