Last year, the Rutgers University football program had one year-end statistical number that stood at the most. 61. No, it doesn't have anything to do with former New York Yankee Roger Maris, but everything to do with the NCAA-record amount of sacks that the offensive line gave up during a 4-8 campaign.
To make matters worse -- if that's possible -- the Scarlet Knights, who has been known for their power running game under head coach Greg Schiano, were ranked 110th out of 120 schools in rushing offense.
So, how do you fix one of the worst offensive lines in college football? Well, in RU's case it kept the same players -- four of the five starting linemen are back -- and offensive line coach, Ryan Flood, and hope for improvement.
"... If we’re going to be the best offensive line we can be," said Flood in early August, "everyday has to be, ‘Okay, what is it that we’re doing well right now and what is it that we need to do better? Can we focus on that, can we chop through it, and then after practice tonight let’s focus on this meeting.’ I think if you focus on anything other than that, you’re distracting yourself from what’s really important, which is what you’re right now."
On the left side will be returners sophomore Andrew Civil and senior Desmond Wynn. Civil (6-3, 275), who made just two starts last year, will handle the very important left tackle position, while Wynn (6-6, 295), who started and played in each of RU's 12 games last season, will anchor the guard spot.
Because of the season-ending knee injury to Dallas Hendrikson, David Osei (6-foot-4, 280 pounds) will enter the season as the new center. The junior, who has played in only one game as a Scarlet Knight, is not only expected to help improve the performance of the corps, but needs to do so by learning a brand new position that he's never played before.
"I got used to it now; it was a little different at first," said Osei to the the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Now after a whole camp and all this time doing it, I think I got it down."
On the right side will be returners, sophomore Antwan Lowery, who will play guard, and senior Desmond Stapleton, who will play tackle. Last season, Lowery (6-4, 301) started only four games, but played in 11, while Stapleton started in each of the Scarlet Knights' 12 contests.
Likely, RU has a few back ups, seniors Art Forst (6-8, 310) and Caleb Rusch (6-4, 298), who have combined to play in 60 games. Redshirt freshman Kaleb Johnson (6-4, 290) and sophomore Matt McBride (6-6, 294) could also see a lot of time as fill-ins. Meanwhile, true freshman Kaleb Johnson (6-4, 298) is still at the learning stages of development, but could be a factor by the end of the season.
In conclusion, many hope that the new pro-style offensive of new offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, which relies on a power running game and quick release from the quarterback, will help the line improve. Also, offensive line coach, Flood, who was last year's co-offensive coordinator, will have less on his plate. However, there just doesn't seem to be enough talent on this line to think that things will dramatically change. Yes, an off season to bulk up and learn from last year's mistakes is helpful, but to the same buyer won't find a new paint job on the same unreliable-used car more appealing. There's a lot of talent at the skill position for RU, but the offensive line probably will prevent the offense from reaching its potential.