Depth Chart Preview 2013: Offense

Previewing the offense heading into fall camp - The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE

With plenty of returning talent, the offense should be more of an asset than a liability this year.

Players have reported to the Hale Center, and the 2013 edition of Rutgers fall camp is underway. Let's take a look at where the depth chart stands and which position battles we need to watch on offense.

Quarterback

10 Gary Nova QB 6'2" 220 Jr. Elmwood Park, NJ (Don Bosco Prep)
19 Chas Dodd QB 6'0" 200 Sr. Lyman, SC (Byrnes)
11 Blake Rankin QB 6'4" 195 R-Fr. Bloomsburg, PA (Bloomsburg)
5 Chris Laviano QB 6'3" 210 Fr. Glen Head, NY (Holy Trinity)

Not much to go over in the QB department. Gary Nova is the unquestioned starter heading into camp, and has about a 0.0001% chance of being overtaken by any other quarterback. Coach Flood seemingly has no end to his confidence in Nova, and that was readily apparent in his reluctance to yank his QB during the Russell Athletic Bowl. It appears that Flood may have been thinking long-term with his decision during last year's camp when he decided to go with Nova instead of Dodd--Flood believes that experience is key with the quarterback position, and the ability to get one guy as many starts as possible over time could be a factor for success down the road. Call it being stubborn or foolish, but it's definitely possible Flood was simply using the bowl game as a chance to get his QB to experience that type of situation and learn from it, then using that knowledge in your Junior and Senior years. I'm sure Coach has gotten tired of having a different QB start each season since 2008 as well.

Running Back

28 Savon Huggins RB 6'0" 200 Jr. Jackson, NJ (St. Peter's Prep)
34 Paul James RB 6'0" 210 R-So. Glassboro, NJ (Glassboro)
6 Desmon Peoples RB 5'8" 175 R-Fr. Cheltenham, PA (Archbishop Wood)
33 Dontea Ayres RB 5'9" 205 Fr. Salisbury, MD (Wicomico)
32 Justin Goodwin RB 6'0" 180 Fr. Summit, NJ (Madison)
20 Devan Carter RB 6'2" 230 Fr. Rochester, NY (Brighton)

Savon Huggins is the lone returning player with starting experience, but even with him in the depth chart, RB is mostly unknown at best heading into fall camp. This will be a key position battle to watch this August, as two main questions need to be answered: 1. Can Savon live up to his five-star potential? and 2. Who will emerge as the backup? While Savon does not have the production to match his potential, he appears to be taking his role as starter head on. From the looks of it, Huggins is ready to lead by example and improve not only himself, but the unit as a whole.

As for the No. 2 back, plenty of options are available. Paul James and Desmon Peoples showed flashes last year that they can produce in a backup role, albeit during practice. Peoples is a solid option as a scat-back style runner to complement Huggins' between-the-tackles type of running. Dontea Ayres enrolled early last winter, but was unable to fully participate due to his knee rehab. Still, Ayres looks very talented and has the frame to immediately contribute on the field. Justin Goodwin and Devan Carter are purely wait-and-see prospects at this stage, so we'll have to revisit them once camp is over.

Wide Receiver

17 Brandon Coleman WR 6'6" 220 R-Jr. Accokeek, MD (Bishop McNamara)
7 Quron Pratt WR 6'0" 190 R-Sr. Palmyra, NJ (Palmyra)
4 Leonte Caroo WR 6'1" 200 So. Edison, NJ (Don Bosco Prep)
80 Ruhann Peele WR 6'1" 185 R-Fr. Linden, NJ (Linden)
13 Carlton Agudosi WR 6'6" 205 R-Fr. Somerset, NJ (Franklin)
14 Miles Shuler WR 5'10" 175 Jr. Long Branch, NJ (Long Branch)
88 Andre Patton WR 6'4" 195 Fr. Wilmington, DE (St. Elizabeth)
1 Janarion Grant WR 5'11" 170 Fr. Trilby, FL (Pasco)
84 John Tsimis WR 6'0" 175 Fr. Harrington Park, NJ (Bergen Catholic)

It's Brandon Coleman's time. While he is starting off slow in his return to practice, Coach Flood expects to have Coleman back at 100% in time for Fresno State. As a player on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List and gaining traction as a top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, all signs are pointing to the star wideout as having a productive year. Projecting after Coleman is where it gets tricky.

Pratt obviously brings a ton of experience to the field for RU. The problem is that he is not exactly the most productive receiver--for his career, Pratt has 55 receptions, 571 yards, and only 1 TD. He obviously does not have the physical gifts that Coleman or Carlton Agudosi have, but his numbers still leave a lot to be desired, which is a big reason why Kyle Flood listed wideout as a major area of focus during training camp. This tweet from Tom Luicci makes matters a little worse:

This is definitely not a time to panic considering it's only the first day of fall practice. However, Shuler is entering his junior year and has yet to contribute in a truly meaningful and productive way. It's a little mind-boggling that the coaches can't seem to get Shuler on the field with all the talent that he possesses. I've said it about a million times before--Shuler is the perfect player to emulate Tim Brown, who was a key weapon in the RU offense. It will be a real shame if he doesn't work out as a WR.

The rest of the unit is all untested, with only Caroo getting playing time as a true freshman on special teams. A lot of the talent here is from the highly-ranked 2012 class, so expect someone from this group to emerge with some playmaking ability. Here's to hoping that 6'6" Carlton Agudosi can walk the long strides that are Brandon Coleman's footsteps.

Tight End

89 Paul Carrezola TE 6'2" 240 R-Sr. Langhorne, PA (Neshaminy)
86 Tyler Kroft TE 6'6" 240 R-So. Downingtown, PA (Downingtown East)
42 Nick Arcidiacono TE 6'5" 230 Fr. Holland, PA (Archbishop Wood)
87 Taylor Marini TE 6'4" 250 Fr. Oviedo, FL (Lake Mary)

D.C. Jefferson will be missed. It took awhile for him to realize his potential, but he finally came through and had a very good 2012. His raw athleticism served the RU offense admirably, as he was quite adept at both blocking and receiving. For 2013, it looks like Coach Flood will have to platoon this unit to achieve the same effect. Paul Carrezola should be the starter, as he is a good blocking tight end and serviceable as a receiving TE. Tyler Kroft needs to get playing time too, though, as he showed some great potential last season as a red-zone threat.

There is a solid chance that Nick Arcidiacono or Taylor Marini (or both) see playing time this year. Based on current commits and prospects for the 2014 class, it looks like the coaching staff may move to a TE-heavy offense, something that I think complements Rutgers' identity very well.

Fullback

46 Michael Burton FB 6'0" 235 R-Jr. Long Valley, NJ (West Morris Central)
44 Sam Bergen FB 6'0" 235 R-Jr. East Stroudsburg, PA (East Stroudsburg)

Every Rutgers fan saw how important and underrated the fullback position is to the offense when Michael Burton was sidelined after the Arkansas game. It is absolutely imperative that Flood & Co. build some depth at fullback. Last year's quick fix using Carrezola won't work here since he'll be busy playing more TE with Jefferson gone. Look to see some position changes for this group, like Devan Carter making the switch from RB to FB.

Offensive Line

74 Keith Lumpkin LT 6'8" 315 R-So. Montclair, NJ (St. Peter's Prep)
72 Kaleb Johnson LG 6'4" 305 Jr. Jacksonville, FL (Edward H. White)
55 Betim Bujari C 6'4" 295 R-Jr. Secaucus, NJ (Secaucus)
70 Chris Muller RG 6'6" 300 R-Fr. Perkiomenville, PA (Boyertown)
78 Taj Alexander RT 6'4" 290 R-Jr. Downingtown, PA (Downingtown East)
75 Antwan Lowery OL 6'4" 310 R-Sr. Miami, FL (Christopher Columbus)
66 Andre Civil OL 6'3" 285 R-Sr. Brooklyn, NY (Sheepshead Bay)
77 J.J. Denman OL 6'6" 300 R-Fr. Yardley, PA (Pennsbury)
69 Derrick Nelson OL 6'3" 285 R-Fr. Capitol Heights, MD (Archbishop Carroll)
73 Ryan Brodie OL 6'5" 300 R-Fr. Long Branch, NJ (Long Branch)
76 Marquise Wright OL 6'3" 285 R-So. Englewood, NJ (Paramus Catholic)
51 Brandon Arcidiacono OL 6'4" 260 R-Fr. Holland, PA (Archbishop Wood)
62 Chris Fonti OL 6'7" 305 R-Jr. Wayne, NJ (Wayne Hills)
60 Dorian Miller OL 6'3" 295 Fr. Metuchen, NJ (Metuchen)

On paper, the offensive line depth seems like an embarrassment of riches. Unfortunately, that did not translate to a very productive 2012 in terms of offense (106th in rushing YPG, 98th in total offense). That is the reason that Coach Flood has decided to blow the whole thing up, leaving only Bujari as the lone returning starter playing the same position (R.J. Dill graduated as well, leaving a hole at RT). With the new line configuration, Lumpkin steps in at LT, Johnson slides over to LG, Muller claims a starting spot at RG, and Alexander moves to RT with four starts at RG under his belt. It's hard to argue with this decision considering the difficulty RU had in rushing the football (which makes Jamison's 2012 season that much more impressive).

Still, I don't think there's much to worry about. This is one of the position battles that I think will work itself out due to so much talent fighting for playing time. With all of this potential lumped into one unit, the best players to come out of camp should form one hell of an offensive line. Fifth-year seniors Andre Civil and Antwan Lowery bring plenty of game experience and can reclaim their starting roles back from the young guns. Meanwhile, the offensive line recruits from the 2012 class seem to be as advertised, with Chris Muller entering camp as a starter and J.J. Denman and Derrick Nelson not far behind. With so much talent vying for a spot, it doesn't take the most optimistic person to see that this group could be a veritable strength of the team (possibly the best in the conference by year's end).

One lingering question is the center position. Betim Bujari is the unquestioned starter, but who can step in should Bujari go down? Dallas Hendrikson is nowhere to be found on the official roster, and there hasn't been nary a peep regarding his status this year. You can never have too many centers, and having just one guy who can play with some degree of proficiency is risky business. With camp just beginning, this problem should iron itself out, but it is a development worth keeping tabs on.

Edit: Dallas Hendrikson is listed on the depth chart at C, not OL. My mistake. However, the question of who is a competent backup to Betim Bujari still remains.

This is shaping up to be an exciting camp to watch. There are several key players returning at skill positions that are set up to have career years, but there are also some good position battles that can provide an opportunity for some lesser-known players to have a breakout season.

What do you think? Have an idea on a potential controversy or storyline? Leave your thoughts below. Up next: Previewing the depth chart for the 2013 defense.

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