Rutgers Football Recruiting: The Big Board, O-Linemen Edition

Bigman Keith Lumpkin celebrates after SMU victory - Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Football success starts in the trenches. Which Offensive Linemen are Rutgers targeting in the 2015 Class?

Of all the position groups, Rutgers appears to have the most offers out to 2015 offensive linemen (18 offers, according to 247Sports).  That could be a sign that the coaching staff views that as a position of significant need, or it could reflect a team with a former OL coach as head coach, and a number of assistants with OL experience as well.  Those coaches may trust their ability to evaluate OL talent earlier than the other positions, leading to more early OL offers relative to other positions.

How Did We Do Last Year?

Short answer?  Pretty well, but not perfect.  Rutgers recruited some of the biggest linemen in program history, four players averaging 6'6" and 315 lbs.  Those big bodies will only get stronger and faster with Coach Cole's strength training.  Weeki Wachee, Florida early enrollment Marcus Applefield is the jewel of the group, and the only recruit with a real chance to see the field as a true freshman.  That is not a knock on the others, as much as it is high praise for Applefield.  Like good whiskey or wine, Offensive Linemen are at their best when they have a few seasons to mature, put on solid functional mass, and learn the offense.  Click the player's name for Todderick's commit analysis on each prospect.

Marcus Applefield

Tariq Cole

Jacquis Webb

Zach Heeman

Who's Ahead on the Depth Chart?

Rutgers is returning all five starting linemen from 2013 (Betim Bujari, Taj Alexander, Kaleb Johnson, Keith Lumpkin and Chris Muller), meaning Rutgers ground game should be effective, and the QB, whoever he is, should be upright most of the time. Both Kaleb Johnson and Keith Lumpkin are NFL level talents, and the other guys have a ton of potential.  The bad news is that this crew was not great last year, ranking 101 in the nation in rushing and 102 with 2.69 sacks per game. Shaky pass protection contributed to the inconsistent passing offense too.  Former OL Coach Damian Wroblewski was fired after the season.

In addition to Muller, who has already earned a starting spot, the other offensive linemen from the vaunted 2012 recruiting class are coming into their own, including J.J. Denman, Ryan Brodie, Brandon Arcidiacono and Derrick Nelson.

Hopefully, new OL coach Mitch Browning can straighten out an experienced and talented, but so far, unproven group.

Top 5 Targets

Tommy Hatton, 3* 6'3" 280 lb. OG/C (St. Joe's, Montvale)

Rivals ranks Hatton as the tenth best player in NJ and the 24th best offensive guard in the country.  He has more than a dozen BCS offers, but Maryland and Boston College are thought be the primary competition for Hatton's services.  He has taken multiple visits to each campus, as well as to Piscataway.

Sam Madden, 4* 6'7" 345 lb OT (Barnegat)

The huge offensive tackle holds offers from RU, Pitt, Wisconsin, Iowa, Miami, Nebraska, South Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and West Virginia, to name a few.  Rivals ranks him No. 7 in NJ, 239 nationally overall, and 27th best offensive tackle.

Grant Newsome, 4* 6'7" 280 lb. OT (Lawrenceville)

The relatively leaner (compared to Madden, not to normal-sized people) Newsome is ranked 8 in NJ by Rivals, and 30th best OT.  He holds more than two dozen offers from national powers like Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, South Carolina, Georgia, Michigan and PoSU.  He will be in State College for the Blue-White game today.

Tyrell Reed, 6'4" 348 lb. OT (Orlando, Florida)

Reed is a massive road-grading OT.  Rutgers has been recruiting him since last year, and pulled the trigger on an offer last week.  In addition to Rutgers, he also has offers from Auburn, Ole Miss, Wake Forest, Tennessee, Clemson and South Florida.  He will visit Miami and Auburn in the coming weeks, but will be at Rutgers camp this summer.

George Brown, Jr. 4* 6'7" 265 lb. OT (Cincinnati, OH)

Rivals rates Brown as the sixth best player in Ohio, 13th best OT in the country, and 127 overall.  Rutgers has lots of competition, as Brown has more than 40 offers, including Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Texas.  His home-state Buckeyes have not offered yet.  Brown will be at Rutgers with teammate Noah Listermann on May 17,

Recent OL Offers

Coach Flood and his merry men have been on an OL offer rampage lately.  Rutgers recently offered Winton Woods (Cincinnati, OH) tackles George Brown, Jr. and Noah Listermann.  Both players stand 6'7, with 4* national recruit Brown weighing 265 pounds and 3* Listermann weighing 295 lbs. and holding eight offers from schools like Louisville, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Illinois Indiana and Kentucky.  The Ohio prospects will be visiting Rutgers on May 17.

Rutgers also recently offered 6'7", 250 pound Washington D.C. OT Levon Livingston; 6'4" 270 pound PA OG Zach Venesky; 6'3" 250 lb. OG Ellis McKennie; 6'6" 275 Sioux Falls 4* OT Grant Schmidt; and 6'6" 325 Glen Mills, PA OT Ted Field.  The move to the B1G, and the addition of midwest guys Mitch Browning and Ben McDaniels have expanded Rutgers recruiting footprint into previously uncharted territory, like Ohio and South Dakota.

Update: Seton Hall Prep OL Jared Southers will visit Rutgers on Thursday.  He won the Offensive Linemen MVP at Saturday's Rutgers camp, and turned a lot of heads in doing so.  He currently has offers from Temple, Monmouth and Fordham.  Southers is interested in Rutgers, and he is also very interested in Stanford, Vanderbilt and Northwestern. He told Todderick Hunt he is taking three AP courses and has a weighted GPA of 4.25/5, showing he has serious academic skills in addition to his on-field accomplishment.

As always, Rutgers recruiting success starts in the Garden State.  Securing commitments from Hatton, Madden and Newsome would be a huge victory.  Adding out of state stars like Schmidt, Reed, Brown or Listermann would only enhance the haul, and provide the fundamental building blocks for future success.

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