To be blunt, Rutgers did not recruit very well on the offensive or defensive line. It seems like every player that signed to play on the O-Line is a project recruit. On the defensive side of the ball, Julius Turner is a project and Malachi Moore is most likely a depth player who can fill in at various spots on the defensive line. Despite that, Rutgers is fortunate enough where they don't need immediate help in the trenches.
The Offensive Line
Key Losses: Keith Lumpkin
Key Returners: Chris Muller, JJ Denman, Derrick Nelson, Tariq Cole, Dorian Miller, Marcus Applefield
What's great about this group is that they will lose a starter but return 6 players who have B1G experience. Chris Muller is the most talented and versatile of the group and may slide out to LT to replace Lumpkin. JJ Denman had his ups and downs at RT but will be much better at the same position next year. That leaves Nelson, Cole, Miller, and Applefield battling it out for the 3 interior spots. Nelson proved to be a pretty good center down the line but expect Dorian Miller to see time at center like he did during camp last year.
The staff will not be shy about moving guys around and Nelson may event move out to guard. Tariq Cole's body transformation is absolutely ridiculous and can fit well at either guard spot. Applefield, however, is probably the most underrated player on the line, as he was very impressive when he got in games last year. Choosing a starting 5 will be a very tough task for the staff, but the best 5 players will play. The only sure thing I see is JJ Denman at RT, although I wouldn't feel comfortable making a bet on it. Here is how I see the O-Line shaping out:
LT: Chris Muller | LG: Tariq Cole | C: Dorian Miller | RG: Marcus Applefield | RT: JJ Denman
The Defensive Line
Key Losses: Djwany Mera
Key Returners: Darius Hamilton, Kemoko Turay, Quanzell Lambert, Sebastian Joseph, Kevin Wilkins, Jimmy Hogan, Julian Pinnix-Odrick
Experienced Addition: Malachi Moore
Well, what an awesome problem for Shane Burnham to have. With 4 starting spots available and 8 B1G-caliber linemen, Burnham will have to choose the best 4 to take the field to start off games. However, starters are irrelevant for this group because all 8 will see loads of playing time. In the B1G East, they will face a slew of elite offensive lines and will have to match up. With grad transfer Malachi Moore entering the fold, the Scarlet Knights will be 2 deep at each position with great talent.
Darius Hamilton has locked up the starting 3-Technique DT with JPO backing him up. JPO had lots of hype entering last year but did not exactly live up to it. He showed flashes and was disruptive, but was not as consistent as many had hoped. That being said, He will be rotated in and will always be fresh. With new coaching, he should get even better and be a great backup to the best player on the team.
At nose tackle, it will be a battle between Joseph and Wilkins. With both players making huge plays for the Scarlet Knights and tipping the scales at 295 lbs, there is no bad option. Joseph had been the starter in 2015 and was consistently a good player. Wilkins backed him up, but showed flashes of greatness, including his interception against Nebraska. He has untapped potential and will be all-B1G caliber by the time his is a senior.
At defensive end it gets really interesting. Djwany Mera is gone, opening up the spot he held for 3 years. Quanzell Lambert started opposite Mera last year and led the team with 2.5 sacks. Yes, it is very sad that 2.5 sacks led the team, which is a huge reason the d-line was the most disappointing unit last year. However, Lambert was moved around a lot during camp last year and this year has his position. His is an animal who is incredibly aggressive in his methods of getting to the QB. We all know about Kemoko Turay, who played all of last year injured and only registered 2 sacks. Fully healthy and well-coached, he has the ability to lead the B1G in sacks. He is still a little bit skinny at 6-6 240 with a fast metabolism. Kenny Parker will play a massive role in Turay's success in 2016. However, he will be pushed for the starting job by one of my favorite players on the team, Jimmy Hogan. Hogan saw limited time as a RS-Fr last year, but made the most of his opportunities, with 1.5 sacks and 2.5 TFLs. He is 6-4 250 and incredibly powerful off the edge. He can set the edge to defend the run but can also get to the QB. He reminds me a lot of David Milewski, being a do-it-all defensive end who can also play any position on the line. My prediction for the starting 4 in 2016:
DE: Kemoko Turay | 3T: Darius Hamilton | NT: Kevin Wilkins | DE: Jimmy Hogan