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#10Strong Spring Preview | Offensive Line

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Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

It is strange to think that the offensive line may actually be one of the strengths of the team this year. 4 starters return including arguably the unit's best player, Chris Muller. Keith Lumpkin is gone and Muller may have to slide over to keep that spot filled with quality play.

JJ Denman returns at RT after a rocky campaign, though he did have his bright spots. Dorian Miller will be the starter at one of the guard spots after a good year from him at LG. Derrick Nelson will presumably keep his job at center as well. That leaves a competition for the final guard spot between most likely Marcus Applefield and Tariq Cole. With that being said, the new offense requires different skill sets and there is no loyalty towards any of those guys so the week one product could look a lot different.

The Players

RS-So Marcus Applefield

RS-Sr Ryan Brodie

RS-So Tariq Cole

RS-Sr JJ Denman

RS-So Zack Heeman

RS-Fr Jonah Jackson

RS-Jr Dorian Miller

RS-Sr Chris Muller

RS-Sr Derrick Nelson

RS-Fr Skiy Pyrame

RS-Fr Jack Shutack

RS-Fr Manny Taylor

RS-Fr Zach Venesky

RS-So Jacquis Webb

This is a position where the Scarlet Knights have great potential this year, but are pretty much screwed after that. Chris Muller, JJ Denman, and Derrick Nelson are all 5th-year seniors and they will be losing both of their starting tackles after this  year. However, let's focus on 2016, where there will be loads of experience.

Who will replace Keith Lumpkin?

This is the most important position on the offensive line and Keith Lumpkin did a silently good job during his multiple years at the starting LT. Chris Muller has the versatility and skill to play LT, as well as the optimal frame at 6-6 310. Another realistic option is switching JJ Denman, as he has B1G experience playing tackle. Marcus Applefield has LT size and played there in high school for 4 years, so he has experience at the position.

Who will earn the last open spot?

It looks like the last open spot will be guard, assuming Chris Muller moves to LT. Once again, Tariq Cole will be in the thick of the competition. Instead of a 3-way battle for 2 spots, it looks to be Cole and Marcus Applefield battling it out for the final starting position. Applefield actually stepped in all over the interior when guys got injured and was very impressive. However, he could battle for the LT spot if the coaches choose to keep Chris Muller at his natural position of guard, where he has started for all 3 years.

Can JJ Denman significantly improve?

If you watched closely, JJ Denman was the biggest weakness in the offensive line. Against Michigan State, Jersey native Shilique Calhoun dogged him. Joey Bosa had a field day against him. Carl Nassib gave him fits. Granted these are all first-team B1G quality players, but Denman was contantly getting exposed. RT may actually be the most important position for Rutgers, as they face a plethora of elite pass rushers in their B1G schedule. I don't expect Denman to be dominant, but I expect him to be able to compete and win some battles with the better players in the conference.

Position Prediction

LT | Marcus Applefield

LG | Dorian Miller

C | Derrick Nelson

RG | Chris Muller

RT | JJ Denman

The thought of Chris Muller moving to LT is very intriguing, but he has been the starting right guard every game since he earned the job during the first game of his freshman year. That is his spot and that is where he is best. Marcus Applefield is a very talented offensive lineman and played plenty of LT in high school to be able to make the transition with some good coaching from AJ Blazek.

Tomorrow: #10Strong Spring Preview | Defensive Line