It’s safe to say that the offensive line for the Scarlet Knights played above expectations in 2020. With that being said, there was still some room for improvement and that is what Rutgers will look to accomplish in 2021.
Last season, Rutgers ranked 10th in the Big Ten with 140.3 rushing yards per contest. It allowed 21 sacks, which averaged to 2.3 per game. In the Big Ten, games can be won and lost in the trenches.
The Scarlet Knights received great news and a huge boost when Nick Krimin announced that he will be returning for a sixth season.
“Nick is someone that gives us some position flexibility inside,” Greg Schiano said. “He has been moved. He’s been getting work work at guard and he’s been getting some work at center. I’m not sure to make, he could be at any of the three interior position. I’m not sure he’ll be at tackle but he could be at any of the guard and center.”
In 2019, Krimin started every game at right tackle. Krimin continued to be a staple along the offensive line for Rutgers in 2020 but this time, he made his starts at center and excelled.
The Scarlet Knights have some options along the line and this includes Temple transfer David Nwaogwugwu.
As of now, Raiqwon O’Neal seems like the only sure thing. He is projected to be the starting left tackle and the leader of the offensive line. Reggie Sutton, Cedric Paillant, Sam Vretman, and Brendan Bordner. They all made starts for the Scarlet Knights a year ago and will be competing once again in spring.
“Our goal when we come out of training camp next year is to find out who our best five lineman are,” Schiano said. “It might look markedly different than what we looked like last year because to get the best five on, some guys might have to change positions.”
An interesting name to keep an eye on is Hollin Pierce. He walked on to the team prior to the 2020 season and made an impression right away.
“He’s a very big man who’s very athletic,” Schiano said on Pierce. “He’s young. He’s inexperienced but we’re trying to get him experienced as fast as we can because he’s got a great deal of potential. Really a great guy to have on our team. A pleasant guy and he goes very hard. He’s got a great future.”
Pierce made one appearance in 2020. He entered against Purdue on the field goal protection unit. Pierce is a raw talent but someone that the coaching staff feels good about moving forward.
“He’s an interesting guy,” Schiano said. “We’re blessed to have him in the program. A lot of people are now taking credit for him but he kind of got dropped on our doorstep and he was quite a bit heavier. He did an incredible job working on his body.”
As we approach the Spring Game set to kickoff on Thursday night, a point of emphasis will certainly be the offensive line. The Scarlet Knights have options and it is important to figure out which group works the best together.
This unit made a jump from 2019 to 2020 and they are looking to do it again. With the personnel available, it is more than possible.
“What we’re trying to do is to see who can do what this spring and with some guys that have been bumped up, had some surgeries, we haven’t gotten a look at everybody but it’s been a great chance for other guys to get some opportunity,” Schiano said.