PISCATAWAY, N.J. - With the quarterback competition settled, the microscope on Rutgers' offense now refocuses on the offensive line. How well they keep Gary Nova upright and open up rushing lanes for Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins will be key to the offense's success.
After struggling for the past two seasons -- including giving up an NCAA record 61 sacks in 2010 -- the offensive line will have to get back to the form it had during the first five years of now-head coach Kyle Flood's tenure as the offensive line coach.
With a quarterback in place, two good running backs, and tons of talent at the other skill positions, the success of the offense rests on the shoulders of the five guys up front.
"Of course, everyone knows a good offensive line makes a great team," left tackle Kaleb Johnson said.
Fortunately for them, they've had this whole camp to jell.
While Rutgers has played musical chairs at offensive line the past few seasons, that hasn't been the case in training camp. Since camp opened, Johnson has been at left tackle, Antwan Lowery at left guard, Betim Bujari at center and R.J. Dill at right tackle. The only position that remains unsettled is right guard, where Andre Civil and Taj Alexaneder have been battling for the starting nod.
"That's the most important thing -- is getting chemistry and just jelling together," Lowery said. " I told R.J. yesterday: I said, 'Us as a five have to take every rep in camp, in practice. That's the only way we're going to be able to go out there and execute, is with us five taking every snap together.'"
While they do so, they're all doing it from new spots.
Aside from Dill, who transferred with one year of eligibility remaining after graduating from Maryland, where he started 30 games and played in 33, everyone is at a new position.
Bujari has gone from guard to center. Lowery flipped from right to left guard. Johnson switched from right to left tackle. Civil moved from left tackle to right guard.
"I haven't really thought of it like that," Johnson said. "But all of us have been adjusting, trying to get better everyday, so I don't think that'll be a problem at all."
After all, as a football player -- and especially as an offensive lineman -- versatility is key.
"As a football player, when your number's called, it doesn't matter where you're at. You just have to go out there and perform," Lowery said. "You just have to go out there and study, and go out there and perform."
And how well they perform will be key to the team's offensive production as it pursues that elusive first Big East championship.
While that seems like an awful lot of pressure, that's not how the unit sees it.
"I mean, I think I speak for all of us -- as an offensive line, as a center -- I want the offensive line to be the reason why we win games," Bujari said. "Get positive plays rushing down the field. And I think everyone's on the same page with that. It's not pressure. It's just something that should be every O-lineman's goal."