Future of Rutgers Football 2023: Offensive Line
It is officially springtime, and spring training for the Rutgers football team started last week. In the fifth edition of Future of Rutgers Football, The Daily Targum previews the 2023 offensive line.
The offensive line is often considered to be the most underappreciated position in football. In order for running backs to have success with running the football and quarterbacks to have enough time to throw it, a good offensive line is needed.
The Rutgers football team enters a crucial year for its offensive line, with newcomers joining many familiar faces in the trenches.
The Scarlet Knights' offensive line had an up-and-down season in 2022. At times, it struggled to protect the quarterback, allowing 26 sacks in just 12 games. In the run game, the unit ranked 91st in average line yards per game.
Three of last year's five starters are returning to play for Rutgers. Junior offensive lineman Hollin Pierce, senior offensive lineman Ireland Brown and Curtis Dunlap Jr. all started multiple games for the Knights last year and will most likely retain their starting spots this year.
Pierce, who began his career as a walk-on, has already started 24 games at right tackle for Rutgers and is a growing star in the program. He was named a candidate for the Burlsworth Trophy last year, which honors the best collegiate football player who began their career as a walk-on.
Dunlap Jr. is another stalwart on the right side of the offensive line, starting all 12 games at right guard in the 2022 season.
Brown had an up-and-down season, starting 11 games at center. Though he had strong games against Indiana and Michigan State, the player struggled against tougher competition.
The Knights will have to find replacements for the left side of the offensive line, with senior offensive linemen Willie Tyler III entering the transfer portal and J.D. DiRenzo graduating. Tyler started nine games at left tackle last year, and DiRenzo started nine games at left guard last year.
Look out for sophomore offensive lineman Jacob Allen, junior offensive lineman Bryan Felter and senior offensive lineman Mike Ciaffoni, all of whom may get starting positions on the offensive line.
Allen did not see any game action as a freshman, but he was a highly-rated four-star recruit coming out of high school in 2022.
Felter made strides in his sophomore season last year and appeared in seven games for Rutgers.
Ciaffoni played in 12 games all at right guard last year but has the potential to switch to the left side to compete for a starting spot this year.
Pieces of the Knights' offensive line have continued to grow under head coach Greg Schiano. Felter and Brown showed their potential this past season by not allowing a single sack in a game against the Hoosiers.
Freshman offensive linemen Nick Oliveira and John Stone may not get playing time this year, but they were two high-rated prospects in the 2023 class.
The Rutgers offensive line will also have a new face coaching it as Pat Flaherty was named the offensive line coach for the upcoming season. Flaherty brings NFL experience to the Knights' offensive line after serving as the offensive line coach for the New York Giants from 2004 to 2015.
Rutgers' offensive line will look to continue to grow under new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca's offensive system and hope to aid in junior quarterback Gavin Wimsatt and sophomore running back Samuel Brown V's development.
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