PISCATAWAY, N.J. – With all the issues surrounding Rutgers’ offensive line, one positive is quarterback Tom Savage hasn’t had to worry about his blind side.
Indeed, left tackle Desmond Stapleton has had Savage’s back, providing good protection in passing situations.
“I’m not going to say I did great,” Stapleton said. “I did ok, pretty well, for stepping in there and playing a full game.”
Rutgers has allowed a pair of sacks this season, and Stapleton has done a strong job of protecting Savage, who took a hit from behind against Norfolk State but otherwise has had good protection from his left side.
“They say it’s the toughest job, but I think everybody’s just is the toughest job,” the 6-foot-5, 285-pound Stapleton said. “If somebody doesn’t protect, Tom Savage is a goner. I’m just trying to do the best I can to protect the offense.”
As part of the needed growth of the unit, Stapleton pointed to the fact Florida International marked the first time he played a complete game since 2006, when he played at Union (N.J.) High.
Stapleton thought about the lesson learned from the FIU win on the plane ride home.
“It’s long and it’s hard,” Stapleton said. “It gets hard and you have to dig down and fight through it. I learned that down at FIU when it was hot and humid and everything and we had to fight through it.”
The offensive line has been highly-criticized and critiqued after the first two games, and Stapleton said the remedy was better vision.
“It’s getting your eyes in the right places at the right times and not being late, and not being too early,” Stapleton said. “It’s also staying with (the play) and not letting your eyes take you somewhere else so you miss your assignment.”
Martinek or “Crazy Legs?”
With running back Joe Martinek’s ankle injury bringing into question his availability for the Sept. 25 game against North Carolina, it means Jordan Thomas could see markedly increased reps.
Thomas’ speed gives him the dimension to go outside, but Rutgers center Howard Barbieri said it doesn’t alter the blocking schemes or approach of the offensive line.
“I don’t really know, unless we’re in the huddle, whether Joe is in or if Crazy Legs (Thomas) is in,” Barbieri said.
Protecting the ball
When Martinek was injured late in the fourth quarter at FIU, it meant Rutgers needed to secure the win with freshman running back Jordan Thomas getting the carries …and protecting the ball.
“Ball security is the first priority,” Thomas said after the game. “They said to hold onto the ball, just the same thing they tell me in practice.”
Thomas finished off the win with a clutch 17-yard run.
“It felt good,” Thomas said. “They put me in and I think I did what I was supposed to do.”