McBride, Osei provide versatility along patchwork o-line

Spring practice notebook

Photo by Conor Alwell |

Junior quarterback Chas Dodd participates in a drill March 30 during practice.?Dodd remains a candidate to start.

Matt McBride refers to the Rutgers football offensive line as a puzzle piece. The junior offensive lineman, along with classmate David Osei, continues to find himself plugged into different holes.

“McBride fit in right away,” Osei said. “He’s the only person I can say that’s shuffled around more than me.”

With sophomore guard Betim Bujari sidelined with an ankle injury he suffered Saturday, McBride could be the Scarlet Knight to benefit most. Head coach Kyle Flood said yesterday the earliest Bujari could return is the final week of spring practice.

Bujari started on and off a year ago before entrenching himself in the spring on the first team.

Photo by Conor Alwell |

Junior guard David Osei, in red, blocks redshirt freshman defensive tackle Marquise Wright on March 31 during practice.

Photo by Conor Alwell |

Osei and sophomore tackle Taj Alexander began the spring as first-teamers along the Knights’ offensive line, which suffered a setback Saturday with news of sophomore Betim?Bujari’s ankle injury.

“Betim’s one of my favorite people to play with,” Osei said. “But we have depth, so it’s not anything we’re worried too much about. When Betim comes back, he’ll come right back in.”

The Knights offensive line mixed and matched pieces nearly every game last season, when the starting five rarely went a series without substitutions. Flood tried to shy away from the rotation this spring, but Bujari’s injury and sophomore Kaleb Johnson’s absence compromises that plan.

“We’ve had to juggle a little bit,” Flood said.

A number of players, namely junior guard Antwan Lowery, earn opportunities to impress the coaching staff with the instability.

Lowery, once a starter last season, remains in competition for time.

“If he can continue [to be consistent] through the end of spring,” Flood said, “it would be hard to foresee a situation where he wasn’t one of our starters.”

Redshirt sophomore Taj Alexander, currently pegged as Rutgers’ starter at right tackle, also made an impression on Flood through seven practices.

Osei said he thinks Alexander is still athletic enough to play defensive line, where he played as a true freshman.

“He probably found a home here on the offensive line,” Osei said.

The same remains to be seen for Osei. The 6-foot-4, 280-pounder played center, guard and tackle last season before settling in at right guard during the spring.

He began the 2011 season starting at center.

“I’ve moved around a lot,” Osei said. “When people have to step up, it’s not anything new to anyone anymore. No one’s been forced to be in a new position.”

Flood said none of the candidates to start at quarterback or running back separated themselves nearly halfway through spring practice.

“I’m pleased with the progress they’re making,” he said. “What I’m hoping is the next block of six practices will be a significant jump for those guys at both positions.”

Junior Chas Dodd and sophomore Gary Nova split reps at quarterback Saturday, when Dodd threw a pair of touchdowns. Nova went 10-for-26 for 119 yards.

“It wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be production-wise,” Dodd said Saturday. “We had a few missed opportunities where we weren’t able to move the ball like we wanted to.”

Sophomore running back Jawan Jamison continues to split time on the first team with classmate Savon Huggins. Jamison scored on a 51-yard touchdown pass Saturday before leaving with an injury.

Bujari also saw his scrimmage cut short, but Flood said the injuries are not serious.

“None of the dings are long-term deals,” he said. “Whether or not they get back this spring, I’m not sure. They’re not surgical. These guys will get back ready for the summer program 100 percent.”

Flood said he had yet to hear news regarding the health of junior tight end Malcolm Bush, who suffered a lower-leg injury yesterday in practice.

“My initial reaction is I don’t think it’s going to be that serious,” he said. “But until the doctors look at him and X-ray it … that’s when we’ll find out for sure.”

Bush saw time with the absence of senior D.C. Jefferson, reduced to a non-contact role in the spring because of injury.

After reviewing tape from Saturday’s scrimmage, Flood said freshman kicker Kyle Federico’s play encouraged him.

Federico went 4-for-5 on field goal attempts, with a long of 39 yards.

“His ball right now gets up a little quicker than some of the other guys,” Flood said. “I thought he separated himself a little bit, even though I’m not ready to make a final decision there.”


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