Linemen fill roles along offense front
When the ball is snapped during spring practice, Taj Alexander can always tell when senior tackle Andre Civil is making a play.
“We call him ‘old man’,” said the junior guard. “He has a certain thump when he hits.”
If Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood keeps his first-team offense intact in time for the Scarlet Knights’ opener against Fresno State, Alexander will hear that distinct sound coming to the right of him throughout the year.
With the departure of R.J. Dill, Civil moved from right tackle to right guard this spring.
That means Alexander, who split time with Civil last season at right guard, will now take on the responsibility fulltime.
That is if Flood sees more performances from the right side of the line like he did during last Saturday’s scrimmage.
“I thought last Saturday was the first that we looked like what we thought we would look like,” Flood said. “This Saturday will be a bigger test for them and I think we will know a little more after Saturday’s scrimmage.”
Between both, Flood looked for one to emerge at the right guard position last year, as both Civil and Alexander were named “co-starters” before last season’s opener against Tulane when Civil saw most of the time on the right side.
Civil saw nearly all the action when healthy, but Alexander stepped in for Civil when he missed games against South Florida and Cincinnati with injuries.
Now as both face full-time roles along Flood’s offensive line, Civil will have to adjust to a new right tackle, while Alexander takes on a full-time starter role for the first time in his career.
In Civil’s case, he feels like he is ready for his new role.
“So far, I’ve adjusted pretty well,” he said. “I’m completely comfortable and I’ve gotten down most of the techniques, so I’m comfortable.”
Civil has seen time all along the line during his career with the Knights, but while the versatile defender is finally happy to find a permanent home in the trenches, he is even more excited he gets to anchor the right side with Alexander, who Civil said is like his “little brother.”
“We are very close off the field and I’m looking forward to playing the whole season next to him,” Civil said. “...We make sure we are both on the same page and when I’m down he picks me up and when he’s down I pick him up, so we make sure we help each other.”
Alexander is just as excited for his opportunity to start fulltime, as the Downington, Pa., native will now get to compete alongside his friend instead of against him.
He said it does wonders for him mentally to allow him to focus on learning the new offense installed by offensive coordinator Ron Prince.
It also does not hurt to have Civil around to help.
“It just allows me to get better,” Alexander said. “When you’re not worrying about things in the back of your mind that shouldn’t be, you can focus on your spot and just do a lot better.”
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