Freshman ready to anchor line for Rutgers if necessary
Marcus Applefield does not hail from New Jersey. In fact, the redshirt-freshman offensive lineman might be a polar opposite in comparison to a the tri-state area native.
Situated right off of the New Jersey Turnpike, Applefield finds himself far away from his home in Weeki Wachee, Florida — where things are a lot different.
In Applefield’s hometown, there is a total population of 12, according to the 2013 U.S. Census. Weeki Wachee covers 640 acres, or exactly one-square mile. By comparison, New Brunswick situates itself over nearly six-square miles, with Rutgers enrollment at 65,000.
Applefield became the first player from his high school to receive a Division I football scholarship when he accepted his ride in 2014 to the Rutgers football team.
While Applefield was named as one of the offensive linemen in the rotation set by now-suspended head coach Kyle Flood prior to the season. The Florida native saw his most significant action against Penn State and when junior right guard Chris Muller went down with an injury, it was Applefield’s time.
Playing for interim head coach Norries Wilson, Applefield made the most of it — even if he did have some nerves playing in front 103,323 Nittany Lions fans, striping Beaver Stadium in blue and white.
“Of course. With that type of environment, you are going to get some butterflies,” Applefield said. “I knew I was prepared and ready to play. I just went in there and did what I’m taught to do. I took in the whole crowd before the game, but none of that affected me during the game.”
Being launched into the mix following the injury to Muller was tough. It became more difficult when Applefield lined up against All-Big Ten defensive tackle Antony Zettel.
But Applefield said Zettel and the Penn State defensive line was not too much to handle. He credited Rutgers defensive line and how they help him prepare for game day.
“It was good experience (to go up against Penn State’s defensive line),” Applefield said. “But our D-Line are some of the best of the best and I get to practice against them every day. It was nothing too crazy that I couldn’t handle.”
Flood said prior to the season that Applefield and fellow redshirt-freshman Tariq Cole both were rotation guys who could see time in every game. The decision was made to put in Applefield against Penn State, even though Cole was also an option.
“The right guard was down and that’s where Applefield had practiced the most during the week,” Wilson said when asked why Applefield was chosen over Cole. “Had it been the left guard, there was a greater chance that Tariq would have been the guy.”
But whether Applefield gained valuable experience or not was far from the issue this past Saturday for the offensive line. The unit allowed five sacks of sophomore quarterback Chris Laviano.
Senior left tackle Keith Lumpkin believes that number is too high. Lumpkin said that the Rutgers offensive line prides itself on protecting the quarterback.
While failing to do that Saturday, Lumpkin said the lineman went back to the drawing board for this past week of practice. They worked on basic technique and protections in order to make sure five sacks doesn’t happen again.
“We gave up five sacks, so the key emphasis this week was to work on our pass protection and pass sets,” Lumpkin said. “Letting up that many sacks is just something that you have to learn from. A lot of mistakes were made in that game, but hopefully we corrected them and learned from them so it won’t happen again versus Kansas. This team does a lot of twists, stunts and different schemes to try and get pressure on the quarterback.”
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