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Rutgers names offensive line as opener approaches

<p>Junior offensive linemen Chris Muller feels refreshed and ready, both mentally and physically, to start the season.</p>

Junior offensive linemen Chris Muller feels refreshed and ready, both mentally and physically, to start the season.

A twin extra-long mattress covers 39 inches in width, 80 inches in length and is the main bed option provided by University housing. Those dimensions leave the average student plenty of room to sleep.

When the Rutgers football team enters training camp in early August, the players bunk up in those same dormitories on campus.

They slept there for almost a month throughout August and some of the over-sized Scarlet Knights had enough of the accommodations by the time camp was over.

Senior Keith Lumpkin — who finished his fifth training camp — said the thing he looked forward to most after the team’s final scrimmage was sleeping in his own bed. At 6-foot-8 and 325 pounds, who could blame the third-year starter at left tackle after squeezing into a bed fit for someone half his size?

Lumpkin and junior Chris Muller return as the only Knights from an experienced offensive line unit a year ago that boasted five returning starters in the opening game. No matter how small the beds may feel for the linemen, this season they have big shoes to fill.

Juniors J.J. Denman, Derrick Nelson and sophomore Dorian Miller were officially named the new starters on the offensive line for the opening game Saturday.

While relatively inexperienced working together as a unit, Muller doesn’t think much will change with three new members.

“I feel incredible. My body feels great and I know I am physically and mentally ready,” Muller said. “I think that everyone else on the offensive line is just as physically and mentally ready as I am. We all have hung out before we even started camp, so when the three seniors did their time and left, it was just right back at it. We all clicked right away and it was great to have (that chemistry).”

Head coach Kyle Flood announced Tuesday that along with the five starters, redshirt-freshmen Tariq Cole and Marcus Applefield may also see some time against Norfolk State.

Last season, Flood implemented a similar strategy by giving Denman snaps at right tackle for then-senior Taj Alexander. Flood said he expects to give snaps to Cole and Applefield throughout the season.

“I think we'll play more than five, although I will say this, I feel like we have five starters,” Flood said. “But I saw the value in the playing time J.J. (Denman) got last year, even though Taj (Alexander) was the starter and how that developed him through the year. And he was able to be there when we needed him. I would like to have a rotation, but I do feel like we have five starters.”

The Rutgers offensive line averages 6-foot-5 and 304 pounds across the five starters. The numbers become more formidable when Cole, who is 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds, and Applefield, who is 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, enter the game.

While there might not be a drop-off in size if a starter comes off the field for one of the rotation lineman, will there be a drop off in skill and talent?

Lumpkin doesn’t think so. Whoever the five guys on the field are, whether it be the starters or a backup, Lumpkin and the rest of the group are confident they will do their job.

“I feel very confident in this unit and we are having fun out there,” Lumpkin said. “You got to have fun and love what you do. You can see the passion of everyone out there. Now that we have molded through training camp, we went through our ups and downs and we learned how to have more up days. That’s what we are focusing on — just going up and working from there.”

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.

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