- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - The quarterback competition between Hayden Rettig and Chris Laviano is getting a lot of attention at Rutgers’ camp, while another key competition is raging between the guys fighting to protect the signal-caller.

With the graduation of center Betim Bujari, left guard Kaleb Johnson and right tackle Taj Alexander, Rutgers is rebuilding the offensive line. With three-fifths of last year’s the line gone, the most- experienced man on that unit sees a positive difference from last summer.

“I’m not going to say the line wasn’t hungry last year, but you can actually see the hunger of people trying to compete for these spots,” senior Keith Lumpkin said. “I think the line with the amount of new open spots for people, now there’s more competition to get the spot.”

The locks come at tackle, where senior Lumpkin anchors the line having started 26 straight games at left tackle. After rotating with Alexander last season, J.J. Denman has solidified a spot at right tackle.

“It was definitely crucial,” Denman said about the eight games he played in last year. “Any experience that any player can get is positive, so I definitely use that to my advantage and build upon it like I’m doing right now in camp.”

Chris Muller is the other sure starter, but the question is where. After two years at guard, he is rotating between right guard and center, with Muller and Derrick Nelson listed as co-starters on the pre-amp depth chart.

“They’re just going to see if they’re going to see if they can use me to whatever advantage they have. I’m comfortable at both positions,” Muller said. “I’ve had a lot of experience at right guard, and for most of spring practice I took center snaps, so wherever (offensive line coach) (Mitch) Browning and head coach (Kyle) Flood need to put me that’s where I’ll feel most comfortable.”

But Nelson is trying to make the coaching staff’s decision easier.

“I’m just competing out there to make sure that I’m the one starting at center,” Nelson said.

So far, Nelson said he feels confident in the calls and comfortable as the starting center. Which is what the junior who played in four games last season knows he needs to exude to be starting the season opener against Norfolk State on Sept. 5

If he is the starter, it will be Dorian Miller or Tariq Cole lining up next to him at left guard. And after two days in shoulder pads, Miller has made an impression on Flood.

“I don’t know about (any of the offensive linemen) separating themselves, but I’ll mention one guy today, I thought Dorian Miller had a really good day today,” Flood said. “He showed up to me a little bit.”

Flood has said he’d like to be able to play six or seven linemen.

Regardless, Muller and Lumpkin all the stalwarts. And Lumpkin - who is one of the favorites to be named a team captain - knows his job goes beyond blocking the quarterbacks blindside.

“I just have to be more of a leader out there for the younger guys,” Lumpkin said. “I’ve played in several different conferences and I played against a lot of good people, so my experience and knowledge that I have, I just have to share it to the guys who are filling in those three spots.”

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