Notebook: Denman Ready to Step Up
Aug. 10, 2015
By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. - J.J. Denman knows there's nothing he can say right now to ease any concerns outsiders may have about Rutgers' rebuilt offensive line. So he'll let his play do the talking for him, knowing it's the only way to win over skeptics.
"The only thing fans see is what happens on Saturdays," said Denman, a 6-6, 305-pound junior. "They're going to see people missing from the previous offensive line and assume that there is going to be a drop off. But it doesn't have to be that way. There are people like myself who have just been waiting for the opportunity, and now it's here."
Anyway, Denman said, he has put in his time to be in line to start at right tackle, after rotating at the position in eight games last season before being sidelined for the final four games due to injury.
In his mind, he has been there and done that - at least in terms of being familiar with Big Ten defensive lineman.
The only thing he hasn't done yet as a college player is actually start.
"Any experience you get is always helpful. I feel like that experience last year helped me out in the sense of seeing bits and pieces of what I'm going to see consistently," he said. "I've seen the defensive linemen in the Big Ten everyone talks about now. I've played against them. So I feel confident going into this year. I just have to play at a consistently high level."
Left tackle Keith Lumpkin, who will anchor the offensive line as a three-year starter, says he views Denman as a starter because of how much he played last season prior to the injury.
"I have confidence in him. I've seen him play enough now. He'll be ready to go," Lumpkin said.
Denman's ability to stabilize one of the three open positions may be a reason that head coach Kyle Flood said he is not experimenting with personnel as much in the offensive line this summer.
"Not as much as we did in the spring and we even settled that down toward the end of the spring," Flood said. "But we still have some guys that we're looking at in a couple of spots to make sure we get the best five out there.
"Just looking at that group, could it be five starters that end up starting every game this year and play the whole game? It could. It's probably more likely we'll play seven guys."
Despite the quarterback competition that is headlining preseason practice, Flood said today he will not be giving daily updates this week on the position battle between Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig.
"No, and I don't know that I'll make a comment on it for quite a few days," he said. "I'll let them play. I want to let them build a body of work, see how they progress. A smart guy told me one time `players get better when they get coached.' And this is the time of year where we really get to coach them and we have their full attention so now we'll have an opportunity to see how they progress through this first week."
The most reassuring sight for Rutgers fans on Day One of preseason camp? Paul James lined up again in the backfield.
"It makes me feel good," Flood said. "It was great to see him out there and I thought he ran around well. I got some questions (Sunday) about what he would be like and I didn't see any tentativeness whatsoever. I thought he looked great out there."
Rutgers will be able to go into full pads on Friday.