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Thursday, July 25, 2013

TOP 20: Proving it in Piscataway (No. 5)

Rutgers' dependency on wideouts could change if coordinator Ron Prince thinks Paul Carrezola, pictured, can impact the middle of the field. (AP Photo)

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: Tyler_Barto

A week remains until the start of Rutgers training camp. This top-20 countdown will run infrequently, documenting who's got the most to prove in 2013.

No. 5 — fifth-year senior tight end Paul Carrezola (6-foot-2, 240 pounds)

Why Carrezola's on the list: At a tight end position that's begged for production, Carrezola produced a career-high 2012: eight catches, 45 yards and a touchdown.

Most of the reason for those paltry stats? A traditionally wide receiver-heavy offense. Another was an inability to create separation  — from defenders or former teammate D.C. Jefferson.
Paul Carrezola (89) celebrates his second career touchdown Sept. 22
at Arkansas. (AP Photo)

With a relatively young receiving corps and a new playcaller with tight end experience, it is Carrezola's best chance to make an impact in the passing game. He split time between tight end and H-back after fullback Michael Burton suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 4.

Productivity at tight end could pay dividends in quarterback Gary Nova's development. The junior hasn't had a safety valve — you could argue Mohamed Sanu as a do-it-all in 2011 — as a starter.

Carrezola could fill that role. He doesn't have breakaway speed, but he's at least dependable. He will finally get a chance to showcase it this season.

During training camp, keep an eye on: Rutgers' pass-blocking development. 

How Rutgers' line fares in pass protection (along with Savon Huggins in the backfield) will determine Carrezola's usage, especially on third down. The Scarlet Knights return four of five starters up front and haven't boasted as much optimism there since 2009.

Ron Prince could rely less on Carrezola as a pass blocker on key downs if the Scarlet Knights' pass protection materializes. If not, expect more mass-protect looks intent on shots downfield.

2013 season outlook: Carrezola has doubled his receiving numbers in each season. Considering Jefferson's 20-catch season in 2012, it wouldn't be out of the ordinary to expect Carrezola to end up with 28 this season.

But that's the state of Rutgers' tight end position. Sophomore Tyler Kroft figures to affect Carrezola's output, and a more diverse deck of skill position players will chime in, as well.

Carrezola is a known commodity, and, even if prompted, Rutgers' tight end culture will not change overnight.

More from the countdown: No. 4 — Isaac Holmes
No. 6 — Tejay Johnson

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