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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

As zone blocking arrives, Damian Wroblewski takes center stage

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: Tyler_Barto

PISCATAWAY Damian Wroblewski is a man of phrases.

"Repetition equals reaction," Rutgers' offensive line coach says Saturday, his voice booming, "reaction equals havoc."

Kyle Flood is banking on it. The second-year head coach's answer Saturday about the comfort of his offensive line in a new scheme was revealing.

"I think they are at a point now much further along than they were in the spring in terms of what (coordinator) Ron (Prince) is looking for," Flood said. "I'm starting to see it on film. A lot of the drill work, it's a little leap of faith for the players because they don't always see the fruit of their labor right away. They have to believe in the system and believe in the coaches to continue to do those drills knowing at some point it'll show up."

Kyle Flood said Saturday the success of Rutgers' new run installations depends on how run personnel buy in. "It's a little leap of faith," Flood said. (Tyler Barto)

Flood's response came hours after Rutgers showed little progress on the ground in the team's first scrimmage at High Point Solutions Stadium. The man he entrusts the progress to sounds patient. He needs to be.

"You see the video evidence of the kids working at it," said Wroblewski, whom Flood once called the best offensive line coach in the country. "A lot of small, small details, subtle things the average eye won't see."

Wroblewski talks at length about angles of pursuit, footwork, angles of contact and setting up blocks. Few can appreciate the minutiae of offensive line play, and even less can separate it from the results of a run game.

That's Wroblewski's job. As Rutgers gears more toward Prince's zone-blocking system, players will lack comfort. They've had a full spring of it, and Prince installed a zone-blocking offense at the start of training camp.

Savon Huggins, the centerpiece of Rutgers' rushing offense, says zone running suits him. Gary Nova said it fit the team's personnel.

But Wrobewski intimates the shift is more about an effect on defense.

"At the end of day when you're trying to advance the ball as an offense," he says, "you want to put people on the field in conflict — run, play-action pass, different run schemes, different combination blocks."

Results have been mixed.

Paul James scampered to a 17-yard touchdown after evading a tackler in Saturday's scrimmage. Huggins, hampered for most of the day, added a nine-yard score. True freshman Justin Goodwin translated his performance into a move up the depth chart.

But Flood lamented players' inconsistency Tuesday. Right guard Chris Muller encourages Flood on one series before reminding him he's only a redshirt freshman the next, he said.

"A young man can come from an offense that isn't like ours and you have to adjust them," Wroblewski said. "It takes time."

Wroblewski's elbows rests on his upper thighs. Doors thud in front of him as players exit Rutgers' recruiting lounge in the south end zone. As media day ends, he's one of a handful of personnel remaining fielding questions. 

It is a fitting role for a coach looking for answers.

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