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Monday, August 5, 2013

How tackle Keith Lumpkin fits in new Rutgers scheme

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: Tyler_Barto

Keith Lumpkin is 6-foot-8, weighs 315 pounds and has a seven-foot wingspan.

And yet, as Rutgers adds more movement-centric zone-blocking schemes, could Lumpkin's size be a liability? Lumpkin, pegged as Rutgers' starting left tackle, doesn't think so.
Keith Lumpkin has started at left tackle since the final
week of spring practice. (Tyler Barto)

"Honestly, it doesn't matter how big you are. If you can move, you can move," Lumpkin said Sunday, three days into Rutgers' first installation: zone blocking. "You have to be able to run in this offense. That's what helps me out the most is I can still run. No matter how big I am, I can still be able to run, be agile, flexible still."

Lower-body flexibility is a staple of textbook zone blocking, which requires linemen to block specific "gaps" instead of defenders. Lower hips and pad level allow linemen to reach linebackers, a goal in Rutgers' scheme.

Tackles will also pull more frequently, making mobility more important.

"I love pulling because that's what I did in high school (at St. Peter's Prep)," Lumpkin said. "Every play I pulled for Savon (Huggins), so I'm used to it. I like getting out there in space, being able to hit those little guys because they sit back there, drop back and I get a chance to hit them."

He will first have to engage with defensive linemen, either on the frontside or creating cutback lanes on the backside. Defensive end Jamil Merrell, who's gone against Lumpkin through four training camp practices, notices Lumpkin's measurables.

"He uses his long arms," Merrell said. "He understands his long arms are a great tool for him. For him to use his long arms and stay low, it’ll be good for us.”

IN PRINT: Darius Hamilton, Jamil Merrell could key Rutgers' pass rush

But Lumpkin's frame could be compromised if an undersized defender gets inside him. Head coach Kyle Flood will likely withhold any o-line evaluations until the team's first scrimmage Saturday.


On advantages of wingspan: "It's great to have long arms. Once you get on somebody, you get a hold of them, you got them. You just have to keep moving your feet with them. It's like basketball, you have to play defense now. Run-blocking, you just have to shoot your hands real low, get them in the chest. Because if not they might get under you and they might drive you back. That's when you have to squat down and anchor down and remove hands and get back inside."

On first week of zone-block installation: "It's good because me and (left guard Kaleb Johnson) work together a lot on the zone, going left and right, frontside, backside. We're working together. We're really getting our chemistry down pat because we never played with each other. We were on opposite sides. Now that we're playing next to each other, we have to get our chemistry down, talk better, point out who we got."

On playing next to Johnson, who started last season at left tackle: "I'm not really picking his brain. I'm just going to need help because he played the position before. So I'll be like, 'Hey, K, what do you want to do on this: double (team) this, single?'"

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