It may not seem like it, but linemen (both offensive and defensive) are the most underrated players on the football field. Sure, the quarterback reads the defenses and makes the passes, and linebackers adjust the coverage to set up interceptions and sacks, but who gives the quarterback enough time to read the field and throw? Who applies pocket pressure for the linebackers and defensive backs to make a play with?
It may not be the most glamorous position, nor does the position make much bank on the pro level, with a few exceptions as in Ndamukong Suh and Joe Thomas, but the key to having a great offensive/defensive unit is the line.
Teams like No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson, and No. 10 Auburn have been able to maintain a consistent level of success thanks to their guys in the trenches. If Rutgers should ever want to aspire to be even in the same room as these powerhouse football factories, both lines need some work.
On the offensive side of the ball, Rutgers’ offensive line has been somewhat of a bright spot for the team. Headlined by redshirt junior left tackle Tariq Cole, senior Dorian Miller, and sophomore Kamaal Seymour, this line has done a pretty good job keeping graduate quarterback Kyle Bolin upright, only allowing four sacks, as well as losing just one fumble over the course.
However, in that same time span, Rutgers’s offensive line has allowed 32 tackles for loss, amounting for 89 lost yards, as well as only clearing enough of a path for a rushing offense that has 770 total rushing yards, ranking 75th in the NCAA. In terms of passing game statistics, the lackluster results rest more on Bolin’s shoulders than on the line, but that is a story for another day.
On the defensive side of the ball, the defensive line has had trouble applying pressure to the opposing quarterback. The line is currently headlined by defensive ends Kemoko Turay and Kevin Wilkins, along with defensive tackles Jon Bateky and Sebastian Joseph. In five games, they have racked up only one sack, 64 tackles, and five tackles for loss, ranking in the near bottom of the NCAA in these categories.
With such lackluster production on both sides of the line, it is clear that an injection of youth and raw talent is desperately needed.
Enter Raiqwon O’Neal.
While his rankings and ratings won’t wow anyone (three -star recruit, ranked 78th best OT in the country), his ability to effectively play on both sides of the gridiron most certainly will.
O’Neal currently plays for the Conway High School Tigers in Conway, South Carolina. This season, O’Neal has been able to help his offense average more than 350 yards per game as an offensive tackle, while being second on the Tigers in sacks with three. Last week, it was announced by Myrtle Beach Online that O’Neal was selected to participate in the 2017 Offense-Defense All-American Bowl.
“I just couldn’t believe it (when I was selected),” O’Neal told Myrtle Beach Online. “There was just a whole lot of excitement, I was just at a loss for words.”
This year’s game will be held in New Orleans on December 29th, broadcasted on ESPN 3.
O’Neal is a commit that Rutgers is lucky to have. Whether he sticks to offense, defense, or embraces a dual-threat role, Rutgers head coach Chris Ash will be chomping at the bit on how to use O’Neal in the coming future.
For all your collegiate and professional apparel needs, check out 365 Gameday.