By Joe DeLeone
KINGSTON, R.I. – Few teams in college football can boast a combination of youthful talent and seasoned veterans. That's exactly what Rhode Island will have coming into 2018 with an offensive line that has five players with game experience, despite only one returner being a senior.
This unit squad most notably paved the way for team rushing average of 101.2 rushing yards per game while also allowed just 5.27 tackles for loss per game, which was 30th best in the nation a year ago.
Anchoring the middle of the line and possessing the most game action is redshirt junior Dwayne Scott (Bronx, N.Y.). As the Rams starting center, Scott has started all 22 games over the last two seasons.
Next to Scott at left guard is junior Kyle Murphy (Attleboro, Mass.), who has contributed in 21 games in his first two years. Murphy has started 14 consecutive games, entering the starting lineup at James Madison as a true freshman in 2016 and locking down a spot every week since. The most versatile lineman on the team, Murphy started in all 11 games last season, getting the nod for six starts at left guard before sliding outside to right tackle for the final five games due to injuries elsewhere. He also took significant reps during Spring Camp at center while Scott recovered from offseason surgery.
Fellow junior Kevin Lawrence (Bloomfield, Conn.) has 16 games under his belt. Last season, he played in all 11 games and made nine starts, all of which were at right guard. Classmate Keith Coleman, Jr. (Hartford, Conn.) has appeared in 21 career games as a reserve on special teams and the line.
The only senior among the returners is Adriel A. Miller (Washington, D.C.), who joined the Ram's last summer after transferring from Diablo Valley. Miller played in seven games in 2017, starting the final five games at left guard. Slowed by injuries during training camp, Miller was a significant contributor as the season moved along.
Redshirt sophomore Sean Anderson (Alexandria, Va.) has not made his on-field debut, but he was on the travel team for every game last season and has two years in the program. He will compete for playing time at the tackle spots this season. Adding an additional veteran presence is Kadin Booker (Burlington City, N.J.), who is a graduate transfer from Ball State. Booker comes to Kingston with one season of eligibility after being a two-year starter for the Cardinals. Over that span he made 14 career starts for Ball State.
Finally, providing more depth in the trenches is redshirt freshman Kareem Burton (West Hartford, Conn.). Burton showed significant development over the last year, especially after getting a lot of playing time in the spring.
Adding to the veterans was a significant group of freshmen who were part of this year's recruiting class. Rhode Island brought in six freshmen players, several of whom will compete for immediate playing time. Those who could make the biggest impact and challenge returning veterans are Evan Lovell (Thomaston, N.J.), Sebastian Delasoudas (Ft. Lee, N.J.), Nick Correia (Nantucket, Mass.), and Lorenzo Thompson (Syracuse, N.Y.).
Lovell joins the Rams after earning All-Area and All-Prep in back-to-back seasons at Peddie. Delasoudas on the other hand earned All-County and All-State honorable mention at New Jersey powerhouse Don Bosco. He also brings experience playing two years of long snapper, adding depth for the specialists.
The biggest body of the class is the 6-5, 350-pound Correia, who was named to the First Team Max Prep Stars/First String Performance Gridiron Super Team. Finally, Thompson also has accolades after earning Second Team All-State in New York.
Filling out the rest of the depth for Rhode Island are walk-ons Jose Sandoval (Cranston, R.I.) and Thomas Kelleher (Barrington, R.I.).
Check GoRhody.com Monday for a look at the specialists on the 2018 roster.