What you need to know ...
Getting in the backfield hasn't been a problem in the Greg Schiano
era, and the run defense made great strides last season, but the
overall production needs to be better with a big emphasis on
improving the pass defense. The line has to replace pass rushing
terrors Ryan Neill and Val Barnaby, but Jamal Westerman from the
outside and Ramel Meekins on the inside will do fine. The
coaching staff isn't afraid to play young players in important
spots, and this year won't be any different needing true
freshmen to form the bulk of the depth at linebacker. The
secondary is experienced and now has to pick off more passes.
Remel Meekins, 9
Interceptions: Ron Girault, 3
Star of the defense: Senior LB Devraun Thompson
Player that has to step up and become a star: Senior DE
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Chris Dirksz
Best pro prospect: Sophomore SS Courtney Greene
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Thompson, 2) FS Ron
Girault 3) SS Courtney Greene
Strength of the defense: Safety, pass rush
Weakness of the defense:
Pass defense, linebacker depth
The line takes a huge hit losing 20 sacks and
34.5 tackles for loss with the departure of Ryan Neill and Val Barnaby,
but there's the potential for this to once again be one of the nation's
better pass rushing front fours. Jamal Westerman appears ready to
explode on one side, while true sophomore Pete Tverdov and Gary Watts
will eventually be terrors in the backfield. There isn't a lot of beef
in the middle, but that's by design with Eric Foster and Ramel Meekins
using their quickness to make plays.
The key to the unit: All the young prospects have to become
productive right off the bat. They don't have to help generate 41 sacks
like last year's line, but they have to be consistent.
Defensive Line Rating: 6
- DE Jamal Westerman, Soph. - 28 tackles, 4 sacks, 6.5
TFL, 4 quarterback hurries
It'll be up to the 252-pound sophomore to quickly grow into one of the
team's new star pass rushers ... and he should be able to do it. It
might take a little while to be Ryan Neill, but he's quick with a good
drive into the backfield. It'll be a shock if he doesn't end up with
close to double-digit sacks.
- DT Eric Foster, Jr. - 8 tackles, 2.5 TFL
Foster appeared ready for a huge 2005 before injuring his knee in the
second game of the season. He's not huge at 260 pounds, but he's
extremely active with the quickness to be a regular in the backfield.
He's needed on the inside and could move to end if other tackles emerge.
- DT Ramel Meekins, Sr. - 63 tackles, 9 sacks, 15 TFL, 9
The former walk-on has grown into one of the line's most productive
players. He's a bowling ball at 6-0 and 280 pounds giving him great
leverage and the ability to maul offensive linemen. He's one of the Big
East's premier interior pass rushers, but now the pressure will be on
without Ryan Neill and Val Barnaby to take the pressure off on the
- DE William Beckford, Sr. - 7 tackles, 1.5 TFL
Beckford overcame a knee injury to become a playmaking outside
linebacker with 44 tackles as a sophomore, but he fell off the map last
year in terms of production and moved over to the defensive line. Now
the 222-pound senior will be turned loose as a pass rusher on the
- DT Chris Dirksz, Soph. - 2 tackles
Dirksz got his feet wet as a true freshman making two tackles, and now
he'll play a keep role as a run defender behind Ramel Meekins. He's an
aggressive player with a high-octane motor; he should grow into a
dangerous interior pass rusher.
- DE Pete Tverdov, Soph. - 9 tackles
A potentially strong every-down end, the true sophomore will back up
Jamaal Washington after spending last season seeing a little bit of
time. He's a great athlete with room on his 6-4 frame to get up to
around 250 pounds.
- DE Gary Watts, Soph. - 2 tackles
The 240-pound true sophomore saw a little time late last season to get
ready to make a big push behind William Beckford. He has great potential
with the quickness to be decent in pass coverage and the drive to be
expected to get into the backfield on a regular basis.
The starting three will be more than fine led by Devraun
Thompson in the middle, rising star Chenry Lewis on one side and veteran
Quintero Frierson on the other, but there's no experienced depth
whatsoever. Things are so thin that Brandon Renkart will move over from
safety and several true freshmen will have to play key roles right away.
Kevin Malast is a good-looking young backup in the middle, but that's
The key to the unit: Depth, depth and more depth.
Rutgers needs to develop some right away and won't be able to slowly
bring along the true freshman.
Linebacker Rating: 6
- Chenry Lewis, Soph. - 32 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL, 2
broken up passes, 3 quarterback hurries
Lewis grew into a starter over the second half of the season doing a
little of everything well from getting into the backfield to hanging
with running backs on pass patterns. He was a touchdown machine in high
school scoring a New York state high school record 107 times as a tight
end but was quickly moved to linebacker early in his Rutgers career.
He'll be expected to grow into a strong pass rusher.
- Devraun Thompson, Sr. - 97 tackles, 2 sacks, 8 TFL, 1
interceptions, 3 broken up passes, 6 quarterback hurries, 2 forced
Thompson has been one of the team's best tacklers for the last three
seasons with 214 career stops while also growing into more of a pass
rushing force. There was some early question about how hard he wanted to
work, and then he became a huge hitter with excellent range. He has the
experience to be the leader of the front seven.
- Quintero Frierson, Sr. - 46 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 5 TFL, 5
It took half of last year, but Frierson eventually became a playmaker on
the outside. He started in 2004 in the middle before having problems
with an ankle injury leading to the emergence of Devraun Thompson. Now
the 235-pound senior will be a steady full-time defender on the outside.
- Kevin Malast, Soph. - 4 tackles
Malast got in the mix over the second half of his true freshman season
and should quickly become a mainstay of the defense this season playing
behind Devraun Thompson. He's tough as nails with the ability to
eventually be one of the team's leading tacklers.
- Chris Quaye, Soph. - 3 tackles
The 230-pound Quaye saw a little bit of time as a true freshman and now
will be a key backup behind Quintero Frierson. With the linebacker depth
razor-thin, he'll have to grow into a 30+ tackle defender.
How rough were things in the Rutgers defensive backfield?
The Scarlet Knights were second in the nation in sacks cranking out 47
of them, but all the pressure didn't do anything to help the secondary.
Part of the problem was the lack of overall help with everyone selling
out to generate pressure leading to way too many big plays. The bigger
issue was the non-existence of interceptions generating a mere six with
three from safety Ron Girault. There's experience with veterans Derrick
Robinson and Joe Porter at corner and good safeties Girault and Courtney
Greene, and there's even a little bit of depth. Now there has to be more
The key to the unit: More interceptions, fewer big
mistakes, and more consistency.
Secondary Rating: 6
- CB Derrick Roberson, Sr. - 51 tackles. 8 broken up
Robinson took over the starting job early one and became one of the
team's better tacklers while leading the way with eight broken up passes
and 17 over the last two years. One of the team's faster players with
4.4 speed, he's not that big, but he plays tough with no fear of making
the tough tackle.
- SS Courtney Greene, Soph. - 116 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 4
broken up passes, 3 forced fumbles
Built like a corner at 6-1 and 180 pounds, Greene shocked as a true
freshman taking over the starting role early one and finishing as the
team's leading tackler with eight double-digit stop games. Now the
challenge becomes for him to use his great range to make more plays
against the pass.
- FS Ron Girault, Jr. - 86 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3 interceptions. 1
broken up pass
A top playmaker since his true freshman season, Girault has 147 career
tackles finishing third on the team last year while being the only
defensive back who did anything against the pass. While not all that big
at 5-11 and 195 pounds, he hits like a ton of bricks to go along with
the speed to get into the backfield on a regular basis.
- CB Joe Porter, Sr. - 28 tackles, 2 TFL, 7 broken up passes
Porter had a disappointing season after a fantastic sophomore campaign.
He's a solid 200 pounds with the speed and experience to be a far more
productive cornerman. He broke up plenty of passes, and now he has to
make more big plays.
- CB Manny Collins, Sr. - 27 tackles. 2 broken up
passes, 2 blocked kicks
Collins turned into a good reserve with his biggest plays made on
special teams with two blocked punts including one that was returns for
a score against Syracuse. He'll play behind Derrick Roberson and should
see time in nickel situations.
- SS Glen Lee, Soph. - 18 tackles
One of the team's best special teamers, the huge hitting true sophomore
should make more of an impact at strong safety behind Courtney Greene.
He might be a lean 6-2 and 195 pounds, but he packs a next level punch
when he gets to the ball. Now he has to be more of a playmaker against
The kicking game will be rock solid with the return of placekicker
Jeremy Ito and punter Joe Radigan, but there needs to be more pop to the
punting game. There are no issues in the return game with Willie Foster
one of the best in America averaging 10.9 yards per punt return and 24.5
yards per kickoff return. The coverage units were miserable allowing
12.4 yards per punt return and 23.8 yards per kickoff return.
The key to the unit: Bigger kicks from punter Joe
Radigan and much, much, better overall kick coverage.
Special Teams Rating: 8
- PK Jeremy Ito, Jr. - 20-27 FGs, 40-40 extra points
Ito had an excellent season showing fantastic range with two bombs from
beyond 50 yards, but there were three misses inside the 40. Even so,
he's one of the Big East's premier kickers and should be in the hunt for
- P Joe Radigan, Sr. - 57 punts, 2,210 yds, 38.8-yard average, 15
inside the 20
Radigan's net average isn't all that great as Rutgers
finished 97th in the nation in punting, but that's a big misleading. He
was fantastic at putting offenses inside the 20 and only cranked out two
touchbacks to go along with seven fair catches.