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August 27, 2011

Inside the Rutgers Depth Chart: Defense






Rutgers released its first official depth chart of the season today with less than a week to go until the Scarlet Knights kick off against NC Central. Here's a look at how the pecking order shapes up on the defensive side of the football.


DEFENSIVE END
Marvin Booker
For the first time in his college career, Booker will come off the edge as a defensive end. The former three-year linebacker hasn't had much game experience but now finds himself thrust into a very crucial role. His best asset is his speed and while Booker is very well put-together, he tops off at 240 pounds. He'll now have to play bigger in his new role coming off the edge.



- or -
JR Ka'Lial Glaud
Glaud was ousted from the middle linebacker spot after one day of camp and then ousted as the strongside linebacker later in camp. He will now be asked to play a position he has never before played. He fared well in his only scrimmage at the D-End position, but will have to learn on the fly now that the season is starting. Glaud does bring a lot of heart to the field to go along with a high motor.





DEFENSIVE END
SO Michael Larrow
Larrow went from end to tackle and now finds himself back at end. At 270 pounds and an lengthy wing span, Larrow has all the tools to be a dominant defensive end. Now it is a matter of putting it all together. If Larrow could play with a little more fire, he could be the answer the RU staff is looking for. However, just going through the motions could jeopardize his place on the depth chart.



- or -
SR Manny Abreu
The move seemed like a good one coming out of the spring, but a head injury limited Abreu through training camp and kept him on the sidelines more than in the actual trenches. However inexperienced, Abreu will be called upon to play big minutes at a position that has an urgent need. He has the physical tools to thrive in that role but will he be able to make the adjustment to playing with his hand on the ground this late in his career? That answer will be forthcoming.




NOSE GUARD
JR Scott Vallone
Vallone shifts over to the nose guard position after spending the past two years at the 3-technique. Although it is a new role, Vallone remains RU's best defensive player. That is likely to result in double and sometimes triple-teams as the redshirt junior draws a lot of attention on every play. A little help on the line could go a long way for Vallone as he could be in store for a monster season even in the face of so many double teams.


SO Isaac Holmes
Holmes came to Rutgers a highly touted recruit, but he has yet to live up to that billing. Now part of the two-deep, Holmes will get his chance to make good on all the hype and followed him to Rutgers. He spent his first year getting his body in the proper condition to compete at the college level and will have that excuse as a crutch no longer. In his third season, Holmes will either take the reins or watch some of the younger guys pass him by.




DEFENSIVE TACKLE
SR Justin Francis
The senior will finally have the chance to be a full-time starter but that will come in a different capacity this season on the interior of the line. He has thrived in that role since making the full-time move this summer, relying on his previous experience as a Rutgers defensive tackle. One of the leaders on this year's defense, Francis seems poised for a breakout season.



FR Kenneth Kirksey
Kirksey's road to Rutgers took a detour last year when he was forced to attend Fork Union Military Academy for a semester. With his academics now in order, Kirksey made the most of his January enrollment and started to emerge in the later stages of training camp. He possesses great raw strength and will look to provide some much-needed depth on the defensive line.





STRONGSIDE LINEBACKER
SO Jamal Merrell
The third-year sophomore will now get his chance to run with the first-team defense after bouncing to a few different positions in his previous seasons at RU. Merrell may not have the look of a typical linebacker at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds but he can cover a lot of ground in a hurry. He put together a solid spring combined with a steady summer to vault his way up into the starting rotation.



SR Edmond Laryea
The iron man is back for his sixth year and proved this summer that he is not short on hard hits. A couple of knee surgeries may have limited Laryea's speed but they did not take away from the heart he shows on the field each practice. Laryea is better against the run and if given the chance, he could come in and lower the boom on Big East running backs.





MIDDLE LINEBACKER
JR Steve Beauharnais
It has been a game of musical linebackers over the last year for Beauharnais. He went from the middle over to the strong side for the duration of spring practice and back to the middle on the second day of camp. As of now, Beauharnais appears to be the team's best option in the middle even though he may be better suited to play outside. A firmer grasp of the schemes this year should aid Beauharnais as he will man the controls of the defense for the second straight season.


David Milewski
Milewski has returned early from last year's knee surgery and is steadily working his way up the depth chart. With some added confidence and a bit more experience, Milewski could become the starting middle linebacker which would then allow Beauharnais to switch back to his more natural position on the outside. Milewski's progress has been noteworthy enough to lock him in as the second-string middle linebacker in only his second season on the banks.




WEAKSIDE LINEBACKER
JR Khaseem Greene
Greene returns to his familiar role at linebacker, which he played all through high school. He brings an upgrade of speed to the position and his ability to rush the passer could pay dividends down the line. In his new role as a starting linebacker, Greene has the chance to have a very big season. He enjoyed a strong spring and all indications in the early going are showing that his move from the safety position was a good one.


FR Kevin Snyder
The immensely athletic Snyder has quickly worked his way into the two-deep in his first summer at Rutgers. He has the athleticism and skill to be an All-Big East caliber linebacker, but may need a little more time before meeting that challenge. His induction to college football is likely to come sooner than later as he has performed well since being promoted to the second-team.





CORNERBACK
SO Logan Ryan
Coming in as a four-star prospect, there was plenty of hype following Ryan. He first got on the field last year, but gave way to Marcus Cooper as the team's third corner later in the season. He looks to have rebounded the summer and may be finally ready to take his place at RU's top corner. He plays with a quiet confidence and is very fluid and smooth out on the field.



JR Marcus Cooper
The converted wide receiver picked up momentum as the summer went on as one of the team's taller corners. He earned a start last year in the season finale against West Virginia and is not too far off from reclaiming that spot. More experience should benefit Cooper as he is settling in more and more at the position with each passing day.





CORNERBACK
JR Brandon Jones
Jones has been on the cusp of distancing himself from the rest of the corners, yet hasn't been able to deliver that knockout punch. However, he has delivered enough to earn a starting role, an honor bestowed on him only once before at Rutgers. In his fourth year with the program, things seem to be clicking for the South Jersey native also know by his teammates as 'Juice.'



SR Mason Robinson
In his final year as a Scarlet Knight, Robinson seems to have found a home at the cornerback position. He enjoyed an excellent spring in what was his first go-round playing the position at the college level. That performance carried over into the summer but wasn't quite enough to earn him a starting role. Nevertheless, he held his own against RU's talented corps of wide receivers and is likely to get his share of tests this year in Big East play.




FREE SAFETY
SR David Rowe
One of the leaders on this team, Rowe's play at safety could have a trickle down effect on the rest of the team. He is one of the smarter players on the RU squad and manages to thrive in each role he is asked to play. He went from being a solid nickelback to a solid cornerback but now appears to have found his best fit at safety. Rowe also adds more speed to the secondary and all signs are pointing towards him having his best year in scarlet.


JR Wayne Warren
Warren came on strong this past spring playing in sub-packages on passing downs with the first-team defense. He has worked diligently throughout his career at Rutgers and may finally be in store for his most playing time as a Scarlet Knight. He has been revered for his football IQ and continues to get better when stepping on the field in passing situations.





STRONG SAFETY
JR Duron Harmon
Everything seems to be in place for the speedy Harmon to step up and become an all-conference player as a junior. The former Gatorade player of the year in Delaware combines speed and size. Now with a firm grasp of the defense, the sky could be the limit for Harmon. His closing speed should also help in pass coverage as there are not many receivers that can outrun Harmon.



FR Lorenzo Waters
The hard-hitting redshirt freshman makes his two-deep debut and looks to be there to stay as he is already starting to deliver on the promise of being a highly-touted prospect with more than 20 offers. Waters packs quite a wallop and may have had what was the hardest single hit of training camp. Waters does more than sure up the strong safety position as a rising star on the RU defense.

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