Our series looking at the strongest and weakest positions on each team across the league continues today with Rutgers.
Strongest position: Defensive line.
I was inclined to go with offensive line here, considering the Scarlet Knights return four starters and should be one of the better groups in the league. But expectations are high for the defensive line to become an elite group this year, considering the talent and depth across the entire line. Veteran stalwart Scott Vallone is gone from the inside and so is Ka'Lial Glaud. But this group could end up being the best defensive line Rutgers has had since 2006. Jamil Merrell has an opportunity to be a game-changing force at end after making significant strides last year, with 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. Marcus Thompson and Isaac Holmes are back, providing experience and veteran leadership. The guy to watch is tackle Darius Hamilton, a prized recruit from a year ago who has won the starting job Vallone left behind. Hamilton played in 12 games last season so he does have experience. He also has the physical tools to make an immediate impact. He bulked up in the offseason, and coaches are really excited about what he can bring to the interior of the line.
Weakest position: Defensive back.
Rutgers has to retool its secondary, which was the best group in the Big East last season. Three starters are gone, including first-team Big East selections Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon. So there is no question the veteran defensive line mentioned at the top is going to have to be relied upon even more to take pressure off the young secondary. Safety Lorenzo Waters is the only returning starter. Tejay Johnson, Gareef Glashen and Ian Thomas have all taken turns running with the first team at cornerback. Glashen, a junior, is the oldest in the group. Perhaps the most interesting development this spring was seeing Jeremy Deering take hold of the starting safety spot. Rutgers has been trying to find a place for him since he arrived, switching him to various positions on offense before giving him a shot at safety last year. He finally seems comfortable in that role. Given his speed and athleticism, this could pay off big time for a team that needs some big-time players in the secondary.
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