Replacing Greene, Beauharnais a Tall Task

Jamal Merrell blocked FG

Linebacker, like defensive back, is set for major changes this spring for Rutgers. Graduating two of the best in school history, the Scarlet Knights return two experienced players and plenty of unproven youth looking for playing time.

Senior linebackers like Khaseem Greene and Steve Beauharnais are not easily replaced. The loss of Greene's sheer playmaking ability, combined with the leadership and decision-making of Beauharnais, will be a trending top when Rutgers returns to action this spring.

Rutgers has more young depth ready at linebacker than it does at defensive back, but assistant coach Dave Cohen's group will have plenty of position battles to watch.

Moving On Outside linebacker Khaseem Greene -- When a program loses a great player like Greene, it often takes more than one person to replace him. Expect that to be the case at weakside linebacker.

Greene's 387 career tackles are fourth best in school history and he leaves an All-American. Look for Greene's name to be called early at Radio City Music Hall in April.

Middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais -- Greene picked up the awards and piled up the records, but Beauharnais may have been the most valuable linebacker in the program last year. The "quarterback of the defense," Beauharnais was a vocal, mature leader on a defense that nearly led Rutgers to the BCS.

Considered a post-season snub by his teammates when it comes to All-Big East honors, Beauharnais's role may be the toughest to replace because of the varying responsibilities carried by the senior middle linebacker.

Projected Spring Starters Strongside linebacker Jamal Merrell -- Merrell is the only returning starter from last year and will now be the "impact linebacker" for Rutgers. He made a name for himself early for special teams play, but slowly improved in coverage as the year went wrong. Soon to be a three-year starter, Merrell's emergence will be a steadying force on a defense facing big changes in 2013.

Middle linebacker Kevin Snyder -- Snyder has experience as a backup at all three spots and pushed Merrell hard upon his arrival last season. Middle linebacker is not his natural position by any means, but his knowledge of defensive coordinator Robb Smith's scheme, and two years in a college strength program, make him the best early fit.

Snyder's ideal position is outside linebacker, but he began working behind Beauharnais at the MIKE last year and needs to know multiple positions in 2013.

Weakside linebacker Steve Longa -- Head coach Kyle Flood initially penciled Longa in as a true freshman to see the field. He worked on the two-deep in practices and took his game to the next level in the final third of the season.

Longa shadowed Greene for nearly six months since enrolling. He gets the early nod at the weakside spot and is a lock to contribute regardless of how position battles shake out.

Keep an Eye on Redshirt freshman Quanzell Lambert – A high-ankle sprain in training camp killed Lamert's chances to play as a true freshman. The primary factor keeping him away from the starting middle linebacker position right now is experience. Snyder, though primarily an outside linebacker, dwarfs him in playing time and half of a training camp is not enough. Lambert projects as a true middle linebacker and the ideal scenario would be for him to step into that role soon so Snyder can move back outside.

Incoming freshman Lester Liston – The spring arrival from Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.) brings incredible raw athleticism to linebacker. Physically matured from a semester at prep school, Liston has been a linebacker his whole life and should be the top contender (of position players) to play as a true freshman.

Sophomore Quentin Gause -- A big spring did not get Gause on the field often this season and he remains a long shot heading into the spring. Gause found the field on special teams this year, but provides some depth at outside linebacker if he stays at that position. Rutgers experimented with Gause at both fullback and defensive end before Flood returned him to linebacker this year.

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