5 To Watch: Rutgers D

ScarletReport.com publisher Sam Hellman offers Irish fans five players to watch on Rutgers' defense

MLB Steve Longa -- The freshman All-American was the closest thing Rutgers had to Khaseem Greene's production last season. Longa is the first middle linebacker at Rutgers with 100 tackles since Gary Brackett a decade ago.

Longa mans the middle with a solid understanding of defensive schemes, and enough cover ability to keep some running backs and tight ends at bay. Look for Rutgers to look to funnel tackles to Longa, who is the biggest playmaker at linebacker.

DT Darius Hamilton -- Notre Dame was one of the few programs not to put the full-court press on Hamilton during recruiting. An Army All-American and five-star recruit out of Don Bosco Prep, Hamilton showed significant development between his freshman and sophomore year.

The sophomore was the most active defensive lineman Rutgers had when it came to play disruption. His superior hand technique, passed on from father Keith Hamilton of New York Giants fame, more than make up for a lack of size at the 3-technique.

Hamilton led Rutgers with 10 TFLs to go along with 4.5 sacks.

CB Gareef Glashen -- The junior cornerback was a reserve and underperformer for long stretches, but is coming off the best performances of his career in beating South Florida. Glashen has been impressive early in bowl practice, but is part of a secondary that was one of the worst in the nation this year.

?Glashen is the only non-freshman expected to play corner for Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl.

OLB Quentin Gause -- Gause is a classic case of valuable minutes and effort behind an established start. Senior captain Jamal Merrell is the clear starter at strongside linebacker. Gause plays behind him, and gives some of the most valuable snaps off the bench on the Rutgers defense.

Gause is better than Merrell against the run. He started over him in a win over Arkansas, and finished the regular season fifth on the roster in tackles (44) despite just the one start. Merrell started nine times and logged 37 tackles in his final year. Gause projects to be a starting linebacker in spring practice.

Gause will be a little extra amped up for the Pinstripe Bowl, playing in his home state against close friend Jarron Jones.

CB Anthony Cioffi -- First Rutgers lost a fifth-year senior to injury, then one freshman quit the team and another sat via suspension. Cioffi, a true freshman from a small high school, was ready to step in and won a starter's share of action in the second half of the season.

Cioffi wears No. 31 just like Jason Sehorn did in New Jersey, and the skill set is similar. Cioffi is a starting cornerback for now, but could have a future at safety as he develops his body over the next three seasons. Cioffi and Glashen are the defensive backs to watch, but the true freshman is particularly interesting because of what he brings on special teams.

Cioffi is one of the better gunners Rutgers has on punt coverage. He disrupts the ball, and is dangerous in punt-block situations.

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