DE - Michael Larrow
Rutgers uses a rotation on the defensive line that could go as deep as 12 people against the fast-paced Pittsburgh offense. Larrow starts at the traditional end position for Rutgers and is backed up by Marcus Thompson.
NT - Scott Vallone
Vallone is the cornerstone of the defensive line and frequently the subject of double and triple teams. Vallone leads the pass-rush with 4.5 sacks and scored his first career touchdown earlier this season on a forced fumble that he recovered in the end-zone.
DT - Justin Francis
Francis moved from end to tackle in training camp in order to assure the best four players start on the defensive line. He made two sacks in the opener and, since then, defenses pay enough attention to him to allow for Vallone to make plays as well.
R - Manny Abreu
Similar to the Panther position, the "R" defensive end occasionally plays in coverage and is also a pass-rush specialist. Abreu moved to the position after four years as a linebacker and brings a lot of speed to the defensive line. The same goes for other converted linebackers Ka'Lial Glaud and Marvin Booker, who also see time at the "R" position.
WLB - Khaseem Greene
Ray Graham's brother, Greene moved from strong safety to linebacker in the offseason as the primary move in a series by Schiano to increase team speed. Greene leads Rutgers in tackles, is a hard hitter and shows no signs of size or strength deficiencies playing closer to the line of scrimmage. If Vallone is the best player on the defense, Greene is the biggest impact player.
MLB - Steve Beauharnais
Losing backup MIKE David Milewski to a knee injury this week, Beauharnais' role becomes even more important as the lone player on the roster with game experience at the position. Beauharnais took home Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors last week against Syracuse and picked off a pass that he nearly returned for a regulation win before the game went until two overtimes. Beauharnais can dominate between the tackles, but gets in trouble when ranging across the field with questionable speed.
SLB - Jamal Merrell
The biggest surprise this season, Merrell moved from wide receiver and uses his unconventional frame to make a major impact in special teams. He took home Special Teams Player of the Week in the conference last week with two blocked field goals. As a linebacker, Merrell hits as hard as anyone and forced the game-winning fumble on Syracuse running back Antwon Bailey in double overtime.
CB - Logan Ryan
The sophomore cornerback comes off what Schiano referred to as the best game he has ever played. Ryan is a physical corner with enough speed to handle most receivers in one-on-one coverage. Ryan effectively shut down half the field against Syracuse's short passing game last week.
CB - Brandon Jones
Jones is the risk-taker of the defensive backs. He comes up with big plays, but also is the often target of big passing plays. Jones is a career nickel back in his first year "on the island" and still seeking his comfort level at the position.
FS - David Rowe
Rowe was the team's top corner last season but moved to safety in a search for improved speed on defense. Rowe picked off a pass in the end-zone against the Orange last week, but is best remembered by Pittsburgh fans for being twice posterized by Jonathan Baldwin last year at Heinz Field. After the 41-21 loss, Rowe assured the media that Baldwin would be his top pick in his fantasy football league this year.
SS - Duron Harmon
Harmon is a ball-hawk and a playmaker. As a senior in high school, he won the Player of the Year Honors from Gatorade in Delaware as a do-it-all player. Harmon has three interceptions, a pick-six and nearly a second one on defense. He gets in trouble, however, when asked to drop into one-on-one coverage with receivers.