Warm Up: Defensive Line Position Analysis

That's right. It's March. And March in Piscataway means spring football practice is right around the corner. To help get ready for Kyle Flood's first spring camp as Rutgers football head coach, ScarletReport.com is here to warm up the football talks by looking at a variety of different topics within the program. Today, we break down the defensive line.

Rutgers has been without a pure pass rusher since Jamaal Westerman moved on to play for the New York Jets. Coach Kyle Flood's task this spring will be to find one on the roster and develop depth after losing key players Justin Francis and Manny Abreu.

Before top New Jersey recruits Darius Hamilton and Julian Pinnix-Odrick arrive and change the look of the position, defensive end is one of the top positions to watch in the upcoming spring practice series.

First Teamers

The first team at defensive tackle is clearly defined at this point, barring any major surprises or injuries. Senior Scott Vallone returns as the anchor of the defensive line and is expected to work alongside the talented Kenneth Kirksey, who played well off the bench in limited action last season. Look for Isaac Holmes to continue to plug space off the bench in an increased role in the rotation.

At defensive end, Jamil Merrell enters the spring as health as he has been at Rutgers. Earning multiple starts last season, Merrell should get a lot of work with the first team.

Juniors Marcus Thompson and Mike Larrow are both coming off injuries suffered last season and their roles and workloads will be determined by their health and rehabilitation. Larrow has experience at both end and tackle and Thompson is a converted LB/FB.

Keep an Eye on

Last year's freshman class has plenty of talent on the line that has yet to see the field. Myles Jackson at end and Daryl Stephenson at tackle saw limited action last season, but have now had an entire offseason in a college weight program and are ones to watch this spring.

Defensive tackles Marquise Wright, Al Page and Djwany Mera all redshirted last season but showed some signs early in camp. Wright and Mera are each explosive off the line of scrimmage. The 280-pound Page battled knee injuries all year and is another player whose action this spring will be determined by his health.

Redshirt freshman Max Issaka also has the chance to turn heads this spring before the new freshman class arrives. Issaka did not have a major impact last year in training camp and needs a solid spring to put his name in the race for playing time.

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