Spring Time: 5 Questions on Defense

Spring football is fast approaching and ScarletReport.com is here to preview all of the action heading to Piscataway. Today, we look at the top questions to be answered on the defensive side of the ball.

The Rutgers defense was one of the most exciting to watch in college football last year and was filled with experienced upperclassmen now gone. Heading into the spring, ScarletReport.com is here to break down the five questions that will be a focus during the upcoming practices.

5.) What happens with Darius Hamilton? -- Hamilton was the gem of Kyle Flood's first recruiting class and a five-star impact recruit. As a freshman, he struggled early at defensive end until he moved to the 3-tech and began seeing the field. Size, playing around 245 pounds, is still a question mark but a defensive tackle spot is open and Hamilton is a top contender to fight for it.

Pre-spring answer -- He starts. Hamilton was solid as a freshman and played 12 games off the bench. Yes, Jamil Merrell played well inside but is better suited outside because of depth concerns. Expect Daryl Stephenson and Kenneth Kirksey to both factor in to the rotation but Hamilton has elite technique and is one of the hardest workers in the business.

4.) What happens at nose tackle? -- Scott Vallone manned the position impressively after Isaac Holmes went down last year, but is now off for the NFL. Holmes has a tough battle back from injury but has not seen the field in six months.

Pre-spring answer -- Holmes was on a roll before his injury and is mature and tough enough to bounce back and should be able to do so. Nose tackles take a lot of physical punishment and guys like Al Page and Jamil Pollard will have to start showing development as backups.

3.) Are Tejay Johsnon and Gareef Glashen ready for the spotlight? -- Johnson and Glashen go into the spring as replacements for Logan Ryan and Brandon Jones. Neither has starting experience and both have barely seen the field to date. The Rutgers secondary is beyond young going into the spring and there is a lot of pressure on these two prospects to take the next step.

Pre-spring answer -- Not yet. Johnson has all of the physical tools. He has perhaps the best top-end speed on the roster and has solid length and quick hips. The problem, however, is that he is a converted receiver with limited experience. A full spring battling Brandon Coleman is the best remedy.

For Glashen, he brings the physicality at the line of scrimmage expected out of Rutgers cornerbacks but the light has never come on. Facing the top receivers on the roster in offseason workouts and in the spring will be the best indicator.

2.) How will Ian Thomas and Jeremy Deering do in the secondary? -- Both moves are of interest for a secondary desperate for impact players. Rutgers lost six defensive backs from last year's roster and enters the spring severely inexperience at the position. Lorenzo Waters goes from new guy to veteran and Rutgers needs a lot of depth to develop this spring.

Deering has NFL athleticism but multiple roles on offense never really worked out for him. With one year left of eligibility, he should be able to compete instantly for a starting safety spot against the likes of Davon Jacobs and Sheldon Royster. Thomas was the least impactful of the four freshmen receivers on the scout team, but was once looked at as a defensive back prospect and will be interesting to watch at cornerback. He moved to corner during bowl practices and experienced early success in developmental sessions.

Pre-spring answer -- Deering has a lot to learn about safety but it may very well be his best chance to make plays. Thomas still has four years of eligibility to develop, but at a position hungry for depth, he can make a name for himself this spring.

1.) Are Khaseem Greene and Steve Beauharnais replicable? -- Jamall Merrell is the lone returning starter at linebacker, but Kevin Snyder has prepared like a starter and is versatile enough to play inside or out. Lester Liston enrolled early and will be good to go for practices and many eyes will fall on redshirt freshmen Quanzell Lambert and Steve Longa.

Longa turned it up big time during the last few weeks of the season and prepared as a member of the two-deep much of last season. Lambert was a candidate for freshman playing time before a high ankle sprain set him back.

Pre-spring answer Yes. Greene is one of the best to put on a Rutgers uniform and Beauharnais was a steadying force at middle linebacker but their replacements can be effective in the right scheme. Both players will be severely missed but there are many exciting linebackers ready for bigger roles. Defensive coordinator Dave Cohen developed them personally last year and gets a deeper look this spring.

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