Longa Learning Plays at Middle Linebacker

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Redshirt freshman linebacker Steve Longa moved inside for week two of spring practice after spending most of his developmental period at weakside linebacker. Longa's first true test comes Saturday in the spring scrimmage, where he can expect first-team reps at both spots.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Trying to learn the plays has been at the forefront of Steve Longa's development since arriving at Rutgers in the summer. Finally clicking at weakside linebacker, Longa's learning experienced kicked up a notch in practice this week with a move to first-team middle linebacker in spring drills.

Seeking to replace multi-year starters Khaseem Greene and Steve Beauharnais, coach Kyle Flood wants his three best linebackers on the field and tried Longa out inside.

"I love it," Longa said Thursday after completing his second practice at the position. "I'm right in the middle, in charge of all of the action. It's not like the [weakside]. Don't get me wrong, I love the WILL too, but when you're an outside linebacker you're not as involved on every single play."

The adjustment factor inside is not as significant for Longa, who uses the same terminology and is comfortable with his communication skills.

"It's probably the most important position of the defense and leadership is a part of that," said Longa, who prepared on the two-deep last season but did not see in-game action. "You have to know a lot of things if you're a middle linebacker. I'm not there yet. I'm still working to get there. I think that takes time."

Longa is not locked into a spot at first-team middle linebacker, however.

The position battles at weakside and middle linebacker are expected to draw through the summer to find the top two linebackers to play alongside incumbent strongside starter Jamal Merrell.

Junior Kevin Snyder brings experience and versatility to both positions with young players Longa, Quanzell Lambert and Lester Liston all competing as well.

"Whether [Longa] plays WILL or MIKE linebacker, he's going to play a lot of football for us," Flood said. "We'll try to find the right position for him so we can put him in the right places to really impact our football team."

The first true test for Longa comes Saturday when Rutgers takes the field at High Point Solutions Stadium for the first of three scrimmages.

Longa expects to work both inside and outside in a three-hour long scrimmage.

"It's going to be a big opportunity because everybody gets evaluated," Longa said. "It's a chance to put together everything I'm expected to do. I may make a few mistakes but I want to show the coaches that I am capable of playing this position."

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