2015 Class Needs: Defense

As the Rutgers defense looks to get back on track under newly promoted coordinator Joe Rossi, the class can answer needs at all three levels. Concluding ScarletReport.com's look at early recruiting needs, we take an in-depth look at defense.

Rutgers needs to get bigger, stronger and faster defensively in moving to the Big Ten. As the defense continues to get older and mature, the class of 2015 provides an opportunity to bring in the second wave of Big Ten defenders to the Scarlet Knights.

Defensive End (2-3) - Rutgers is down three defensive ends from last season and loses David Milewski at the end of the 2014 season. Rutgers likes to rotate as many as five defensive ends, and brings in three ends in the 2014 class – Sam Blue (R), Justin Nelson (undetermined) and Donald Bedell (E).

Rutgers has potential multi-year starters in youngsters Quanzell Lambert (sophomore), Julian Pinnix-Odrick (sophomore) and Kemoko Turay (red-shirt freshman). Milewski and Djwany Mera exceeded expectations on the field and round out the projected defensive end rotation in 2014. Walk-on Anthony Milito continues to come along to provide scout team depth.

Looking at the 2015 class, Rutgers needs balance at defensive end to keep depth strong. Look for Rutgers to target one "R" hybrid at least to go along with an end pass rusher.

Rutgers got in early with Philadelphia (Pa.) Frankfort's Shareef Miller, who blew up as a speed rusher at the Big Man Academy. Rutgers is also hard after Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic's Jamie Gordinier, who could be a defensive end or linebacker. Both saw their stock rise significantly since getting Rutgers offers.

Defensive Tackle (2) -- Landing at least one nose tackle is essential to this class. Rutgers picked up good depth at the 3-technique with Kevin Wilkins, Jimmy Hogan and Eric Wiafe in 2014. Losing Pete Mokwuah to Notre Dame left Rutgers thin at the position heading into the Big Ten, though Mokwuah could have been moved to offensive line anyway. Daryl Stephenson and Kenneth Kirksey are available to play the position, and Milewski did it in emergencies last season. That depth needs to improve immediately. This is where a JuCo or post-grad prospect can help Rutgers in the 2015 class.

At the 3-technique, Rutgers has a ton of young talent already, and adding more in 2015 is not a major need. Starter Darius Hamilton gets to work in front of Sebastian Joseph all spring. Hogan needs more time, but Wilkins and Wiafe are contenders for early playing time in the rotation. Hamilton will not be around much longer, but Wilkins and Joseph are more than capable to handle the position.

When it comes to recruiting the position, Rutgers is still in the evaluation phase. The two big names with offers in the region – Adam McLean and Christian Wilkins – are likely headed elsewhere.

Linebacker (2-3) -- Kevin Snyder is the only key linebacker coming off the books at the end of the 2014 season. Projected starters Quentin Gause and Steve Longa have will be seasoned veterans in 2015, and 2013 recruits Myles Nash and L.J. Liston provide depth as well.

Rutgers added three linebackers in its 2014 class, and needs three more in 2015. Sidney Gopre is the closest to seeing the field in terms of 2014s. Getting Brandon Russell in early helps his cause after a solid senior year at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University School. Eric Margolis has size, but projects to take more time in development.

Looking ahead to 2015s, Gordinier could project here and so could Union City's Daiquan Kelly. Rutgers got in first with Joe Giles-Harris of Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph Regional and Saleem Brightwell of Paramus (N.J.) Catholic. Tenafly's Nakia Griffin projects at multiple positions, including linebacker. Barnegat's Manny Bowen brings talent to the position. Kansas was the first to offer, and he added Michigan State and Boston College today. The trick for Rutgers is finding guys with the right combination of size and speed to avoid moving any more linebackers to the defensive line.

Cornerback (2-3) -- Looking past four-star Minkah Fitzpatrick, there is plenty of cornerback talent still realistic in the region. Rutgers will have seven (eight if Dre Boggs stays there) scholarship cornerbacks in their first or second season heading into training camp. Rutgers also returns Ian Thomas to the position. Gareef Glashen is the only active cornerback in his final year of eligibility, but Rutgers needs to keep adding bodies. Having too many cornerbacks is never an issue. Having too few is, as Rutgers learned the hard way in 2013.

Rutgers needs to bring in between four and six defensive backs in the class with safety as a stronger emphasis than cornerback this season. Keep an eye on four-star John Reid of Philadelphia (Pa.) St. Joseph's. Erial (N.J.) Timber Creek four-star Kareem Ali once had Rutgers as a co-leader before the Scarlet Knights lost ground.

Rutgers is in early with Sayreville's Myles Hartsfield and Don Bosco's Daivon Ellison at the position. Both have size concerns, but are explosive athletes in the state.

Safety (2) -- Saquan Hampton is the only projected safety in the 2014 class after losing Kiy Hester to Miami. Projected spring starters Johnathan Aiken and Lorenzo Waters are done after this season as well. That leaves no future scholarship depth at the position other than Hampton. Names like Delon Stephenson, Nadir Barnwell and Anthony Cioffi could move back from corner. T.J. Taylor and Davon Jacobs both moved to linebacker but could always go back as well. Adding a college-ready safety is more important than a cornerback right now.

New offer Al-Khadair Ports out of Weequahic fits what Rutgers needs in a safety, and will be a top early target. Coatesville (Pa.) safety Jazzee Stocker knows Rutgers well after the recruitments of Boggs, Tyler Burke and Daquan Worley. South Brunswick's Dontae Strickland could end up a safety, but Rutgers is recruiting him as a running back right now. Montclair's Elijah Robinson could very well end up a quarterback, but can be a safety target for Rutgers. He already holds offers from Nebraska and Virginia.


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