There are three meanings for defensive end in the traditional Rutgers scheme, and the Scarlet Knights have depth at each level. Rutgers starts both a traditional defensive end (E) and a hybrid end (R). Rutgers also has a third-down pass rush specialist, brought in to pressure the quarterback in clear passing situations.
With the daunting task of Big Ten offensive lines, Rutgers has a full magazine of young talents looking to break out.
Djwany Mera came into his own after surpassing Jamil Merrell early in 2013, and he got even better in spring. Mera is solid against the run as an E. Outside of Mera, He started all 13 games after taking Merrell’s spot in camp because of injury, and finished with 5.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks. Rutgers will rotate four other defensive ends pending injuries.
It will take a lot to unseat Mera, but the rest of the reps at defensive end are up for grabs in training camp.
Sophomore Quanzell Lambert entered spring as the starting R defensive end. After missing action because of an injury, senior David Milewski remains very much in contention to win the job. Milewski has in-game experience at all four defensive line positions, and his versatility could move him inside on third downs. The same goes for Julian Pinnix-Odrick, who is on pace to make his Rutgers debut after an ACL tear two springs ago. Pinnix-Odrick can line up on either side at defensive end, and likely rounds out the two-deep. He is a candidate to play inside as well.
Rutgers has not had a big-time sack machine at defensive end in more than five years. Those days are approaching an end with red-shirt freshman defensive end Kemoko Turay as a reason to believe. Turay is physically unique, and bulked up thanks to his first year in the program. As soon he refines his game, he will be a headache for tackles across the new conference.
Lambert, Milewski and Pinnix-Odrick are also candidates to take the top pass rusher seat held last year by Marcus Thompson.
Rutgers signed four defensive ends in its 2014 recruiting class with three-star Donald Bedell as the most likely to push for early playing time. The Scarlet Knights have three defensive end commitments in 2015 – Willington Previlon, Jon Bateky and Ron’Dell Carter.
Rutgers has a lot of exciting defensive ends, but only Mera is a proven contributor. Experience remains a serious question that could lead to early growing pains on the edge. The talent is there, and it is up to defensive coordinator Joe Rossi and defensive line coach Jim Panagos to get everyone ready and hungry for Washington State.