Darius Hamilton is set to return to Rutgers practice midweek, which puts him right at the start for game prep against Washington State as he recovers from an undisclosed injury that kept him out of Saturday’s final camp scrimmage.
And Hamilton, now a junior defensive tackle, feels he is ready for a big season, which begins Aug. 28, as he takes the experience of two years playing with the weight and strength gain that has him at 265 pounds.
In speaking to ScarletReport.com after the scrimmage, Hamilton compared the feeling he has now to when he was a dominant defensive lineman as a senior at Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco.
“I feel like it’s pretty close,” he said. “I think my senior year is when I was most confident in myself and my abilities. To be honest, at the college level I’ve never felt more confident in my abilities. I know schemes left and right and I’m really ready to play and show people what I got.”
Hamilton’s key traits coming out of high school where his quick hands and first-step explosion, but he needed to refine his technique and body control in addition to adding much-needed size to survive in the middle of a college line of scrimmage.
The steps have been positive and productive – he made 17 tackles as a true freshman and 48 last season, including 4 ½ sacks – but also methodical.
Because of his five-star ranking coming out of high school, a lot of pressure was put on Hamilton to succeed early. Because of his size, though, it figured to take time for him to develop into an elite player.
“I think everything takes time,” Hamilton said. “There are a few people that come in and are gifted, and I think that can happen instantly for some people. I’ve always been one of those people who needed to take a road to get to where I am today, and it’s always paid great dividends for me, and I think I’m hitting my big strides. I’m really excited about my season.”
Even with the knowledge of knowing it will take time to develop, Hamilton is glad he played as a freshman.
“There are days I wish I would have been red-shirted, just for the extra bulk, for the extra size, but I learned a lot of things playing as a freshman,” he said. “There are no guarantees that if I take a different road I am where I am today.”
It is also why Hamilton, a captain, looks at red-shirt freshman Sebastian Joseph with so much intrigue. Joseph, a red-shirt freshman, started in place of Hamilton in the scrimmage, and performed well.
“I had a talk with him pregame that this will be a really big scrimmage for him and would probably decide a lot of things, depending on his performance,” Hamilton said. “I have high standards for a lot of people, but Sebastian is one of the people I have really high standards for. When I look at him and see red-shirt freshman, I think in my head, ‘Sophomore.’ I think about where I was as a sophomore and I try to hold him to that same standard.
“I think some people look at Sebastian and think he’s a 295-pound monster right off the bat. It’s going to be a road that we’re going to have to travel many miles to get it right.”
In other words, Joseph is ready to play, but making a huge impact, especially with the move to the Big Ten upon Rutgers, is quite a lofty expectation.
It is also why getting Hamilton back is so important.
He brings two years of experience, including one as a starter, to the equation and is a force in getting up the field and disrupting the interior of the line of scrimmage, which is crucial in Rutgers’ defensive scheme.
So while sitting out a scrimmage is not ideal, there is a reason the Scarlet Knights are ultra-conservative with him.
“It sucks. It’s terrible, especially when you want to be out there for your team,” he said. “It really does suck, but I’m going to be ready for the first game.”