Spring Warm Up: Defensive Two Deep

Spring practice is still a month away, but football fans are nothing if not impatient. As Scarlet Report looks ahead to spring camp, we project the two-deep on defense. The projections below represent what we think the two-deep should look like on March 30, and not necessarily what we think it will look like.

Defensive End -- 1. Djwany Mera (Sr.), 2. Kemoko Turay (Soph.) OR Julian Pinnix-Odrick (Jr.) – The first thing to keep in mind at all four positions is that Rutgers rotates its lineman. In reality, Rutgers has about eight starters on the line. At end, Mera deserves to remain the starter where he is a steady run stuffer. Turay needs to be on the field in some capacity as much as possible this spring. He is still raw, but the athleticism is 99th percentile.

Nose Tackle -- 1. Sebastian Joseph (Soph.), 2. Kevin Wilkins (R-Fr.) – Joseph had a tough time here during his first on-field season. He is another impressive athlete in need of playbook time. He starts over Wilkins based on experience, but should also see time at the three-technique. Wilkins almost won playing time as a true freshman after late arrival. Now that he’s settled in, he’s one of the top guys to watch this spring.

Three-technique -- 1. Darius Hamilton (Sr.), 2. Eric Wiafe (R-Fr.) OR Pinnix Odrick – Hamilton is another guy that should be in “Brian Leonard treatment” mode this spring. He is a leader with all of the technique and experienced needed to become an All-Big Ten lineman. Wiafe has impressive size and athleticism after a red-shirt year and semester in prep school. He is another guy that could try multiple positions. Pinnix-Odrick worked inside on third downs last year, and should work there more given the lack of inside bodies.

R Defensive End -- 1. Quanzell Lambert (Jr.), 2. Myles Nash (Soph.) OR Turay – David Milewski is gone, so Lambert steps into the headliner role at the R position – a vintage spot in the Rutgers defensive scheme. Nash spent the offseason working at defensive end, and could be an interesting pass rusher and coverage weapon that still needs to add weight and strength. Turay should work both defensive end spots this spring as he refines his craft. Keep an eye on sophomore walk-on Darnell Davis Jr. at this spot.

Weakside Linebacker -- 1. Steve Longa (Jr.), 2. T.J. Taylor (Soph.) – Middle linebacker may be Longa’s best position, but Rutgers needs him at WILL too badly to make a change. Taylor came a long way from the skinny safety that enrolled two years ago. He needs more time.

Middle Linebacker -- 1. L.J. Liston (Jr.) OR Isaiah Johnson (Jr.) – This should be the best battle of spring on the defensive side. Either one could win the job, and both need impressive springs to build a lead before Kaiwan Lewis enrolls in May. Liston has a great personality, and learned all that he could from Kevin Snyder. But the staff brought in two middle linebackers for a reason, and the most impressive performer wins the job. Rutgers does not tend to rotate linebackers, so this battle is more significant because of it.

Strongside Linebacker -- 1. Quentin Gause (Sr.), 2. Davon Jacobs (Soph.) -- With Nash up to defensive end, this is all Gause this spring. Gause has a history of strong spring camps, and this year should be no different. Rutgers has enough depth at safety to move Jacobs back to linebacker should it decide to do so. Jacobs is a workout warrior, and is best suited athletically at linebacker.

Left Cornerback -- 1. Nadir Barnwell (Jr.), 2. Isaiah Wharton (R-Fr.) OR Blessuan Austin (Fr.) – Barnwell took great strides in 2014 before injuries slowed him down. He likely replaces Gareef Glashen as the top cornerback in spring. Austin is new to corner, and Rutgers, but is impressive athletically and more physically developed after time in prep school.

Right Cornerback -- 1. Dre Boggs (Soph.) OR Anthony Cioffi (Jr.), 2. Darian Dailey (R-Fr.) – These are likely the next three guys behind Barnwell. Boggs battled injuries after a strong start at cornerback as a true freshman. Cioffi has an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time, and Dailey was the closest freshman defensive back to the field behind Boggs in 2014.

Free Safety -- 1. Delon Stephenson (Jr.), 2. Saquan Hampton (R-Fr.) OR Isaiah Wharton (R-Fr.) – Stephenson deserves to be the feature guy here, but has injury history and needs depth behind him. Hampton and Wharton were two of the better scout-team players last season. Both can contribute in 2015, and a cornerback to safety move for Wharton seems inevitable at some point. If he sticks at corner – even better.

Strong Safety -- 1. Kiy Hester (R-Fr.) OR Andre Hunt (Soph.) – Hester impressed on the scout team, and is the favorite to win this job. So why not take a hard-working walk-on like Hunt and make the two battle it out? Both of these guys deserve a lot of reps this spring, and they would play off of each other nicely.

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