Spring Warm Up: Most to Gain

Starting positions do not decide themselves in spring practice, but plenty of player development and hard work goes into the upcoming April camp. As we approach the two-week mark for spring practice at Rutgers, Scout examines five players with the most to gain this semester.

5. Red-shirt freshman defensive tackle Eric Wiafe -- Being realistic, Darius Hamilton will not see a lot of action at his position during spring, so why not work in his backup as much as possible? Rutgers needs some bulkier guys as melee support for Hamilton against the mauling Big Ten offensive lines.

The 6-foot-5 lineman is physically mature for his age, and could push 290 pounds with proper work in the weight room. With departures from Daryl Stephenson and Kenneth Kirksey, Rutgers needs more big bodies in the trenches, and Wiafe deservers plenty of spring work.

4. Josh Hicks – This could just as easily be Robert Martin, but the more first-time work before Paul James returns to the fold, the better. Running back is likely a rotation position in 2015, but it can be so much more. Rutgers has never had more depth at the position, and there simply will not be enough touches.

Someone enters training camp as the hottest hand at the position, and it could be tough for James to regain his spotlight role after Quick Lane performances from Martin and Hicks. Both become dangerous after things slow during their first spring camps.

3. Sophomore guard Dorian Miller -- This is offensive line development 101. Give a highly-touted prospect one red-shirt year and one backup season behind a guy like Kaleb Johnson, and then it is “Miller time.” Miller almost earned starting time last year because of injury. He, instead, gets another two full camps of grooming before he takes the job.

The former Scout four-star prospect out of Metuchen (N.J.) has potential as a three-year starter and Johnson’s replacement, but still has to earn it with effort and hard work in the next six months.

2. Sophomore defensive end Kemoko Turay -- When Turay transforms himself from a pass rusher to a complete player, the Big Ten better watch out. The key word, however, is ‘when.’ Get bigger, learn more of his responsibilities and Turay could be the conference’s next Randy Gregory if Rutgers plays its cards right.

Turay needs to be more than a third-down rusher and special teams jumper, and his second spring is the perfect time to learn in a risk-free environment. Turay has good teachers in Jim Panagos and Scott Vallone, and gains a lot with another 15 solid spring practices in the books.

1. Junior linebacker Isaiah Johnson – The junior college addition finds himself in an excellent position for spring following L.J. Liston’s dismissal. Johnson is the de facto starting middle linebacker with little competition until Kaiwan Lewis enrolls during training camp.

Johnson gets his best chance to replace Kevin Snyder in spring, but there are other options. Could Steve Longa return to the middle if Johnson does not get it done? Who slides into the weakside spot? How solid is fifth-year senior Quentin Gause as the strongside starter? Johnson makes everything easier at linebacker if he smoothly transitions into Snyder’s vacated role.


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