Moving Forward: Freshman Contributors

The countdown to college football's return in Piscataway continues today with a look at five freshmen that could contribute early for coach Kyle Flood and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

5. Cornerback Jarius Adams

Ronnie James could fit here as well as a special teams weapon, but Rutgers needs more cornerbacks in the mix. Adams is the further along of the two newly enrolled cornerbacks. Training camp will be truly an open competition for snaps at the position, and Adams has plenty of experience in the year-round football environment of the Sunshine State.

4. Center Zach Venesky

Red-shirting offensive linemen is almost always the goal. Rutgers, however, needs a new center. Venesky is a boxer and wrestler outside of football, so the pound of Big Ten lines will be less of an adjustment. Derrick Nelson is the leading contender at the position. Chris Muller and Marcus Applefield could also jump back into the mix. Venesky, at worst, has a fair shot at the backup job in training camp.

3. Tight end Nakia Griffin

When no tight ends answer the call behind Nick Arcidiacono in spring, the door is open for someone like Griffin. The move by Logan Lister to offensive line leaves even more chances for an impressive athlete like Griffin. The Tenafly (N.J.) product is seriously bulked him from the skinny kid that committed in early 2014, and could find early playing time in Ben McDaniels’ offense.

2. Defensive end Marques Ford

Ford both needs more size and joins the Rutgers roster after an offseason injury, but the lone four-star commitment in Kyle Flood’s class could be a nice new piece for line coach Jim Panagos. One can never have too many pass rushers. Rutgers rotates as many as 10 different defensive linemen in its scheme, and Ford likely pushes for a spot by the end of camp – if healthy.

1. Cornerback Blessuan Austin

When you combine early enrollment with a prep year and the physical tools of Austin, playing time is all but a sure thing. Austin, more than any other member of the 2015 class, is a legitimate contender for a starting spot. He climbed the ranks to second team by the end of spring practice, and sits in solid standing after overall offseason issues at the cornerback spot.


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