The Competition -- Djwany Mera is a team captain candidate and heads into his third year as a starter. Rutgers has better depth at defensive end this season, and two valuable pieces for the rotation. Sophomore Kemoko Turay, who can also work at the R position, and red-shirt freshman Jimmy Hogan are the ones to watch behind Mera’s veteran presence. Turay will be on the field plenty, but Hogan could be as well.
Hogan played well during his freshman training camp, and carried that over into spring. Hogan played as the starter at defensive end multiple times in spring camp when Mera’s class schedule provided conflicts. He deserves another chance to shine in August.
Storyline Central -- When will Turay be ready for the next step? He was a dynamic pass rusher and exciting weapon on special teams, but the athletic freak out of Newark (N.J.) Barringer was far from a complete player as a redshirt freshman. Better Big Ten teams erased Turay from the equation when they schemed away from him. Turay is scary athletic, a true one-percenter, but he has to be better against the run and improve technique. Remember, Turay came to Rutgers with just 10 games of varsity high school experience.
Prospect Development -- Rutgers signed two valuable pieces in January, but both need some seasoning before on-field action. Poolesville (Md.) end Jon Bateky has a head starter after a good spring, and Orange (N.J.) end Willington Previlon bulked up big time since he won an offer at 2014’s Big Man Academy.
Preseason Grade -- B+ -- The Mera and Turay combination is a dynamic one. Mera brings years of underappreciated grunt work at the position. He is an elite run-stuffer and, despite a lack of stats to back it up, is one of the program’s most valuable assets.
On top of that, Rutgers has excellent depth. Hogan is ready for a small role if needed and both Bateky and Previlon have bright futures under defensive line coach Jim Panagos.