The Facts – Senior Darius Hamilton sat out for medical reasons after limited action against Penn State. Hamilton is a projected third-time team captain and said he will be back at Rutgers next season. Sebastian Joseph and Julian Pinnix-Odrick started every game at nose tackle and 3-technique respectively. They combined for 55 tackles and 8.5 TFLs. Rutgers received increased depth from freshmen Kevin Wilkins and Jon Bateky in the trenches.
What Went Right – The position changes paid off for Rutgers defensive tackles. Defensive line coach Jim Panagos prepared multiple players for new positions including a Joseph transition to nose tackle, Pinnix-Odrick’s continued adjustment to the 3-technique and fast growth for both Eric Wiafe and Batkey inside. Rutgers may not be the biggest defensive line but it has a ton of young experience thanks to the 2015 rotation.
What Went Wrong – Hamilton never should have seen the field this season and his role in the Penn State game could only worsen the situation. With Hamilton unavailable, Rutgers lost its impact guy at the 3-tech, which is a designed play-making position in the traditional Rutgers defense. No Hamilton meant 3.2 tackles and 0.25 TFLs per game at a position that needs better production.
Something to Fix – Chris Ash needs to be sure that every defensive lineman is at his ideal position without creating depth issues. There are multiple “tweeners” at defensive tackle and the right role for talents like Joseph or Bateky make a difference. Rutgers has no defensive tackles in its recruiting class, and needs at least one fresh body in the trenches for training camp.
The Ash Era – Let’s not pretend like Kyle Flood avoided big interior linemen on purpose. When you recruit size, it has to be athletic size. When a coach rebuilds a defense, he makes sacrifices and Ash may have to choose between size or speed in recruiting. Rutgers could be bigger and stronger but there is a good base at defensive tackle thanks to Hamilton’s return as a bulked up anchor to the defense.