It's a New Day: First-Year Starter Potential

The new day feature on Scarlet Report highlights unique storylines and personnel heading into the first spring practice under coach Chris Ash and his staff.

Deonte Roberts needed to put on weight. He gained 30 pounds in his first year. Then Roberts needed on-field experience. He played in every game as a true freshman. Now, Roberts needs a full session of practice reps, and he gets that this spring with 2015 WILL starter Steve Longa off to the NFL.

Roberts showed his intelligence with a starting performance against the unique Army offense as a true freshman. A full offseason of workouts and first-team action makes him the most likely starter of any linebacker on the active roster … barring injury.


Zack Heeman is an excellent fit in a spread offense, and the clear leader as Keith Lumpkin’s replacement on the blind side. Heeman brings basketball agility and footwork to an offense based on quick decisions and mobility. Heeman needed to get stronger and his technique was circumspect upon arrival but new offensive line coach AJ Blazek knows what it takes to elevate Heeman’s game.

Heeman has on-field starting experience at guard and a full spring with the ones should be enough to get him ready after knee surgery as a true freshman curbed his progress.


Honorable Mentions

S/LB Najee Clayton – The fact that Clayton progressed as far as he did without training camp as a true freshman is a testament to his athleticism. Clayton will eventually be a linebacker for Rutgers, and how quickly he adjusts to the role is important this spring. Linebacker is wide open, but there are also reps available at strong safety.

WR Carlton Agudosi – While Leonte Carroo battled injuries and off-the-field concerns, Agudosi did everything right as the backup X receiver. Wide receivers will not have the same constraints in the spread, so Agudosi gets a spot in the rotation if he shows enough consistency.

LB T.J. Taylor– An ACL injury is not as devastating as it once was, so the converted safety is coiled and ready to strike in his anticipated return to practice. 


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