Monday Practice Report: Replacing OLB Najee Clayton

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- A pair of young South Jersey athletes fill in for the absent Najee Clayton at strongside linebacker and more out of today's practice report.

The HeadlineNajee Clayton's absence leaves a thin Rutgers linebacker room in an even tougher position. Fifth-year senior walk-on Greg Jones remains the strongside starter after Clayton almost overtook the spot before a departure.

Clayton's backup job goes to a pair of inexperienced South Jersey athletes – Ronnie James and Tyreek Williams.

“We have some depth issues at certain positions and we have to fill those two deep as we prepare for a game and Ronnie gives us the best chance in our opinion to move to that position and be able to go out and hopefully play winning football on Saturday,” said head coach Chris Ash.

James moves to outside linebacker for the first time after he played safety in spring and cornerback as a true freshman. He returned Saturday from injury with one tackle on special teams.

“He's learning on the run as you can imagine,” said defensive coordinator Jay Niemann. “Last week with the offense we've faced with New Mexico with the triple option attack, it really, truly the SAM backer that week wasn't a traditional linebacker. Many assignments and responsibilities change in that type of game where you're not really playing conventional defense so to speak. He really hasn't had any reps yet playing the SAM linebacker. That really started last night in our Sunday practice. We're going to have to spoon feed him and work at it as we go. He'll grasp things on the run.”

Williams' biggest moment so far came on a punt block against Howard. His role as a linebacker expands along with play on special teams.

“He's a guy that continues to get better every single time we go out to practice,” Ash said. “And between him and Ronnie James, we'll find out who is the most prepared and gives us a chance to go out and be the back-up SAM linebacker for us come Saturday.”

Worth Noting – Niemann had fun with the questions about his sons at Iowa, but kept the focus on football.

For me, I hope we win the game and I hope he plays great,” Niemann said.

Quote of the Day – “He runs down the field with his hair on fire. He goes down there and he's violent, does a great job with his hands. He's always trying to find a way to get to the ball. He does that on defense too.” – Ash on freshman linebacker Tyreek Williams.


Scarlet Report Top Stories