In linebacker unit that lacks depth beyond its first line of starters, sophomore Deonte Roberts holds the most experience in the group with his four starts.
As sophomore converted-defensive back Ronnie James and true freshman Tyreek Williams fill in as the co-backups behind fifth-year senior walk-on Greg Jones at the SAM, what was already an inexperienced group looks to learn on the fly.
Roberts, who started Rutgers’ first three games at middle linebacker, said the preparation increases across the board for the Big Ten opener against Iowa on Saturday.
“I prepare just like (James and Williams) prepare,” Roberts said. “I watch same amount of film, I let them know we watch extra film. We might have to watch more film than others, but that’s how it goes. You just got to put in more time. This is the opener, you want to show out and that’s about it.”
The 6-foot-1, 238-pound middle linebacker said he is confident that James is ready for the switch and Williams is up to game speed.
“Really athletic, really smart,” Roberts said of the two. “For young guys, they’re really smart, and that they didn’t have that much time at the position. But smart guys, they pick up things real fast. So I have a lot of trust in them.”
Rutgers broke down the film of Iowa as the Scarlet Knights defense prepares for the Hawkeyes’ pro style offense. Iowa struggled to establish a run game in its 23-21 upset loss to North Dakota State last week, but Roberts said the Hawkeyes’ scheme keeps Rutgers honest.
“Starting a Big Ten conference opener and everything, just studying a lot of film,” he said. “There’s guys in a traditional offense, a lot of trades and a shift from tight end, I-formations. So we just want to get that down pat, but it’s just going to be straight Big Ten — big football.”
Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard leads that attack. He has seven touchdowns to one interception through three games.
“He’s pretty good,” Roberts said. “He’s accurate. He’s really smart. He makes good decisions with the ball. He doesn’t really have any turnovers right now … he’s a good quarterback. He makes good decisions, so just you got to be real precise with him.”
When Beathard and Iowa come to Rutgers on Saturday, Roberts will be ready for his first Big Ten start.
“It means a lot,” he said. “Starting my first Big Ten game mean’s a lot coming in, but I just treat it like every other game — non-conference or conference — and just prepare the same way and studying the film, just get extra reps and mental reps and everything. So that’s about it.”