Sam Hellman / Scarlet Report

Rutgers Spring Ball: Poised to Break Out

What players have opportunities for breakout springs? Scarlet Report takes a look at five key players set for development.

5. Cornerback Damon Hayes – The athletic Maryland defensive back would rank higher if not for the fact that he half broke out already. Hayes made an impact as a true freshman, but imagine what he can do with a full year's experience. Coaches Chris Ash and Bill Busch are both involved in coaching defensive backs, where Hayes stands to grow in his first spring campaign.

4. Center Jonah Jackson – Jackson has more pressure on him this spring than any other campaign as the projected replacement for Derrick Nelson. A full 15 practices with the first team line and quarterback Giovanni Rescigno are essential for Jackson's development.

3. Safety K.J. Gray – Johnathan Lewis is not the only St. Peter's Prep guy about which fans should draw excitement. Gray, a sophomore, inherited Anthony Cioffi's “nose for the football” moniker. Physically gifted, Gray's rugged style and body control make him a serious competitor for returning starters Saquan Hampton and Kiy Hester. Whether he wins a job or not, expect to see a lot of Gray on Saturdays.

2. Athlete Dacoven Bailey – We list the sophomore as an athlete because of his positional versatility. Bailey played both ways as a true freshman. In spring, look for Bailey's role to include time at running back, slotback and wide receiver. Janarion Grant is back but fresh off a broken ankle. Leading receiver Jawuan Harris will not practice because of his baseball commitments. Someone has to step up in specialized skill roles.

1. Outside Linebacker Ronnie James – James was on a direct path to the field before injuries shut down his sophomore season. While Rutgers moved James from safety to outside linebacker as a reaction to Najee Clayton's departure, the position fits him best in Ash's scheme. Injuries elsewhere push James to a major role in spring. What James lacks in size at 6-foot, 198 pounds, he has to make up for with speed and physicality.

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