Deonte Roberts entered his third Rutgers spring with a brutally honest assessment of himself.
As a result of his 2016 performance on the field to his leadership on the defense at middle linebacker, Roberts came to each day of practice determined to develop in all facets of football.
While the game continues to slow down and things simplify for Roberts, he is hungry for more.
“Just keep trying to improve on the little things, not settling,” Roberts said. “Just try to go out there and bring other guys around me and improve with them as well. So that’s just how I come out each and every day.
“I’m not happy — I’m still not happy about last season. But we’ve got to move on and just keep getting better, so I’m going to take that and keep going.”
Coach Chris Ash harped on Roberts’ progression throughout the past month. Ash reiterated those sentiments Saturday after the spring game.
“Deonte Roberts … I mentioned he was probably one of the most improved players on the football team here this spring and I would still say that today,” Ash said. “Very excited about him and the improvement that he’s shown this off-season and through the course of spring.”
Between the experiences of true-freshman playing time to 12 sophomore starts, Roberts understood where he needed to go as a rising junior.
“I feel real comfortable,” Roberts said. “There’s a lot of stuff I could pay attention and now I don’t have to worry about getting frenzy out there, but just focusing on little details and picking up on tendencies from offense. I’m starting to get real comfortable. I’m feeling good.”
After a stretch during camp where Roberts was physically limited, he emerged from the spring game at full health.
“I feel pretty good, 100 percent, nothing really wrong,” Roberts said. “I feel real good.”
Health is of obvious importance for Roberts and the rest of the team. The injury bug spread throughout the depth chart over the spring, but teammates continue to step up.
“I feel like we improve in each and every practice,” Roberts said. “We took it this spring to get better. We took the statistics we had last season and just improve on every aspect in every category, just go out there with the mindset of just getting better each and every day. So I feel really confident about how the defense is coming along.”
Reinforcements are on the way with four linebackers — Tyshon Fogg, Olakunle Fatukasi, C.J. Onyechi and Syhiem Simmons — set to enroll soon. Roberts embraces the competition as well as the opportunity to mentor the incoming freshmen.
“I’m really excited,” Roberts said. “I keep in contact with guys every day — Tyshon, I keep in contact. I can’t wait until they get here. Bring them under the belt, show them how we do things as a unit. I’m ready for them to come in and learn, and then get better, pushing me. So I don’t want to settle. I don’t want them guys to settle. So I’m pretty excited.”