Like last season, Rutgers also has a nice blend of youth and veteran leadership as it enters the 2006 season. But it also has questionable depth and is considered thin at this point of the game. Devraun Thompson and Quintero Frierson are the known players and expected to have big impacts as seniors. The SAM position is a relative unknown, with the move of walk-on safety Brandon Renkhart to the starting position. Renkhart has added quality muscle to his frame and is considered to have a very high football IQ. However, it is a new position and has never been a full-time players. Kevin Malast will be the 4th LB in and provides quality depth at either the SAM or Will LB spots. Malast is now up to 232 and hits like a truck, while being clocked recently at 4.56 speed. Beyond Malast, Rutgers will rely on Sophomore Damaso Munoz who sat out last year, as well as true freshman Blair Bines and Jim Dumont.
But Rutgers must feel confident in its inexperienced players, as they moved exceptional athletes Chenry Lewis and William "Papa" Beckford from LB to DE, as well as Chris Quaye from LB to FB.
PLAYERS LOST FROM THE TWO-DEEP
Impact Players lost off the two-deep include:
LB Terry Bynes (26 tackles, 1 sack in 4 games)
LB William Gilkison (42 tackles, 1 sack)
LB Chenry Lewis (32 tackles, 1.5 sacks)
Terry Bynes came to Rutgers as a 190 pound freshman from Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2001. Due to the lack of quality players on the Rutgers team at the time, he was forced in to duty then and had been a productive player during his first 3 years at Rutgers. But as a senior, he grew in to a 230 pound beast in the weight room, and the light-bulb finally went on and he looked the part of a big-time collegiate LB. Bynes had to be accounted for by opposing teams and was all over the field during his first several games of 2005. But an ACL injury in week-4 against Pittsburgh ended the collegiate career of what looked like a player vying for All Big-East Honors. Bynes accumulated 26 tackles in 14 quarters of football. He was denied a medical hardship in order to play this year for the Scarlet Knights. Bynes will now spend the year working out in an attempt to impress scouts at the Rutgers NFL scout day next season.
William Gilkison was one of the first true believers to buy in to Greg Schianos vision for Rutgers. The highly touted Red Bank product, had an incredibly productive spring and summer camp in 2005, but tweaked a knee that caused him continuous pain the whole 2005 season. He gutted it out and played like a warrior, tallying 42 tackles in limited action. His leadership skills will not be missed however, as he has chosen to stay at Rutgers as a football graduate assistant. He will give much needed tutoring on and off the field for the younger members of the LB unit.
RETURNING PLAYERS FROM THE TWO-DEEP/INJURY
Players returning off of the two-deep and returning players from injury, include (position indicates prior status, not projected 2006 position):
Sr Devraun Thompson (97 tackles, 8 tackles for losses, 2 sacks)
Sr Quintero Frierson (46 tackles, 5 tackles for losses, 2.5 sacks)
So Kevin Malast (4 tackles)
Devraun Thompson was once again a standout football player last year, as he was 2nd in total tackles with 97 for Rutgers. And now in his senior year, he is expected to be a role-model for the younger players and the leader of the LB corp. Even though he is considered undersized, he has great quickness, athleticism and plays with a vicious demeanor.
But while Devraun is expected to receive the great statistics, it is Quintero Frierson who many around the program are stating is taking the bull by the horns. Quintero has totally re-shaped his body and looks very lean, compared to the bulky player he was last year. Quintero has developed in to a very fast player, and is respected as a vocal and take-charge guy amongst his peers. If he becomes the best LB on this team, dont be surprised. His improved speed and football instincts could result in him being around the football all game long.
Kevin Malast is a very interesting story. He was pressed into action during the UConn game last year. During that same weekend, his older brother, Brian, endured a terrible motor vehicle accident that left him clinging for life. And while still a quadriplegic, Brian has recently regained some sensation in his arms and chest. This is very much a promising sign. Brian is a fighter. And Kevin, who psychologically was most likely in a fog last year, now has an incredible focus and passion to represent his home university. Kevin, like Brian, is also a fighter. While the younger Malast may lack the experience, he is the total package on-and-off the field and is expected to be a big time part of the Rutgers defense in the future.
Players moving from LB:
Chenry Lewis LB (32 tackles, 1.5 sacks)
William Beckford LB (7 tackles, .5 sacks)
Chris Quaye (3 tackles)
Chenry Lewis started most of the later half of the year at the SAM LB after Terry Bynes was lost to injury. The Rutgers defense did not lose a step when Lewis came into play. But due to graduation of Rutgers' two DEs, Lewis has been asked to move to DE. The coaching staff feels this is a good move for Chenry based on his strength, athleticism and speed. It will be interesting to see if he can make the transition to a position where he shined as a redshirt-freshman.
William "Papa" Beckford made the move to DE from LB at the end of
last year. And this seems to be a great fit for Beckford as he has been named
the starter at the spot opposite Jamaal Westerman. "Papa" has had
a disappointing career thus far on the Banks. He came in as a 4-star recruit
with much hype out of Glades Central HS in Florida. But an unfortunate ACL injury
during his red-shirt freshman year hurt his development as a LB by affecting
his lateral speed. However, Papa still has blazing straight away speed and runs
in the 4.5 range. He has also much needed weight and has filled out nicely.
But he is still considered light per DE standards and it remains a question
how his build will hold up against the run.
FRESHMAN CANDIDATES FOR THE TWO-DEEP
Blair Bines- The early verbal to Rutgers class of 2006 was one that many questioned if he would qualify. Bines put the academic pedal to the metal and fortunately for Rutgers, he made it through the clearinghouse. If Bines would not have been an academic question mark, he would certainly have been a national level recruit. He has made headway during camp with his incredible combination of size and speed. His play has earned him time on the two-deep, but will need some seasoning before he earns major minutes.
Jim Dumont- Dumont comes to Rutgers after one year at Milford Prep school. The walk-on may not have proto-typical size and speed that one looks for in a LB, but he has been outstanding in practice and a labeled by some to be a stud. The kid has a nose for the football and is a flat-out football player. Not too many are surprised with his ascent on the 2-deep given his genes: his dad and uncle were All-Americans at Rutgers.
After the solid 2005 year, the RU LB corps needs to maintain its consistency and have some younger players emerge and add much needed depth. The SAM position remains a question mark with the move of career reserve Brandon Renkart to the starting position. Production from Devraun Thompson and Quintero Frierson is to be expected, as these two have now matured as three year contributors and add senior leadership. Kevin Malast has not only gained physical size and repetitions, but now has the focus needed to have a breakout sophomore year. The 2006 squad needs to replace Terry Bynes and William Gilkison as they were lost to graduation, Chenry Lewis and William Beckford who move from LB to DE, as well as Chris Quaye moves to FB. Rutgers legacy Jim Dumont has been a head turner in camp and seems to have similar instincts to his dad and uncle who were stars in their days at Rutgers. Damaso Munoz, who was recruited as a safety out of high school, sat out last year. He has now bulked up to 220 pounds and has maintained his speed. He will need much needed reps to shake off the rust from not-playing football for a year. Blair Bines is one of RUs most touted recruits and may be the most physically impressive of all the LBs. As the year progresses, he may have a chance to make a strong impact.