2007 Preview: Linebackers

This article is the fifth of a six-part series previewing the 2007 Rutgers Football team. In our initial trio of looks, we discussed the entirety of the Rutgers Football offense, looked at the key players from all units coming back and those likely to make a run during the upcoming season. Yesterday, we started our preview of the Defense with an evaluation of the Defensive Line and today ...

we continue with the linebacker (LB) position.

The 2 Big Pieces that need to be replaced:

Devraun Thompson -- Thompson, according to Schiano, was the best player on the best team in the state as a high school senior. He also had only one Division 1 offer. That was because Thompson was only 5'10 and under 200 lbs in high school, not ideal for a college LB.  However, he turned into a flat out cold blooded missile during his four years at Rutgers.  Thompson was so good as a freshman that he started several games. And during the remainder of his career, he was one of the more productive LBs in the Big East. A fixture and major playmaker, Rutgers will miss his fearless play and leadership on the field.

Quintero Frierson -- The Coral Gables product was a tackling machine as a prep, earning all Miami-Dade honors. He took a chance on Rutgers and it ultimately became a great fit. Frierson had great football acumen and was a solid tackler. He stepped up his game in a major way as a college senior, and like Thompson, was great and will be missed on the Banks.

Both LBs brought a football acumen to the defensive side of the ball that can, in part, be replaced by athleticism and skill.  However, it's game experience that lends itself to on the field playmaking and Rutgers will have to transition several of the newcomers along until the game slows sufficiently for them to take command.

The returning players:

Blair Bines -- Bines came to Rutgers out of Long Island, NY. He was a two-time All-Long Island and All-State selection.  Bines' body and demeanor resulted in some flat out nasty hits while on the special teams last year. He played well in the spring and summer and was in the running for a starting LB position. Unfortunately, a freak injury on special teams led to a fractured jaw and Bines is estimated to miss the first several weeks of the season. If he can return healthy, he may be able to provide valuable depth later in the season.

Ryan D'Imperio -- The South Jersey football and wrestling star decided on Rutgers, as the state university continued to establish its recruiting in-roads in to that part of the state. A 3-star recruit out of high school, D'Imperio ascended up the depth charts this spring and appeared to be the starter heading in to the season.  D'Imperio is a throw back who has the look of an old school, Ohio State type football player. He arguably was one of the top players on the entire defense this spring until he suffered a broken leg. A warrior in the training room, D'Imperio has defied the odds and looks to be ready to return during the early parts of the football season. If he can shake off the rust, he will be a major boost to the LB corps.

Jim Dumont -- Dumont is a legacy at Rutgers, as his father was an All-American football player for the Scarlet Knights.  He prepped in Pennsylvania and was a preferred walk-on for the team. In terms of football skills, he is a good one.  Dumont may still need to add some weight and strength, but he is one to always make a ton of plays. The RS Freshman is a flat out football player. While he has been limited by a broken hand (he has been practicing with a club), Dumont has risen to the 2nd team MLB.  If he gets in the games early, RU will certainly not miss a beat with him making the calls.

Antonio Lowery -- Lowery was one of the top athletes in the recruiting class of two years ago, although he only joined RU this past winter. The Miami Prep star was a highly regarded player out of Miami-Dade County and picked Rutgers over several other major programs. Lowery has very good instincts and is a hard-nosed football player. He has made great gains in the strength program, gaining over twenty pounds in the last two years. He needs some time in the program and should be a major contributor down the road. Expect Lowery to participate on special teams this year.

Kevin Malast -- Malast was a star RB/LB in football and an All-State Wrestler for Manchester HS in NJ. He is a Jersey guy through and through. In high school, he committed to Rutgers early in the recruiting process.  He is quoted as saying "Rutgers is my University of Miami" upon making his verbal commitment, and his pride in the state and program is a great asset to the Rutgers Institution.  Malast played mostly on special teams and in a reserve capacity as a freshman and sophomore. He was physically ready as a sophomore to become a major participant. But the solid play of Thompson, Frierson, and Renkart kept Malast on the bench. He has turned in to a chiseled 235-pounder and has developed incredible speed in the program. He is one that could be a pleasant surprise this season.

Damaso Munoz -- Munoz was an undersized player coming out of Southridge HS in Miami-Dade County. I refer to him as a player since he played any where from safety to DT on his team. The impressive characteristic about Munoz is that he finished 2nd in the state of Florida in the 160 pound weight class in wrestling. That last sentence is striking for two reasons: a) he finished 2nd in the state and b) he weighed only 160 pounds. But Damaso is an incredibly tenacious individual and in order to make his way on to the field, he has increased muscle mass by fifty pounds and now stands at 6'1 and 210. Munoz will start the season as the MLB, but he can play any of the three positions and play them at a high level.  With excellent speed, a nose for the football, and solid tackling skills, Damaso is just reps away from becoming a big
time LB.

Patrick Nemorin -- When Nemorin committed to Rutgers, every pundit asked about him with simply one question: "Who?"  Nemorin was a 6'2.5 190 lb TE for Deerfield Beach HS in Broward County. With great hands, he only dropped two passes his senior year and earned All-County Honors as he led his team to the state championship game. Nemorin, who is now 6'3 220 lbs, has been playing the LB position during his time at Rutgers. And he impressed the coaches so much with his play this summer that he may earn time in the nickel and dime packages. 

Chris Quaye -- Quaye is in his third year in the program out of Timber Creek, NJ. Quaye played FB and LB in high school. A late addition to the Governor's Bowl three years ago, Quaye almost dropped out of the game for fear he would ruin his perfect attendance from high school. Fortunately, the school excused him for the days missed. This is the type of character Quaye demonstrates and that has come to exemplify the student athletes at Rutgers. During his time at RU, he has alternated between FB and LB. A consistent performer, he is currently on the two deep and will provide quality depth during the upcoming season.

Brandon renkart -- The 5th year senior is the heart and soul of the linebacking core. He is also one of the four captains on the team. In high school, Renkart was the QB for the Piscataway Chiefs program. He also split time as a safety. Lightly recruited out of high school, Renkart decided to walk-on at Rutgers. He started off as a scout-team participant at WR. Two years later, he moved to safety. During that season, he was a reserve and is most remembered for his interception against Tyler Palko that sealed an RU home victory over Pittsburgh. As a Junior, he was moved to the LB spot, and as the year started was considered to be the one chief question mark on the corp. But as time went on, Renkart continued making strides and enjoyed a solid campaign. Renkart is now up to 230 pounds and still runs like a safety. He has great instincts and ball skills. He has also become a more vocal player and a leader on this defense.

The New Face:

Manny Abreu -- Abreu is a shy kid that does not particularly enjoy the spot-light. The Nationally touted LB out of Union City, NJ decided for Rutgers with a decision made on ESPN, selecting RU over Florida and Michigan. But he was so nervous when he made his declaration that when asked "Where are you going to school", he answered "I go to Union Hill".  Abreu possesses this simple innocence about him, a very likeable quality that has already endeared many fans to the local standout.  But on the field, he has a great feel for the game, is blessed with a great combination of size and agility, and has the potential to become an all-world LB down the road. Abreu struggled early in camp as a true freshman, but has ascended up the ranks and is on the 2-deep as an OLB.

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