Preview of the RU Defensive line for 2008

This article is the second of a ten part series serving as a review of Rutgers football as we speculate on depth within each area of next year's team. In 2007 spirits were dampened and critics came out of the closet, but the 2008 Scarlet Knights could be the reawakening of a sleeping giant. As with every year, Rutgers fans have a new hope.

p>The defensive front. Responsible for clogging up the middle against the run, responsible for turning runners to the inside, responsible for pressure on the passer, responsible for keeping offensive linemen off of our linebackers and it is their performance that can be the difference between winning and losing.

Many considered the 2007 defensive line a disappointment from what they had grown accustomed to seeing during the previous year. The loss of All Big East tackle Rameel Meekins coupled with All American tackle Eric Foster battling injuries throughout this season, resulted in 5 less sacks, approximately 33% more rushing yards given up and 8 more touchdowns on the ground. Many may point to the play of the linebackers, but Rutgers did not control the line of scrimmage as well as they had last year.

Coach Cary Godette has done an outstanding job of coaching up many undersized linemen, by utilizing their speed, athleticism and stunting abilities. Depending upon the results of off season strength and conditioning, coach Godette may have the luxury of one additional attribute next year…. size. Let’s take a look.

Starters Lost

  • T – Eric Foster 6’2” 265 Recruited as a 6’2” 215lb MLB, Eric added 50 lbs of muscle and speed, growing into a cat quick, run stuffing tackle who made All American as a junior. A vocal team leader on the field and in the locker room, he was known for having a motor that never quit and created fits for offensive linemen.

  • T – Mike Ziarnowski 6’2” 260 Recruited as a 6’2” 210lb FB/OLB out of Immaculata of Somerville, Mike was set back by injuries and medical problems throughout his career. He finally took the field this season and played tough, heads up football. With a year of eligibility left, Mike has decided to graduate and move on from his playing career.

2008 Candidates

  • DE – Jamaal Westermann 6’3” 270 SR A veteran from Canada, Jamaal has put together solid back to back seasons. He recorded 47 tackles, with 13 for lost yardage while recording 8 sacks during 2007. He will be looked upon to be a leader on the field, and an anchor of the line.

  • DE – George Johnson 6’4” 265 JR A PrepStar All Big East selection coming out of Glassboro HS, George will be entering his third season and has shown flashes of brilliance. He recorded 3 sacks and had 6 tackles for lost yardage in 2007. Very fast and athletic, with a little added weight George could become a terror rushing the passer.

  • DE – Gary Watts 6’3” 255 SR Another Top100 player from Florida, he will be entering his final season on the banks. Gary started to show some consistency and confidence by recording 3 sacks and 6 tackles for losses. He will be counted on to bring his veteran savvy and leadership to the field.

  • DE – Chenry Lewis 6’3” 250 SR Recruited as a 205 LB, the All Stater coming out of Paterson Catholic, reached the field playing OLB as a RS freshman . He was moved to rush end in 2006. Initially he seemed out of position and a little overwhelmed. His confidence seemed to grow during the 2007 season and should be a reliable player in his final year.

  • DE/DT – Alex Silvestro 6’4” 255 SO As a true freshman, Alex saw playing time in 10 games. An All State football player and the 215lb NJSIAA wrestling champion at Paulsboro HS, Alex played extremely well as an undersized 240lb tackle. He has great speed, strength, leverage and a nonstop motor. He plays a vicious style of football and needs to be on the field. At 275+ he would be a dominant tackle but is probably better suited for a move to end for now. Just keep him on the field.

  • DE – Jonathan Freeny 6’3” 245 SO An intriguing DE prospect, Jonathan saw action in 8 games as a true freshman. He played quite well in his limited appearances and has an incredible upside. Please understand that 2007 was only his third year playing organized football.

  • DT/DE – Jameil Farrington 6’2” 260 rsFR A redshirt freshman, Jameil hails from Homestead HS which also produced AA tackle Eric Foster. He was a 3 year starter at DE who simply dominated on the field. Another great athlete, Jameil may eventually grow into a full time tackle position.

  • DT – Peter Tverdov 6’4” 277 SR A classic tackle, Peter is an incredibly strong individual who plays with a mean streak. A LB at Union HS he recorded 121 tackles as a senior. He started his collegiate career as a DE but was moved to tackle during the spring of 2007. He overcame a severe ankle sprain which hampered him for the first three games, but came on strong showing great determination and desire once he reached the field. Peter will be an anchor at his tackle spot next season. I strongly believe we can expect big things from him.

  • DT – Vantrise Studivant 6’3” 285 SR Another Florida star, he was recruited as a TE/DE when he first arrived here. I was expecting a big season from him in 2007, but he surprisingly played a little soft. Was he banged up ? Had he lost some desire? He will have a chance to redeem himself in 2007 by rising to the challenge of being the college star many predicted he would become.

  • DT – Justin Francis 6’4” 280 SO Another true freshman who has incredible athleticism for a kid his size. He saw playing time in 7 games and displayed cat quick reflexes and great pursuit. He may work himself up the depth chart to a starting position.

  • DT – Charlie Noonan 6’2” 278 rsSO Charlie saw extensive action on special teams, even returning a short kickoff, and should become a big contributor next year at the tackle spot. A smart, heady kid with a ton of confidence, he loves to play the game. He’s a tough guy with very good strength and speed.

  • DT – Matt Hardison 6’4” 288 rsFR A stud on the high school field, he played and dominated everywhere. Tight end, fullback, linebacker or defensive end, wherever Freehold Twp HS needed him, he was there. A great athlete, he could become a star tackle for the Scarlet Knights.

  • DT – Wayne Thomas 6’5” 290 rsFR Wayne personifies the value of D1 programs signing big athletes. He has an enormous physique, great feet and natural strength… simply a gigantic athlete. He could become a great player on either side of the ball, and will work his way up the depth chart. I think he would make a tremendous offensive guard.

  • DT/DE – Desmond Wynn 6’6” 275 rsFR An imposing figure, Desmond just looks mean. I am certain the kid is headed for stardom. He is an incredible athlete, who also starred as a high school basketball player. If he reaches 295 pounds he will be an immediate candidate for offensive tackle.

  • DT – Scott Vallone 6’2” 255 recruit The more I read about this kid, the more impressive he becomes. How long will it be before he reaches the field ? He has all the tools to become a dominant D1 defensive tackle and although he remains steadfast in his verbal commitment to Rutgers, other schools continue to try to pry him away. That alone tells you something. He is revered by the Scarlet staff. A great prospect !

Coach Cary Godette will have his biggest, most athletic and impressive group of defensive linemen to work with since his arrival four years ago. He has five senior veterans leading a group of fifteen candidates. Fifteen candidates is about 2 or 3 too many for a 3 deep depth chart, thus my suggestion that one or two could be moved to offense. Godette has come up with great results with less in the past, and frankly I’m very excited about the prospects of our defensive front.

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