The Rutgers defense has been prone to giving up big plays this year, but one bright spot has been the play of the linebackers.
Senior Kevin Malast had the most tackles out of all the returning linebackers with 92, and is on pace to register over 100 this year. He's averaging 10 tackles a game this season.
"I felt like I prepared real well for both of those games," Malast said. "I had to the opportunity to go out there and let it fly. I felt like I was running around, we all have mistakes we have to correct. I feel like I'm correcting my mistakes and getting better each day."
Malast hasn't been alone in hawking down opposing runners. Junior Ryan D'Imperio has him by one tackle, giving him the most in the Big East. He also leads the conference with 14 assisted tackles.
"Ryan's doing pretty well," Malast said. "He's studying film right next to me. Everyone is preparing real hard so when it comes to game time we can just play hard and not think about things. Ryan's doing a real good job at that."
On the opposite side of Malast is redshirt freshman Manny Abreu. He's a former four-star prospect out of Union Hill High School in New Jersey and they're high expectations for the first year starter. He had a solid opener against Fresno State, making seven tackles and getting a half-sack on quarterback Tommy Brandstater.
"Manny's doing real well," Malast said about the freshman. "He's starting as a freshman. He's correcting his mistakes and getting better and better each day, which is important."
Through two games, the defense has allowed 68 points and been the victims of numerous big plays. To fix the problems, Malast echoes the words of Greg Schiano and said the team needs to work on the small details.
"Just the little things to get better," Malast said when asked how the defense could improve. "Understanding the game plan as best as we can, to be more confident as we play, and we have the athletes to do it. We just have to play hard, correct our mistakes, and continue to get better."
The focus is now on Navy. Navy runs a unique offense where they will run at you in almost every way possible and then surprise you with the pass. Malast knows the Midshipmen present a tough test on Saturday.
"There's extremely tough and extremely disciplined," he said about the Knights' upcoming opponent. "They pride themselves on that. If you can't match their intensity, they will break one on you."
A lot of people are throwing around the must-win phrase with this game. To Malast, every game is big. He's just going to go-all-out, and let the chips fall where they may.
"Every game is big," he said. "I'm not really trying to think about it and put any pressure or anything. I'm just trying to do the best that I can. We all want to be the best we can be and let whatever happens, happen."
Malast Leads By Example
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