Vallone is healed and ready to go

Scott Vallone has looked forward to spring practice for a long time. He hasn't just looked forward to it because it marks a return to football either. Because this spring is the redshirt freshman defensive tackle's first chance to show the Rutgers football team what he can do when he's fully healthy.

Last season as a freshman, Scott Vallone's season came to a premature end when head coach Greg Schiano opted to shut him down because of his foot injury. Vallone entered the program with a preexisting foot injury that never truly healed, preventing him from playing to his fullest.

"Scott looks much better than he did last year," Schiano said on Vallone's recovery. "It wasn't really fair because he went the whole summer and preseason camp [dealing with the injury] … he looks much better this spring."

Vallone echoed Schiano's statements, saying that his foot isn't even a thought on the field.

"The foot feels real good," Vallone said. "I don't really feel it anymore. It's not really hindering me. I'm full go with everything so it's fully recovered."

Vallone and the rest of the Scarlet Knights are now halfway through their set of spring practices as practice No. 8 of 15 comes Friday at 3 p.m. And as far as judging himself at the midway point, Vallone feels that his health improvement has helped him get better on the field by leaps and bounds.

"It's going pretty well," he said. "Practice is going great. I've just been working real hard to improve the best I can … I've gotten a lot better. I'm just trying to work on the little things, make sure my technique is solid and swarming to the football — do the little things to get better every day."

Vallone comes into his first healthy season as primarily a run stuffer inside for the Knights. He said that he feels run defense is his greatest strength and that pass rush is his greatest weakness as a tackle.

"Right now it's playing against the run, using my hands," he said. "I have to work on my pass rush a lot. Coach [Schiano] also jokes that I'm a first and second down guy right now, but I just have to work on my strengths and work harder on my weaknesses. Thankfully I have more practices and the spring game to improve."

And as far as his first set of healthy practices with his teammates, Vallone said that there have been two key moments that are his favorites so far.

The first moment came March 26 when the Knights put on pads for the first time and began hitting drills.

"It feels really good to get out there and play some real live football," Vallone said. "Stuff with no shoulder pads is not really football. It feels really good to get out there and start to tackle people and hit."

The other memorable moment came today at the end of practice No. 7. In his first official day as director of student athletics at Rutgers, Tim Pernetti took a few minutes out of his day to meet with the 6'3", 270 pounder from Central Islip, N.Y. and the rest of the team.

"It was great [to hear from him]," Vallone said. "To have somebody that's been in the program, somebody that's played here, somebody that knows what we're going through. That's awesome."

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