Vallone Continues to Improve

In Scott Vallone's mind, he got the best of both worlds as a true freshman and now those benefits are what's elevated him to the first team with the ankle injury to Blair Bines. Vallone, coming to Rutgers as a three-star defensive tackle recruit from Long Island, got both playing experience and a redshirt season as a true freshman for the Scarlet Knights last season.

A pre-existing foot injury spoiled the 6-foot-3, 270-pound defensive tackle's true freshman season as he had to shut down for the season after seeing action in just two games for the Knights. Fortunately for Vallone, he still qualified for a medical redshirt.

"At the time I didn't like it," Scott Vallone said. "I wanted to play. I wanted to be able to show people what I can do, but there wasn't anything I could do with me being hurt."

Then, as a redshirt, Vallone got to learn the system at a slower, more comprehensible pace and learn from the defensive tackles ahead of him like Pete Tverdov and Alex Silvestro.

"I think it helped," Vallone said. "I got the best of both worlds. I got to play and I also got to redshirt. I think that that's going to help me down the line."

Now, with a fully healthy foot and a year of college experience, Vallone is a completely different player. He quickly worked his way up the defensive line depth chart and is currently making strides with the first team as Bines rehabs his ankle.

"Obviously you don't want a teammate to be hurt, that kind of stinks, but it's good to get an opportunity to go against our best offensive line and hopefully I'll be able to improve my game even more," Vallone said. "[Camp] has gone well so far. I'm getting a lot of reps with the ones and the twos and I'm just trying to get better."

Despite arriving in Piscataway as a highly accomplished player on the high school level — he had 71 tackles, including 16 for loss and eight sacks en route to CHSFL Defensive Player of the Year honors as a senior with St. Anthony's on Long Island — nothing prepared Vallone for the learning experience that was to come.

Vallone said that he's deferred to the veterans on the squad for pointers and that he's become a better player because of it.

"The other guys are telling me I'm doing a great job and they're very positive with me and they keep me going," he said. "George brings a lot of energy and Silvestro does the same. It's a lot of fun out there playing with those guys and we're all great friends."

It hasn't just been the defense that has helped Vallone, however. Perhaps the greatest harbinger for his improvement has come on the other side of the ball, going against one of the toughest offensive lines in the Big East.

"They're all returning," he said. "They're all good players and they don't mess up too much so when you make a play you know you did a good job. … It's definitely something that's going to be very helpful in the end, just going against such an experience group. It's going to get us ready for the season and the offensive linemen in the Big East and out of conference."

And as for that foot injury, consider it nonexistent.

"The foot doesn't bother me at all and it feels really good," Vallone said. "I don't think about it until people ask me about it."

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