Spring Review: The Linebackers

Rutgers needs to replace two of its three starting linebackers, so spring practice was important for the unit. Steve Beauharnais transitioned to the middle , and someone else needed to perform better on the practice to pick up the slack left by the departures of Damaso Munoz and Ryan D'Imperio. That is where Manny Abreu stood out. What else happened for the unit in the spring?

Prior to spring practice Steve Beauharnais never played middle linebacker, but he looked comfortable and confident as the leader of the defense throughout spring practice.

Also, Manny Abreu began the spring as the starting strong side linebacker, and was still with the first unit when it concluded.

In fact, when spring practice ended, the best news for Rutgers' defense was the play of its linebackers as the Scarlet Knights moved to replace Damaso Munoz and Ryan D'Imperio heading into the 2010 season.

At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, Beauharnais isn't an imposing middle linebacker, but he is perfect for Rutgers' aggressive 4-3 base defense. He ran to the ball well, always made the right defensive calls and can close ground quickly. He also has a nose for being involved in a play, and his timing on blitzes is very good.

The biggest development for Abreu wasn't on the field, but rather the work he did in the video room. He said he prepared better than in the past, and it showed in his understanding of his assignments and his ability to be involved in plays. His athletic ability makes him a possible game-changing player, especially if his progress continues.

Abreu went from a player on the verge of having his position shifted to leading the competition at the SAM position heading into training camp. At 6-3, 245 pounds, Abreu brings the ability to punish ball carriers and be a force in stopping the run. His strength allowed him to shed blockers, and his agility made it possible for him to track down ball carriers.

The play of weakside linebacker Antonio Lowery was expectedly steady, and his ability to stop the run continued to be a strong point. The question with Lowery is how much he will play, and how Rutgers will use its linebackers when it goes into nickel coverage. Beauharnais is a given to be on the field, but there is plenty of opportunity for others to jump into the package.

Rutgers was also able to solidify its backups, with walk-on Jim Dumont handling the middle linebacker duties with the second team. Dumont showed he is smart and a sure tackler, which makes him a capable backup if Beauharnais was to miss time.

An interesting move among the linebackers was Ka'Lial Glaud's transition to strong side linebacker. He spent last season playing in the middle, but appeared at home playing behind Abreu on the second defense.

Glaud has loads of potential, but it takes time to learn how to play such a physical position in college. However, the 6-2, 220-pound Glaud has the quickness to develop into an excellent player on the edge for Rutgers.

The weakside linebacker spot is up for grabs, but in reality could turn into a mix-and-match if there is an injury since Beauharnais or Lowery could be shifted in running situations, with Beauharnais moving back to the middle in nickel and dime packages.

Morgan Carter had a few moments in which it looked like the college game was starting to slow down for him, but much more consistency is needed there. Al-Ghaffar Lane and Junior Solice did not stand out in the spring and Marvin Booker did not participate as he continues to recover from a torn knee ligament suffered in the fall.


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