Top 25: DT Scott Vallone (No. 12)

Scott Vallone made his mark on Rutgers' defense last year when he showed signs of being a dominant defensive tackle, and he was only a red-shirt freshman. Now, he is poised to have a huge season and help control the interior of the line of scrimmage, which is why has him No. 12 in its countdown of the Top 25 most important player for the 2010 season.

The helicopter story is still amazingly interesting. Scott Vallone sitting inside St. Anthony's of Melville, N.Y., with a pair of Boston College coaches when Rutgers coach Greg Schiano and assistant Kyle Flood, within earshot, land on the practice field in a helicopter and exit to meet with Vallone.

If it wasn't a big part of his recruitment, it certainly was an indication what the Scarlet Knights thought of him.

But rather than it being the story involving Vallone's career with the Scarlet Knights, it quickly has turned into footnote in a career that is readying to explode.

Vallone is one of Rutgers' most talented players, and on a vastly talented defense, the 6-foot-3, 270-pound red-shirt sophomore defensive tackle may be the best.

He can stop the run, pressure the quarterback and cause opponents to alter blocking schemes, which is why Vallone is No. 12 in's countdown of the Top 25 players for the 2010 season.

About the only complaint about Vallone is his penchant to jump offsides, a byproduct of his desire to hit the snap count perfectly and burst into the backfield. It is a part of Vallone's game Rutgers is more than willing to deal with considering his ability to disrupt an offense and dominate the interior line of scrimmage.

An injury derailed Vallone's freshman season after two games, but he was able to get a medical red-shirt out of the season and spent the year learning the defense, building strength and maturing.

In 2009, as a red-shirt freshman, Vallone already showed what made him one of the top defensive tackles in the 2008 recruiting class as he consistently took on double teams and used his strength and pad level to still make plays.

Vallone made nearly 20 percent of his tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He finished with 41 tackles, including nine for loss, and finished with 1½ sacks.

But Vallone's value goes far beyond his measurable statistics. When he takes on blockers, it means the linebackers have more open lanes to fill and make tackles, and can alter the balance of the field and force offenses to either run at him, in a challenge, or away from him and allow him to try and pursue.

He will team with Charlie Noonan inside with the first defense, but the Scarlet Knights will rotate players along the defensive line in an attempt to go eight deep. The quandary will be finding a balance between utilizing Vallone's talent with making sure not to where him out.

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