Top 25: LB Steve Beauharnais (No. 3)

Rutgers opens training camp Friday afternoon, and is in the final stretch of naming the Top 25 players when it comes to the on-field success of the Scarlet Knights in 2010. No. 3 on the list is sophomore linebacker Steve Beauharnais, who not only replaces Ryan D'Imperio in the middle, but also is making the switch from strong-side linebacker.

Rutgers has a trio of strong defensive tackles, an athletic secondary and speed across the defense.

One of the fastest and most impressive players is middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais, but his importance to the 2010 Scarlet Knights defense goes beyond his blitzing, and past his ability to play sideline-to-sideline with his speed.

Beauharnais is making the move from strong-side linebacker to middle linebacker, which means he will bring his smaller frame inside and also be asked to call the defensive plays as he replaces Ryan D'Imperio.

His physical talent is enormous, but his mental capabilities are just as important now, which is why he is No. 3 on's countdown of the Top 25 most important players for the upcoming season.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Beauharnais burst onto the scene last season, opening the season as a backup before starting the last three games. He made 36 tackles, including 20 solo, and had five sacks, seven tackles for loss and forced a fumble.

The physical talent is evident, but so much more goes to playing inside because the game moves at a middle linebacker much faster and his reads must be made much more rapidly.

In the middle Beauharnais gives the Scarlet Knights a player who can chase down a play to either sideline, and who has the timing to blitz through the line and get to the quarterback. He is also a hard hitter.

However, playing middle linebacker is markedly more than the physical aspect and knowing your assignment. It is knowing the defense, making the proper calls, and getting teammates to have confidence the right calls will be made.

Although Beauharnais didn't realize it at the time, the coaching staff begin preparing him for life as a middle linebacker last season.

Beauharnais made the defensive calls when Rutgers used its nickel package (five defensive backs), and he did it well.

In the spring, he gained the trust of the coaching staff and the rest of the Scarlet Knights by making the right calls, and audibles, and getting the defense in the correct position.

Middle linebacker is always an incredibly important position to the defense, but it is a spot Beauharnais has never played. If he can master it, not only will Rutgers' defense be in good hands in 2010, but 2011 and 2012 will have one less major question entering camp as well.

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