Countdown to Kickoff: Defensive Line

On an action-packed day thanks to another major basketball commitment, the Scarlet Walk and Rutgers' football season opener slightly more than 24 hours away, continues to provide coverage of everything Rutgers. In continuing our "Countdown to Kickoff" series, we take a look at the strongest part of the team, the defensive line.

Opening kickoff for the 2011 season is slightly more than 24 hours away as Rutgers hosts Norfolk State at 7:30 p.m.

In getting everyone ready, is running its "Countdown to Kickoff" series, with the latest stop coming along the defensive line.

Relevant players: DE Alex Silvestro (Sr.), DE Jonathan Freeny (Sr.), DT Scott Vallone (R-So.), DT Charlie Noonan (R-Sr.), DE Justin Francis (R-Jr.), DE Sorie Bayoh (R-Sr.) DT Eric LeGrand (Jr.), DT Michael Larrow (R-Fr.)

The Good: It is absolutely staggering Vallone has three years of eligibility remaining because he is already one of the top 3-technique guys in the nation with his combination of speed and power. He can dominate a game from the inside, and making running the ball a nightmare.
Noonan is arguably the strongest guy on defense, with a bench-press over 430 pounds and the ability to take on multiple blockers, he makes life easier for the linebackers.
Meanwhile, LeGrand could be a starter on many Big East teams, and is poised for a breakout season behind Noonan.
Freeny had 9½ sacks last season, and while two-thirds came against much lesser competition, his combination of size, power and speed, added to the fact Rutgers loves to blitz, should enable him to get in the backfield regularly.
Silvestro is a steadying influence playing the left defensive end spot, which means most games he is coming at a quarterback in clear view. However, he also is an assignment-wise player who understands gap integrity and is always around the play.
Francis brings the versatility of being able to play on the edge or move inside in case of injury, s well as plenty of experience.

The Bad: Not much here, unless you start whittling down the first seven or eight players. Bayoh and Larrow don't offer a ton of experience, but they should each have it by the time October comes around.
Perhaps the only negative on this unit is Kenneth Kirksey didn't get through the NCAA clearinghouse and had to go to Fork Union Military Academy, although he plans to enroll at Rutgers in January.
Oh, and Vallone has a penchant for jumping offsides when trying to time the snap count, but that is about as bad as it should get for the starting four.

The Unknown: Can Freeny handle the pressure of being the top defensive end, and get pressure on the quarterback? Is there enough depth if injuries hit the line?

Confidence meter: Scale of 1 to 10: 9.5

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