Countdown to Kickoff: Linebackers's "Countdown to Kickoff" series continues with a look at the unit with the biggest questions heading into the season. The linebackers should be strong if the starters can stay healthy, but there are depth issues behind Antonio Lowery, Steve Beauharnais and Manny Abreu. What is's confidence level in the linebacking corps? Come inside and find out.

Rutgers opens the season in less than 24 hours as Norfolk State comes the Rutgers Stadium for Thursday's 7:30 p.m. kickoff

Before heading to the stadium or getting ready to watch the game online ( or listen on the radio, is making sure you know what is going on as its "Countdown to Kickoff" series continues.

The next stop as we check in on each unit focuses on the linebackers.

Relevant players: Steve Beauharnais (So.), Antonio Lowery (R-Sr.), Manny Abrue (R-Jr.), Jim Dumont (R-Sr.), Ka'Lial Glaud (So.), Edmond Laryea (R-Sr.), David Milewski (Fr.)

The Good: Beauharnais fits the mold of what Rutgers likes to do defensive, and that is swarm to the ball and also apply pressure via the blitz through the middle of the line of scrimmage. Beauharnais is making the move from outside, but he has the smarts, the athleticism, the speed and the determination to be a great player in the middle of the defense.
Abreu is a physical specimen who can deliver crushing tackles, and is showing a much better understanding of the defense and his assignments after working hard with Dumont off the field. Abreu can be physical in the running game, has agility to drop into coverage and can run down a play.
Lowery is steady and intense, knows his role well and can play with a physical style. He moves well and gives the starting linebackers senior leadership.
If injury were to befall Beauharnais, it would be interesting to see where the Rutgers staff would turn. Dumont is smart and will always put the defense in the right spot, but doesn't have the speed of Glaud, who is backing up Lowery after spending last season as the backup middle linebacker.

The Bad: Depth is a question, especially with Dumont and recently-converted fullback Edmond Laryea on the two-deep. Neither Glaud nor Dumont have a lot of experience at playing during crunch time, and although Milewski made a big climb in training camp, to ask him to be thrust into the middle would be unfair.
Beauharnais has the ability to be a break-out performance in 2010, and his talent sets him apart from the rest of the unit. With his ability to play sideline-to-sideline at a high rate of speed, Rutgers' defense would change dramatically if he was replaced.
Also, Dumont and Laryea do not possess the same athleticism as the starting three, and Milewski's inexperience is an issue.

The Unknown: Can Beauharnais survive in the college game in the middle? He added weight, is at 230 pounds and played there in high school, but it is much different surviving a season in the Big East.
Will Abreu stay healthy? He was banged in the spring game and also during a training camp scrimmage.

Confidence meter: Scale of 1 to 10: 8

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