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Perfectly Acceptable Outside Linebacker

There's not much more that can be said at this point about Damaso Munoz's play at middle linebacker in 2007. The starter, Ryan D'Imperio went down in the spring with an injury, and, consequently, Munoz was pressed into a starting role. A former safety, the speedy-but-undersized Munoz was a major liability in run defense, unable to shed blockers once they laid a hand on him. You'd have to imagine that he isn't the only player that would suffer in comparison to D'Imperio though.

"P.A.O.L." is an acronym I created in 2008 to refer to Damaso Munoz. While he played poorly in the middle, there was nothing objectionable about Munoz's play at strongside linebacker last year. Redshirt freshman Manny Abreu did not embarass himself in the role early in the season, but he did not exactly distinguish himself either; in fact, Abreu had a few noticeable lapses in coverage. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but Munoz entered the starting lineup in the strong side right about the time that the team's collective play as a whole improved.

Damaso Munoz has the athleticism that Greg Schiano generally likes in his linebackers. At this point in his career, he's the kind of experienced veteran that knows the defensive scheme and won't make too many bad reads. Yet, entering 2009, many Rutgers fans don't generally hold him in very high regard. In fact, I'd argue that a decent plurality are actively rooting against him. We collectively are starry-eyed; we see that players like Manny Abreu and Antonio Lowery were far more coveted out of high school. Damn the consequences, we want them to start and validate all of the hype.

This, in my view, is both unfair and shortsighted. Yes, coaches sometimes play favorites and make mistakes. They are still far more qualified to make such judgments than the fans at home. It doesn't matter how many times we beg to see Andres Morales at fullback, or defensive linemen that weigh more than 260 pounds. Yes, I want Abreu and Lowery and Marcus Witherspoon and every other big-name talent to live up to the hype. It's hit or miss at times. Kenny Britt proved the talent evaluators right. Tres Moses proved them wrong.

If Munoz ends up earning a starting spot on next year's squad, I'm not going to be too upset at that turn of events. Ryan D'Impaler is doing the lord's work out there. All Munoz has to do is be a perfectly acceptable outside linebacker.