Rutgers has built a reputation for aggressive, suffocating defenses over the years, but a solid pass rush has been lacking the past couple of seasons. Even during the great runs by the 2011 and 2012 squads, the secondary has gotten more credit than the defensive line. For 2014, the Scarlet Knights will look to reverse that trend. With seasoned veteran and a star interior lineman leading the charge, new defensive coordinator Joe Rossi will look to cause havoc with his line to help out the young secondary.
Training Camp Depth Chart
GP is career number, rest are for 2013 season
|David Milewski||DE||6'4", 245||R-Sr.||16||24||1.5||1||0||1|
|Darius Hamilton||DT||6'4", 260||Jr.||24||34||11.5||4.5||1||0|
|Kenneth Kirksey||DT||6'1", 275||Sr.||20||3.5||0.5||0||0||0|
|Djwany Mera||DE||6'4", 260||R-Jr.||13||22||5.5||2.5||1||0|
|Sebastian Joseph||DT||6'4", 285||R-Fr.||1||1||1||0||0||0|
|Daryl Stephenson||DT||6'3", 275||R-Jr.||14||9||1||1||0||0|
|Quanzell Lambert||DE||6'1", 250||R-So.||11||19||4.5||1.5||1||0|
|Julian Pinnix-Odrick||DE||6'5", 260||R-So.|
|Kemoko Turay||DE||6'6", 235||R-Fr.|
|Eric Wiafe||DL||6'5", 270||Fr.|
|Kevin Wilkins||DL||6'3", 290||Fr.|
|Donald Bedell||DL||6'4", 235||Fr.|
|Jimmy Hogan||DL||6'4", 225||Fr.|
If you want optimism for 2014, just take a look at that defensive linemen depth chart. Milewski seems to be fully recovered from prior knee injuries, Hamilton is poised to breakout as a top B1G interior lineman, and there is incredible depth for defensive end.
Milewski will most likely start at the 'R' position, the dedicated rush and coverage end specialist. Quanzell Lambert, the converted LB prospect, played that position last season and will be great option to spell Milewski when needed. On the other side, Mera played well last season as the containment end, and the coaching staff is busy grooming JPO as his understudy. Nose tackle is stacked with Kirksey and SJD battling for the starting spot. Kirksey has the experience, but Joseph has the talent, and definitely looks to be a monster once he claims a starting spot on the line. Everything coming out of camp regarding Joseph always has to do with how much of a beast he is, so it's hard to temper excitement. This is what Milewski had to say about Joseph in the spring:
"We call him the Big Ticket, Sebastian Joseph. I read that Gary (Nova) says he's chiseled out of rock, and that's the case. He's 270 and the kid has a six pack."
Notice in the quote that he was 270 lbs at the time. He's 285 now. Opposing offenses will be in for a rude awakening if they believe the size factor will be a plus for them. Kemoko Turay is another young lineman garnering rave reviews from veteran leaders like Hamilton. Turay is incredibly raw since he only started playing in high school, but he's another guy that will wreak havoc if he can put his entire game together.
* * *
Some people use the chicken or egg metaphor to describe a great pass defense. Is it better to have a great secondary to enable the line to get to the quarterback, or does a great line disrupt the offense to allow for the secondary make picks? You could probably argue this topic all day, but if you're asking me, a great pass rush is more effective. If you give a quarterback enough time, he'll find an open receiver no matter how good your cornerbacks and safeties are. If you can disrupt the timing of the offense by crashing the pocket, however, then you can seriously help out a young secondary looking to bounce back from a mediocre season.
With a better scheme from Joe Rossi, good talent, good depth, and veteran experience, this unit could be on the verge of a special season in the Big Ten.