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How have the Rutgers freshman fared so far in 2015?

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports


So far, Marcus Applefield may be the only freshman of any type to play meaningful offensive snaps for the Scarlet Knights. Tariq Cole may have gotten in, but Applefield stepped in for Chris Muller when he got hurt and did a great job. Jawuan Harris was expected to play but has been injured and hasn't dressed for a game. Nakia Griffin-Stewart was also expected to see playing time, but three quality tight ends have proven to be a formidable group and Griffin-Stewart will get to save his redshirt and play as a freshman next year.


Get comfortable, this may last a while.

Blessuan Austin/Isaiah Wharton

I group these two together because they are identical players. The only difference is that Wharton has a redshirt year under his belt. The two freshmen have been tasked with covering the top receivers on each of Rutgers' opponents this year. That is certainly a lot to ask of two freshmen and that has shown. They both have had their rough patches, but have also played pretty well. Both Wharton and Austin have showcased the ability to be top-notch tacklers out of the defensive backfield. However, they are only average in coverage. Part of this is due to poor scheme, but they also clearly have ways to go as cover corners.

Kiy Hester

Hester is only a redshirt freshman but has talent way beyond his years. As good as Wharton and Austin are at tackling, Hester is just that much better. He doesn't miss tackles, which is incredibly important as a strong safety. He has been making a few late jumps on passes which have cost the defense valuable yards, but he at least makes sure this blown coverage doesn't get past him. In addition, for every read he misses, he'll make a great one. He dropped/missed two easy interceptions (see title image) against Kansas but those are plays he won't miss over time.

Najee Clayton

Clayton was only recently cleared to play, but will certainly be on the field in the coming weeks. He is a hard hitting safety who can also move up and play linebacker. He is incredibly versatile and will be incredibly valuable to this defense as long as he gets on the field consistently.

Saquan Hampton/Ronnie James/Jarius Adams

I simply haven't seen enough from these guys to give them their own sections. James and Adams are true freshman while Hampton has a redshirt. They have all seen extensive action as the main backups in a secodary that needs all the reserves it can get. I have seen Hampton make a few nice plays and I'm sure James and Adams will have their moments in the next 8 games.

Kevin Wilkins

I think that Wilkins will be the starting NT by the time the season wraps up.  Sebastian Joseph has been underwhelming and Wilkins made some really nice plays against Kansas. He oozes raw talent and will be a special player down the road. Even though he doesn't start, he plays a lot and can make a big impact on the defensive line

Jimmy Hogan

Like Wilkins, Hogan has been a nice surprise on the D-Line. He contributed to a sack and caused an interception against Kansas, a game in which he was outstanding. He struggled against Penn State and did not play against Washington State. However, he notched his first career sack in the season opener against Norfolk State. Hogan will be a key contributor on the D-Line, a unit which now boasts a healthy amount of depth.