The Rutgers Football season will kick off on Sunday, Sept. 3 at SHI Stadium against Northwestern. Leading up to the season opener, we will be taking a look at each position on the field for the Scarlet Knights.
The series continues with a question mark from last season turning into a strength — the linebackers.
Position Coach: Corey Hetherman
Key Returners: Mohamed Toure, Deion Jennings, Tyreem Powell, Moses Walker, Jamier Wright-Collins
Why to be excited: Depth and versatility
Deion Jennings led Rutgers in tackles last year with 87. Tyreem Powell was fourth on the team with 70. This helped the Scarlet Knights erase the narrative of the linebackers being thin — along with running a new scheme.
When Rutgers lost Olukunle Fatukasi and Mohamed Toure got hurt, the linebackers were thought to be a problem. Instead, the Scarlet Knights added a fourth defensive back and ran two linebackers. Jennings and Powell emerged and the rest is history.
Now, this duo returns along with Toure and Moses Walker. As a true freshman, Walkerturned many heads when he was on the field but he also suffered a season-ending injury. If healthy, this group can be even better.
There will always be a question on whether or not this group can compete in the Big Ten. This is a physical conference that asks a lot from the middle of the defense. Jennings had a chance to turn pro but decided to return. Powell showed his skillset last year. Toure has done it for years now and Walker is the young gun looking to make an impact.
The middle is the leader of the defense and Rutgers has plenty of experience returning. Fans should expect great things from this group right away.
Improvement Needed: Get to the quarterback
This could be a copy-and-paste from the defensive line. Of course, it is more of a priority up front but the linebackers have a chance to add into it as well.
It begins with Toure. He led Rutgers in sacks during the 2020 and 2021 seasons before suffering an injury last year. The return of Toure is one that will impact Rutgers in many ways. We spoke on the versatility of these linebackers and it allows the staff to use them in many ways.
The Scarlet Knights are hoping to use their linebackers in many ways, including in pass coverage. It will be important to focus on running backs out of the backfield while getting to the quarterback on different snaps. This is a deep group that can do many things on the field.
The linebacking core improved last year and it is now a strength for Rutgers. If they can get to the quarterback, it will be another step forward.
All of a sudden, the linebackers are a strength for Rutgers. Not all of a sudden, actually. This was apparent last season once Powell and Jennings took the field. Now, the group is even deeper with players returning from injury. Rutgers was banged up last year. That is no excuse for what happened on the field (completely) but there are certain positions that can be deeper this year and linebacker is one of them.