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Rutgers football: Potential breakout players on defense this season



Kenny Fletcher has a chance to make a big impact this fall. Photo credit Rutgers football

Training camp for Rutgers football begins on Thursday, August 3. While it’s clear who the most indispensable players are heading into the season, there are several positions in which new contributors can emerge. Previously, I covered the offense here.

The Rutgers defensive line has a chance to be really good this season, but the key is depth. Ole Miss transfer Isaiah Iton could be a major addition at tackle. He played 23 games over the last two seasons for the Rebels and was recruited by Marquise Watson, who coached him at Oxford. Another high ceiling player is Kenny Fletcher. The former high 3-star recruit from Delran played in 11 games as a true freshman. He finished strong, producing a sack in the each of the last two games against Penn State and Maryland. Another name to watch for is Rene Konga who played in nine games last season.

Former 4-star linebacker Moses Walker is back after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. He joins Mo Toure, who suffered the same injury after leading Rutgers in sacks in 2020 and 2021. Walker could emerge as a major weapon and Toure gives the defense more versatility in being able to close off as an EDGE. Joining incumbents Deion Jennings and Tyreem Powell, the linebacking core could be the strength of the defense.

The secondary lost two key safeties in Christian Izien and Avery Young. However, Minnesota transfer Flip Dixon is a physical player with 30 Big Ten games under his belt. Shaquan Loyal showed flashes last season and could emerge as the third safety for Rutgers as DC Joe Harasymiak played three last season. With cornerbacks, transfer Eric Rogers could emerge behind Max Melton, Robert Longerbeam and Kessawn Abraham.

One flier I mention in the episode is kicker Jai Patel. It would not surprise me if he eventually overtakes Jude McAtamney this season if last season’s starter suffers from inconsistency from inside 40 yards.

Overall, the defense has a legitimate chance to be a top half Big Ten unit this season. If they can become that, many of these players will have stepped up as valuable contributors.

Listen and watch to this latest episode of The Scarlet Faithful podcast below.



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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. pj43

    August 3, 2023 at 3:20 pm

    For me, I want to see how the DT rotation plays out.  I agree with Aaron that Isaiah Iton is a key addition.  I’d go so far to say that he may be THE key addition to the defense.  Hamilton could be poised for a breakout year.  Konga needs to continue his development and it would be great if Rainey can contribute as well.  Add an experienced, effective Iton and there’s interior DL depth. These players are in that 290-295lb range.  Compared to earlier Rutgers Big Ten DL lineups, this could finally be adequate Big Ten size & depth at DT.  I’d love to see bigger size at this position and it’s frustrating that there have been near misses in recruiting those 300lb+ DT recruits, but if this current DL rotation can bring quickness and strength to stuff the run and create push on the inside pass rush, Rutgers has the DEs (led by Lewis) to create some real havoc in terms of sacks. 

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