With Rutgers football’s offseason program underway, it’s never too early to look ahead to the fall — and what we hope will be a normal season with fans in the stands.
Here is NJ.com’s early projected defensive and special teams depth chart. We broke down the offensive two-deep previously; you can check it out here.
DE: Mike Tverdov, Tijaun Mason
Tverdov played like Rutgers’ best defensive lineman by the end of the season, racking up 19 tackles and four sacks in the final three games. The expectation is Elorm Lumor will not be back after struggling to find footing in his surprise 2020 return. That could open up playing time for Mason, who flashed in the 2018 opener before suffering a season-ending injury and has not done much since.
DT: Ifeanyi Maijeh, Mayan Ahanotu
Maijeh, a Temple transfer, figures to slide right in and replace the departed Michael Dwumfour next fall at the interior tackle spot. Maijeh had 6.5 sacks during the 2019 season. Ahanotu was a consistent fixture in the tackle rotation this past fall and should play a big role again.
NG: Julius Turner, Robin Jutwreten
Turner played at an All-Big Ten level early on in the season, but opposing offenses appeared to figure him out as the fall progressed and use his aggressive style against him. The key for Rutgers in 2021 will be to utilize his lightning-quick first step while reducing what was a heavy snap load. Jutwreten proved a capable backup on the nose as well.
DE: Aaron Lewis, C.J. Onyechi
Lewis was the best high school prospect Rutgers signed in 2020 (albeit after a brief stopover at Michigan) and showed promise this past season. Onyechi had his moments as well. They both figure to play significant snaps, but Lewis has more upside.
LB: Olakunle Fatukasi, Drew Singleton
Fatukasi was Rutgers’ best defensive player in 2020, leading the Big Ten with 101 tackles. He will enter next season with 213 for his career, giving him a chance to crack the top 10 for stops in school history.
LB: Tyshon Fogg, Tyreek Maddox-Williams
Fogg will almost assuredly crack the top 10 in career tackles if he stays healthy. He has 240 entering 2021. Maddox-Williams’ status for next season still has yet to be confirmed.
LB: Mohamed Toure, Deion Jennings
Rutgers has to get Toure starter-level snaps in 2021 after he was so impactful as a situational pass rusher last season. The fact he cross-trained at all three linebacker positions should make that possible.
CB: Tre Avery, Patrice Rene
Avery is another upperclassman whose status is not yet clear. But the fact Rutgers used a remaining spot for this recruiting cycle somewhat unexpectedly on Rene, a North Carolina transfer, indicates the staff believes he can play starter-level snaps and make an impact despite recent durability concerns.
CB: Avery Young, Max Melton
Young had a solid 2020, but still has plenty of room to improve. Melton was the most productive freshman on the roster last season and saw significant snaps as a nickel corner.
S: Christian Izien, Lawrence Stevens
Izien came on strong down the stretch after some early-season struggles. He was a takeaway machine with four picks and three fumble recoveries over the final three games of the year. Stevens is a special teams ace, but he acquitted himself well when forced to play defensive snaps.
S: Naijee Jones, Peyton Powell
Jones jumped to the head of the pack to replace Brendon White with solid play in the second half of the season. Powell was listed as a corner on the roster, but there is a greater need at safety and his size would fit the position well.
K: Valentino Ambrosio, Guy Fava
P: Adam Korsak, Zach Feagles
LS: Billy Taylor, Zach Taylor
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James Kratch may be reached at [email protected].