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Rutgers football position preview: Linebackers

Linebackers coach Bob Fraser has six student-athletes in his unit for Saturday's game. – Photo by Rutgers.edu

The Rutgers football team’s depth chart was released Monday and settles questions about the linebacker group.

Although the Scarlet Knights lost two linebackers to the transfer portal, and redshirt freshman linebacker Nihym Anderson isn’t listed on the roster, their gains outweigh their losses when it comes to numbers.

Out of the six linebackers listed on the depth chart, five are seniors and one is a junior. None are transfers.

Beginning his fourth tenure with Rutgers, linebackers coach Bob Fraser brings NFL experience. Last year, he worked with the New England Patriots after serving as a quality control coach with Knights head football coach Greg Schiano at Ohio State for three seasons. 

Before that, Fraser, defensive coordinator Robb Smith and Schiano were a part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff. Fraser and Smith coached the linebackers at different times, while Schiano was at the helm. Fraser also served as an assistant defensive coordinator. 

Smith spent nearly the last two decades working with defenses at various levels. His most recent post was as a defensive analyst at Texas A&M for a season. Smith left Rutgers in 2012 after a season as defensive coordinator, but at various points, coached the linebackers and cornerbacks.

Out of the three starting linebacker spots, senior linebacker Tyshon Fogg is listed first on the depth chart. A starter in every game at middle linebacker last year, Fogg led the Knights with 104 tackles, 83 of which came against the run. Fogg also had 1.5 sacks.

His triple-digit stops total landed him third in the Big Ten. Fogg compiled double-digit tackles in five games, including the matchups against the Buckeyes and Minnesota. 

Fogg was named to the All-Eastern College Athletic Conference Defensive Team and was an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection last year. The Maryland native saw time in every game as a sophomore, tallying 48 tackles with four on special teams. 

Listed as Fogg’s back-up is senior linebacker Rashawn Battle. Playing in all but one game last year, Battle made 38 stops, and his three sacks were tied for the team lead.

Joining Fogg behind the defensive line will be senior linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi. Starting in 10 games and playing in all 12 last year, Fatukasi trailed only Fogg when it came to the team lead for tackles. His 85 tackles were good for 11th in the conference. Fatukasi made 4.5 tackles in the backfield and assisted on a sack.

When Ohio State came to Piscataway last season, Fatukasi notched six tackles and ran a recovered fumble 21 yards downfield. 

Behind him is senior linebacker Tyreek Maddox-Williams. With 45 tackles, Maddox-Williams was fourth among his teammates. He posted seven tackles during several games, including one for a loss on a fourth down goal-line stand against the Buckeyes. 

The official depth chart doesn’t indicate where on the field the linebackers will line up, but Maddox-Williams is backing up a weak-side linebacker, even though he started eight games and played in 12 on the strong-side last year. 

Senior linebacker Drew Singleton and junior linebacker Deion Jennings are still competing for the final starting spot. Singleton saw action during every matchup last year as a weak-side linebacker, ending with 34 tackles, 2.5 for a loss, as well as a sack. 

Jennings started three games on the strong side on his way to playing in all 12 games. He totaled 38 tackles, 3.5 in the backfield, while breaking up two passes. He also snagged an interception in the end zone against Michigan State. In high school, Jennings spent his time as a cornerback and wide receiver. 

True freshman linebacker Tyreem Powell could also see the field. At Vineland South, Powell was twice named All-South Jersey, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. 


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