In this installment of the preseason Rutgers football roster breakdown, The Daily Targum switches over to the other side of the ball to talk about the defensive line and predict the four starters for the 2021 season. The Scarlet Knights' defense recorded 21 sacks last season and will look to build upon that number with the play of their front four.
Defensive end: Mike Tverdov
A fifth-year senior who followed in the footsteps of his older brother Pete, Tverdov has been a dominant force since stepping foot on the Banks. In 2020, the honorable mention All-Big Ten player finished second on the team in both sacks and tackles for loss.
His biggest performance was in the victory against Maryland, where Tverdov set a Big Ten program record for sacks in a conference game, including one that led to the Terrapins missing a field goal in overtime.
The edge rusher reportedly came into camp much bigger than last season and talked about playing at a new weight with 24/7 Sports.
“I feel very good, I feel comfortable and, more importantly, I feel explosive,” Tverdov said. “I am really excited to see what I can go out there and do.”
Defensive tackle: Julius Turner
Another returning starter who was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection last season is Turner, who finished third on the team and tied for 11th in the Big Ten with eight tackles-for-loss. The inside rusher has also made waves on special teams in his time with Rutgers, being one of 15 players in the nation to block two kicks in 2019. Since being redshirted in his freshman year, Turner has played in every game and looks to continue that streak in his final year of eligibility.
Defensive tackle: Ifeanyi Maijeh
Maijeh will step on the Banks for the first time after transferring from Temple in the offseason. The defender was named to the Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy and Outland Trophy watch lists last season and was a preseason All-American Athletic Conference selection by multiple media outlets.
In his last full season in 2019, Maijeh recorded 6.5 sacks and was a first team All-Eastern College Athletic Conference selection. Maijeh will open up his career with the Knights against a familiar opponent, as the Owls travel to Piscataway on Sept. 2.
Defensive end: CJ Onyechi
The third starter to return on the defensive line, Onyechi recorded two sacks in 2020 and had at least one tackle-for-loss in his first six games. The West Orange native has only missed one game in his three years of play and has shown continued improvement in his stats and overall game. The familiarity built between the returning starters will help the defensive line contribute this season.
While the defensive linemen are practicing their rush moves in the preseason, be sure to check out our continuing coverage of the Rutgers football team and the rest of the Targum's depth chart predictions.
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.