In this installment of the Rutgers football preseason roster breakdown, The Daily Targum goes through the linebackers on the roster and predicts the starting Sam (strong side), Mike (middle) and Will (weak side). The probable starters include the sack leader from last year’s defense, and all three provide a versatile skill set of blitzing and coverage.
Sam linebacker: Mohamed Toure
Toure’s 4.5 sacks last season led the Scarlet Knights' defense. The sophomore played in all nine games, adding an interception and two forced fumbles to his sack total. He became one of two players in the program to record a forced fumble, interception and sack in 2020.
The cousin of former Rutgers defensive end and current member of the Indianapolis Colts Kemoko Turay, Toure’s lone interception in 2020 led to the go-ahead touchdown in the win against Purdue, and his two forced fumbles were recorded in the season opening victory over Michigan State. The linebacker’s success seems to correlate with the success of the program, and this year, Toure will look to continue his productivity from 2020.
Mike Linebacker: Tyshon Fogg
Fogg is one of a few Knights who has already been honored in 2021, as he was awarded the Competitive Excellence Award at the Chancellor’s Student Leadership Gala in May. The linebacker, who was selected as an honorable mention All-Big Ten player by the media, finished second on the team with 70 tackles, reaching double digits in three separate games. In the season opener, Fogg led the team with 14 tackles, the first of four times he would have the most tackles for Rutgers.
Fogg will be looking to repeat the success of his 2019 season, where he earned a spot on the All-Eastern College Athletic Conference defensive team and was voted as a team captain. In that season, the senior led the team and finished third in the Big Ten with 104 tackles. Fogg is a leader both on and off the field, and his wealth of game experience should help the Knights as they open their season with a Thursday night matchup against Temple.
Will Linebacker: Olakunle Fatukasi
Fatukasi looks to continue his stretch of great play after an impressive 2020 season. The team captain led the entire Big Ten with 101 tackles, with his 11.2 tackles per game ranking ninth in the country and setting the highest average for Rutgers in the 21st century. He also ranked second in the conference in tackles for loss with 11, matching the Knights highest total in a Big Ten season.
Fatukasi set the tone for his season in the first game against Michigan State, recording 10 tackles, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. This performance earned the senior Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week and Bednarik Award National Player of the Week honors. Fatukasi is one of the most accomplished players currently in the program and will be vital to the defensive efforts for Rutgers.
As the linebackers continue to practice their pass coverage and blitzing schemes in the preseason, be sure to read more of the Targum's depth chart predictions ahead of the first football game on Sept. 2.
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