Future of Rutgers Football 2023: Linebackers
The success of the Rutgers football team's linebackers will be crucial to its overall defensive growth in 2023. The Scarlet Knights' linebacker room boasts a mixture of very talented players that will be returning from injury and older players that established themselves during the 2022 season.
Senior linebacker Mohamed Toure and sophomore linebacker Moses Walker have been strong participants in the team's spring practice after missing all of last season with torn ACLs. Both players were projected to be crucial pieces in the linebacker room last year and should make a massive impact this year.
Toure should help the defensive line pressure the quarterback. In the 2020 season, he led Rutgers with 4.5 sacks, and he followed up with another 4.5 sacks in the 2021 season. Toure also recorded 52 tackles and eight tackles-for-loss in 13 games played and five starts on the defensive line in the 2021 season.
Toure brings aggression and versatility to the linebacker room, as he is able to play linebacker and is positioned on the edge of the defensive line. He will likely make an immediate impact for the Knights as a veteran in the 2023 season.
Walker came into last season with big expectations, as he was the highest-ranked recruit in the 2022 class, the highest-ranked recruit in New York and the 12th highest-ranked Rutgers recruit ever. In his senior season at Erasmus Hall High School, he helped the Dutchman to a perfect 9-0 record and a 2021 PSAL title.
Walker played outside linebacker in high school, where he showcased his versatility, being able to create pressure on the edge and guard wide receivers and tight ends in the open field. The player may be the most talented linebacker and brings energy and youth to the unit.
The Knights will also be relying on senior linebacker Deion Jennings to build on his breakout season last year. With both Toure and Walker suffering season-ending injuries before the 2022 season started, the linebacker room had extremely shallow depth.
In their absence, Jennings stepped up, starting 11 games at linebacker and leading the team with 91 tackles and 8.5 tackles-for-loss. He also forced six pass breakups last season. For his efforts, Jennings was voted honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media and received the Homer Hazel Award at last year's team banquet, which is historically given to the Knights' most valuable player.
Jennings will now look to carve out a slightly different role with the increased depth in the linebacker room.
Junior linebacker Tyreem Powell, from Vineland, New Jersey, is another player Rutgers fans should look out for, both during spring practice and in upcoming games.
Powell was also forced into extended minutes last year with the losses of Toure and Walker, but he played well during that time. He started 12 games at linebacker, totaling 71 tackles, with six-for-loss and three sacks last year. Powell also added four pass breakups.
Powell has made improvements in all three of his years with the Knights and looks to take another step up in the 2023 season. Like Jennings, he will have to mesh with Toure and Walker, though their addition can also keep both Powell and Jennings fresher when they are on the field.
The rest of the linebacker room is young and inexperienced, but junior linebacker Jamier Wright-Collins could also receive snaps on the field. Wright-Collins transitioned from running back to linebacker last year due to the team's lack of depth and played in all 12 games, getting 24 tackles.
Leading this group is second-year linebackers coach Corey Hetherman, who had to navigate an injury-plagued 2022 season and looks to benefit from more depth in the 2023 season.
Hetherman previously worked for defensive coordinator Joe Harasymiak at Maine.
Overall, the linebacker unit should see increased depth and talent coming into the 2023 season, making it one of the most anticipated units to look out for during the game on April 29.
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