Skip to content

Future of Rutgers football 2024: Linebackers

Senior linebacker Mohamed Toure will be a major piece for the Rutgers football team's "Darkside Defense" once again in 2024. – Photo by Ben Solomon / Rutgers Athletics /

For the Rutgers football team, maintaining a strong front seven requires both the defensive line and linebacker rooms to be up to snuff when it faces off Big Ten competition. In the penultimate edition of Future of Rutgers Football, The Daily Targum previews the 2024 linebacker room.

The Scarlet Knights' linebackers provide arguably the most high-end talent on the team, but the jury is currently out on the depth in the room. Plenty of veterans with vast Big Ten experience, as well as younger players, are looking to break through.

Rutgers returns almost every contributor at the position except one, but the one is a significant loss. Former linebacker Deion Jennings was a 2023 All-Big Ten Honorable Mention and, over his career, tied a program record with 58 games played. He served as the leader of the Knights' defense for several years and led the team with 95 total tackles in 2023.

Replacing Jennings will not be easy, but there is plenty of talent in the cupboard to start for head coach Greg Schiano and defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Joe Harasymiak's 4-2-5 defense, including the two starters that got NFL attention over the offseason.

Senior linebacker Mohamed Toure returns for his final season after leading Rutgers in sacks and tackles for loss during a resurgent 2023 season. He was named a semifinalist for the national Comeback Player of the Year Award after missing the entire 2022 season with a torn ACL, looking just like his old self. Serving as an outside linebacker, his pass-rushing abilities and effort are relentless as he constantly pressures opposing offensive tackles.

Toure also flashed his coverage skills with an interception against then-No. 1 Ohio State. Toure's menacing play style off the edge will once again pair with the defensive line to attack opposing quarterbacks.

Next to Toure will be fellow senior linebacker Tyreem Powell. Powell has been bitten by the injury bug over the last six months, missing the Knights final five games with a hand injury. After coming back from the hand injury, he tore his Achilles tendon. Powell's second injury forces him out for the rest of spring practices, but he reportedly will be ready for the start of the regular season.

Powell was a huge key to Rutgers' strong first half of the 2023 season, so getting him healthy for the start of the 2024 schedule is paramount. His work in the middle of the field stuffing the run and in coverage was impressive, but it remains to be seen if he will be 100 percent healthy after such a major injury. Nonetheless, Powell's status will go a long way in determining the Knights' ceiling in 2024.

If Powell is not healthy, junior linebackers Dariel Djabome and Moses Walker will step in behind him. Djabome was the main contributor to replace Powell when the latter injured his hand in 2023 and will play a key depth role in sub-packages in 2024. Djabome showed more as a run defender, but with another year in the system, he can grow into a strong all-around linebacker.

Walker is a former highly-touted recruit. He was the top player in New York in the class of 2022 but has yet to get much playing time in his early Rutgers career due to injuries. A great athlete for the linebacker position, Walker may split time with Djabome and Powell if the latter is not fully ready for the season. Either way, both Walker and Djabome have high ceilings at the position and could be in for expanded roles.

Other depth pieces include senior linebacker Jamier Wright-Collins and sophomore linebacker Abram Wright. Wright-Collins switched from running back to linebacker and has filled in nicely, and as for Wright, he has already flashed some of his potential with an interception in the Pinstripe Bowl off Miami quarterback Jacurri Brown.

The program also brought three freshmen into the linebacker room in the 2024 recruiting class.

Freshman linebacker Sam Pilof hails from Middleton, Wisconsin, and has great burst off the line. Pilot may project better as a pass-rushing linebacker, but he has plenty of time to grow into a larger, more well-rounded role, especially given his 4.52 40-yard dash.

Freshman linebacker MJ Johnson joins the program as a hard hitter with positional versatility thanks to his frame and athleticism. Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Johnson can play either inside at middle linebacker or outside thanks to his 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame, or even serve as a pass rusher in a role like Toure's.

The final newcomer is freshman linebacker Samarian Robinson out of Tallahassee, Florida. Schiano and his staff managed to flip Robinson from UCF during the summer. Robinson is another high-ceiling player and strong athlete, filling out a 6-foot-3, 203-pound frame.

If the Knights want to go far in 2024, it must be a joint effort from all position groups on offense and defense. The linebackers had a strong 2023, and continuing their momentum will play a prominent role in Rutgers' success.

For more updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TargumSports on X.

To view more of Alec Crouthamel's work, follow @aleccr12 on X.

Related Articles

Join our newsletterSubscribe