Rutgers coach Kyle Flood will have plenty of “ORs” on his pre-camp depth chart – to be released next week. With no position battles truly resolved out of spring, and more questions popping up, ScarletReport.com counts down the five most anticipated battles of August.
5. Nose Tackle -- Kenneth Kirksey should have had the job locked down by now but injury concerns open the door for others to fight for the job. Second-year player Sebastian Joseph is new to nose tackle, but one of the most talked about freshmen from last season. Sophomore Daryl Stephenson also has nose tackle experience and could enter into the battle. Nose tackle is Kirksey’s job to lose, but he has to earn it in camp after injuries led to relying on Isaac Holmes last year.
4. R Defensive End -- Quanzell Lambert entered spring as the starter on the depth chart. In a rotation position, multiple guys will get a chance to start with senior David Milewski as prime competition. Milewski has playing experience at all four line positions. He brings leadership and a strong presence to battle against Lambert.
3. Free Safety -- Senior Johnathan Aiken beat out Jeremy Deering for the job last year. Now Aiken likely battles sophomore Delon Stephenson in training camp for the job. Aiken played admirably ahead of Deering, and started in the Pinstripe Bowl because of it. Both players are converted cornerbacks, but Stephenson could return there pending competition at both safety and corner. Stephenson was one of five freshmen to start at cornerback last season. He played both in spring camp because of injuries to other players.
2. Backup Running Back -- Rutgers needs as many running backs as possible to be ready for the Big Ten. Paul James is locked in at the starter. The depth behind him remains unclear, especially with injury questions surrounding senior Savon Huggins and sophomore Justin Goodwin. Look for Huggins to begin training camp as the second-team back if healthy, with Desmon Peoples and Goodwin behind him. Peoples gained the most ground in spring. He demonstrated improved ball security and knowledge of the playbook. He was a shifty option behind the line of scrimmage that provided stability when others were out.
Freshman Josh Hicks has the chance to win time with a strong camp. He begins at the bottom alongside classmate Robert Martin and needs to jump out early if he wants to see the field.
1. Cornerback -- This is a true free-for-all come training camp. The closest player to locking down a starting job in spring – Ian Thomas – is now gone. Ruhann Peele is back at wide receiver and Stephenson will either be a cornerback or safety. That leaves two open starting spots and five jobs up for grabs in the upcoming four weeks.
Rutgers finally has experience at cornerback. Anthony Cioffi, Nadir Barnwell and Gareef Glashen all have multiple starts against big-time quarterbacks. For the second straight year, Rutgers projects to play multiple true freshmen at cornerback. Early enrollee Kam Lott has a jump start after a solid spring with Dre Boggs bringing momentum into training camp as well. Isaiah Wharton and Darian Dailey round out the freshmen cornerbacks that will get a look at the start of August.
Honorable Mentions -- Mike Bimonte vs Chris Laviano at backup quarterback, Bryan Leoni vs Taj Alexander at right tackle, Janarion Grant vs vs Andrew Turzilli vs Andre Patton vs Ruhann Peele vs Carlton Agudosi at wide receiver.
Summer workouts are complete in Piscataway and the next steps are Big Ten Media Day and training camp. The Big Ten membership date is past, and it is time to look ahead to year one. Today, we break down the biggest unresolved position battles of the summer.