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Starting Linebackers Lead Rutgers Defense

Last week, we talked about Rutgers’ stable of running backs being the top position group on offense for Rutgers football.To follow up on that notion, today we take a look at the top level of the defense.

The Scarlet Knights trio of starting linebackers seem to stick out compared to the rest of the defense. Although the defensive line features a two-year starter in end Djwany Mera, potential breakout star Kemoko Turay, and the leader of the line in tackle Darius Hamilton, there are questions regarding the nose tackle spot.

The linebackers will feature two sure-fire starters in strong side linebacker redshirt senior Quentin Gause and weak side linebacker redshirt junior Steve Longa. The middle linebacker spot will be without last year’s starter Kevin Snyder who is now with the Detroit Lions, but either City College of San Francisco transfer (Isaiah Johnson) or South Carolina graduate transfer (Kaiwan Lewis) will man the middle. Both seem capable.

Rutgers LB Quentin Gause - From

Rutgers LB Quentin Gause – From

Johnson has three years to play two, and recorded 72 tackles, 10.5 tackles-for-loss, 2.5 sacks, five pass break-ups and a fumble recovery in 13 games a year ago in route to being named First Team Region I All-California Community College and First Team All-Bay 6 Conference.

The Oakland, Ca native participated in spring practice and will battle Lewis come training camp. Lewis, a Pleasantville, N.J. native, made 11 starts in 31 games, racking up 20 tackles in eight games in 2014 for the Gamecocks. Bobby Deren of says of Lewis in an article from the Asbury Park Press, “He fills a position of immediate need at Rutgers, and with his physical style of play, Rutgers will have a run-stuffer up the middle.” Lewis comes in after playing top notch SEC competition.

Longa started at the middle linebacker spot as a redshirt freshman but moved to weak side last year. In 2013, The Sporting News First Team Freshman All-American finished the season with a team high 123 tackles. Last season, the Saddle Brook, N.J. native made 102 stops with two sacks. Longa was a candidate to move back to the middle this season, but Longa’s speed is an asset on the outside, similar to former Rutgers star Khaseem Greene.

The strong side linebacker spot is held by Gause, 6-1, 220-pounder out of Rochester, N.Y. Gause started 11 games and finished second on the squad with 72 tackles. Gause is stout against the run and will look to improve his coverage skills this season. Gause totaled seven tackles (two for loss) in the team’s first Big Ten victory over Michigan on Oct. 4.

With a somewhat undersized line and questions with new starters in the secondary, the linebackers will be key. If the team wants to win, they will have to stop the run in the Big Ten, and it certainly helps that Longa and Gause are on the second level, in addition to a new member in the middle whether it be Johnson or Lewis.


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