LB corps preps for spring game
Given all the flip-flopping within the linebacking corps for the Rutgers football team, it is understandable that there is still some discomfort.
All three linebacker positions — the MIKE, WILL and SAM — welcomed new occupants to start the spring, but saw continued improvement heading into tomorrow's Scarlet-White game.
But the word "discomfort" does not seem to exist in the dictionaries of any of the three starting linebackers with the culmination of spring practice on the horizon.
"I feel like we're playing with a lot of speed," said junior linebacker Khaseem Greene, who recorded a sack on Tuesday in arguably the team's most important spring scrimmage. "We're out there running and hitting, so I'm excited about the defense and to see how it's going to turn out in the real season when it counts."
Greene, who bumped down from safety to start the spring season, has been a key cog in the group's successes through two scrimmages this spring, as the offense proved mostly ineffective in both outings.
As all three linebacker positions seem to conform well to the traits of each player, Greene's new role gives him more leeway in terms of aggression, and for the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder, he is perfectly fine with that.
The Elizabeth, N.J., native finished fourth on the squad with 77 tackles a year ago, but that production will likely increase with more run-stopping responsibilities.
"I feel great," he said. "I feel like I've got it down pat. I feel like I've been there since I got here. Now it's starting to come as second nature to me. I don't have to think about it anymore — it just happens."
But more importantly, Greene gave nothing but praise to junior Ka'Lial Glaud, who will operate this season at the MIKE for head coach Greg Schiano.
Greene sees Glaud's abilities meshing perfectly with the role of the defense's signal caller.
"He's a natural leader," Greene said. "He's one of those guys who don't have to put on a front or have to work to become a leader. He's a natural leader. You can tell by the way he sets the fronts and by the way he switches the defenses and things like that that he's a natural."
Glaud assumes the former role of now-SAM linebacker, junior Steve Beauharnais, who watched his replacement earn a sack on Tuesday when the offense focused on the passing game before struggling to gain yards on the ground.
Beauharnais, who finished third on the team with 79 tackles last season, sees no ceiling for the 6-foot-2 Glaud operating in the middle of the field.
"It goes up every time he steps on the field," Beauharnais said. "Every practice it just goes up and up and up. He's taking more control than he has before, and I know he's a really physical guy, a real explosive guy. He's doing a really good job."
For Beauharnais, the burden of operating the defense lifts with his shift to SAM, which could also foster more aggression in his game.
Still, the St. Joseph's (N.J.) product remembers his time quarterbacking the defense last season, and is never shy in offering tips to his successor.
And Glaud is always listening.
"To this day he asks me questions, but even leaders need help," Beauharnais said. "Sometimes it's good to [gain] experience from a guy that's been there and done that."
But the camaraderie of the linebacking core is not limited to the first-teamers.
The No. 2 group, led by Marvin Booker, also meshes well with the starters, Greene said.
"When we're all in there, we just have a great connection and great connection with each other," he said.
After two scrimmages of getting the best of first-year coordinator Frank Cignetti's offense, the defensive unit looks to have repeat success to cap the spring.
Though the spring game is a more basic review of the team's schemes on both sides of the ball, Greene and the rest of the defense still see the opportunity to finish strong and send a message at the same time.
While the group's discomfort could be justified, it is certainly not on Saturday's agenda.
"We're just going in there trying to shut everybody down," Greene said. "Whoever they put in front of us, we're just going to go out and execute our gameplan and shut them down."