It’s not easy for a player on a bad team to get a lot of good press, but the country is starting to notice Rutgers linebacker Steve Longa for what he’s been doing on the football field this season.
The junior from Saddle Brook, N.J. has registered 85 total tackles to this point in 2015, and if Rutgers could manage to play in a bowl game, he would come pretty close to Abdul Hoge‘s decade-best mark of 158 in 2005. It’s certainly a possibility but probably unlikely since the Scarlet Knights would have to win three of their last five games to become bowl eligible. Looking at the schedule, I see two games they should win, two games they could win and one game they probably won’t win.
There’s really no chance of Longa catching former Texas Tech standout Lawrence Flugence for the FBS’ 15-year record of 193 tackles over 14 games, which is a staggering average of nearly 13.8 tackles per game. Longa is averaging just over 12.1 per game. The junior boosted his total last weekend with 19 tackles in the team’s 49-7 loss to Ohio State.
It’s also worth noting that Rutgers doesn’t have too many other playmakers defensively which has probably helped Longa accumulate such prolific stats. Quentin Gause has 56 tackles, but beyond him and Longa, the team’s next leading tackler is Isaiah Wharton with 37 stops. The Scarlet Knights rank 11th in the conference with 32 points surrendered per game which means that one or two players usually stand out above the rest statistically.
Whether Rutgers can rally and make it to a bowl game or not, they’re certainly on pace to win more games than I expected. That doesn’t have much to do with the defense’s overall performance this season, but there’s no denying that Longa has done his part.
Jason Shawley is a Featured Writer for RantSports.com covering Big Ten football. Follow him on Twitter @jshawls.