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July 10, 2013

Countdown to Camp: Breakout players

Scarlet Nation's 'Countdown to Camp' rolls on as we take you inside the team and provide a look at the top 10 players expected to have breakout seasons in 2013.

10.) WR Ruhann Peele
Last year, Peele was one of the top performers among the group of redshirts and his strong performance continued through the spring. The wide receiver position is a crowded one so Peele may not be able to put up the most eye-popping numbers this season, but he could definitely prove to be a reliable target. Peele combines good hands, a solid frame and even has some shake once he gets the football in his hands.


9.) CB Ian Thomas
Thomas had a very quiet fall as a wide receiver on the scout team. However, he came back and made a lot of noise this spring, earning the team's most improved defensive player award after making the move to cornerback. This summer, Thomas will be right in the hunt for a starting cornerback job. Even if he falls short, he is likely to earn a spot on the two-deep and see his first bout of playing time this season.


8.) CB Tejay Johnson
For a while, it looked as though Johnson would be the No.1 corner to start the season. He's seen more competition come his way and has even worked out some at linebacker this summer. Still, he looks to be one of the best options at cornerback and will look to step up his role from being the No.4 corner last season. Staying healthy could also be key to how effective Johnson is as injury issues have bothered him throughout his RU career.


7.) CB Lewis Toler
Having started 36 of the last 37 games hardly sets up Toler to be a typical 'breakout' player, yet this will be his first year as a Scarlet Knight. Fans will see Toler for the first time when the season kicks off against Fresno State. The Western Michigan transfer could provide an answer to the huge vacancies at the cornerback position. Toler's one and only season at Rutgers could make for a whirlwind of a year in which he helps bolster the RU secondary.


6.) OL Chris Muller
Muller's time may be arriving in a hurry as he will compete for a starting guard spot this summer. Even if Muller does not win the job, he will likely be the No.6 offensive lineman. And with so many bumps and bruises suffered in the trenches, there is a very good chance Muller will see significant playing time this season. A very strong second half of spring practice has positioned Muller for a head-to-head summer battle with Antwan Lowery for a starting guard position.


5.) TE Tyler Kroft
New offensive coordinator Ron Prince seems to have taking a liking to Kroft and could wind up using him in a variety of ways this season. The new offense may finally be a lot friendlier to the RU tight ends and Kroft will likely be a direct beneficiary of that. He is an excellent receiver and opening the offense up a little more could result in some big numbers from the tight end. It's been a while since catches were in abundance by the RU tight ends, but Kroft could change that.


4.) RB Desmon Peoples
Over the course of the last year on the practice field, Peoples has showed off dynamic speed and the ability to make people miss. This season will finally provide Peoples with the chance to do it in a game setting. Not since Kordell Young has Rutgers had such a quick, dynamic back as Peoples could be a major weapon out of the backfield. It also would not be a surprise if Peoples' touches start to increases as the season progresses.


3.) LB Steve Longa
Longa is now the new man in the middle, taking over starting middle linebacker duties from Steve Beauharnais. Longa is the youngest member of the class of 2012, but the redshirt freshman is not built in the mold of a typical 18-year-old. Barring injury, Longa should start the year at middle linebacker and if can cash in early on his extremely high potential, it could carry the Rutgers defense a very long way in 2013.


2.) FS Jeremy Deering
Deering is not a new name to Rutgers fans, although he is new to the defensive side of the football. After doing a lot of standing around and watching the last two seasons, Deering is now the team's starting free safety. The move probably should have been made sooner, but it may have come just in time for the senior to help RU's new-look secondary. Deering excelled in spring practice and his natural abilities should set him up for a banner year.


1.) WR Leonte Carroo
The emergence of RU's next 'big-time' receiver will likely begin in the season opener against Fresno State. Carroo could have been a major contributor last year, but was relegated to special teams duties due to the fact that some elder receivers trumped him in experience. Nevertheless, Carroo is a year stronger, faster and more mature. That will likely result in a lot of receptions as Carroo is the complete package and can do it all at the wide receiver position.


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