Proving it in Piscataway (No. 9 — Rutgers' Kenneth Kirksey)
By Tyler Barto
Less than two weeks remain until the start of Rutgers training camp. This top-25 countdown will run infrequently, documenting who's got the most to prove in 2014.
No. 9 — DT Kenneth Kirksey (6-foot-1, 275 pounds)
Why Kirksey's on the list: The senior lineman will be on the front lines as Rutgers tries to stop some of the Big Ten's bruising rushing attacks.
At 6-foot-1, Kirksey has a naturally low center of gravity. He is tenacious. He doesn't lack for aggression.
But Kirksey has also suffered long-term injuries, including a torn triceps that cost him the final nine games last season. He was also suspended for one game.
He missed four games in 2012 with foot issues. That trend must change, although there's no tried and true solution.
During training camp, keep an eye on: if Kirksey can translate his best spring camp into the summer.
He made a living in the backfield during spring practice as he faced few double teams. Will that pattern continue during the regular season?
2014 outlook: Kirksey has never put up gaudy numbers at nose tackle, but a steady presence could go a long way in freeing up dynamic three technique Darius Hamilton.
His influence can't be understated, provided he's available.
More from the countdown: No. 8 — Kyle Federico
No. 10 — Taj Alexander