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April 12, 2007Perhaps one of the biggest gains for the Rutgers defense is the return of defensive tackle Eric Foster. Foster finished last season as an All-American and first-team All Big East selection. He returns to anchor a defense not only as one of its top players, but as its leader.
"Eric was a leader last year. He was elected captain as a junior. That says something about him. The guys see him as a leader and he just needs to keep on doing that," said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano.
With Rutgers losing a combined total of nine starters on both offense and defense, Foster knows that his leadership plays an integral role. He also welcomes the opportunity to carry more of the load on defense.
"I feel like I have more responsibilities, but I have to know I can't try to do too much," said Foster. "I have other guys like Mike Teel and Brandon Renkart. Other guys that are seniors like Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah. We all have to do a great job of collaborating and getting this thing rolling."
During the off-season, Foster watched some of his former teammates prepare for various NFL combines. Following his senior season, Foster's name will surely be tossed around by professional scouts. Foster talked about the possibility of becoming an NFL player.
"It's tough not to think about it, but I know I have a lot to work on in my game," he said. "I have a lot of weaknesses that I have to work on. I have to get better. I know where I want to be and in order to get there, I have to keep working hard with Coach Godette and my other coaches."
Foster came to Rutgers out of Homestead High in Homestead, Florida. But he watched his first year from the sidelines as a redshirt freshman.
"Redshirting my first year was the best thing that ever happened to me," Foster said. "I was able to gain weight and get stronger, faster. Then, when they threw me out there, I was ready to go after watching the older guys handle their business."
Foster has been a key component to the rebirth of Rutgers football. He joined the team following a 1-11 campaign in 2002, a time when committing to the Scarlet Knights wasn't en vogue. But he believed early on in Coach Schiano's program.
"The main reason I came here is because I saw it was a family," Foster said. "A bunch of guys from my hometown were already playing here. And it was also the coaching staff. The staff had a vision and I believed solely in that vision. I wanted to be a part of it."
This year, Foster aims to carry the Scarlet Knights even farther. He is confident in the defense and shows no concern over the loss of five starters.
"I think this year's defense will be able to match last year's defense," Foster said. "Last spring, we had a lot of positions we had to fill losing Ryan Neil and Val Barnaby. It's the same this year. But we have a lot of young guys playing linebackers. I think we're going to pick up the slack because all we know is we just got to keep chopping and keep getting better."
That is something Foster has continued to do since his arrival at Rutgers. His play, leadership and experience will keep offenses reeling as the defensive unit attempts to surpass its success from one year ago.