Can Darius Hamilton be a top freshman?

The question surrounds Rutgers defensive end Darius Hamilton in the same way it surrounded running back Savon Huggins at this time last year.

Can Hamilton be an impact true freshman for the Scarlet Knights?

Hamilton began his first day of summer classes at Rutgers on Tuesday, and coach Kyle Flood expects to see plenty out of his highly touted defensive lineman when fall camp rolls around. Defensive line, particularly end, is an area where depth must be developed. Where better to turn to for help than the No. 69-ranked player on the 2012 ESPN 150 prospects list, and one of the top prospects in the state of New Jersey.

"How much of a role and how quickly he has a role will be determined by him," Flood said during an interview at the Big East spring meetings. "I always try to remind people Anthony Davis didn’t start until Game 4. Kenny Britt didn’t start his first game at Rutgers. Ray Rice did, but running back is a little bit different. Art Forst started as a freshman, not until the fourth or fifth game. So it’s not an easy thing to do.

"Sometimes the excitement of recruiting builds unrealistic expectations and people forget recent history. When you look back at how many linemen have started their first game as a college football player, it’s not many. Do I think he’s talented enough to help us this year? I do. We see him in the plans. Now we have to get to training camp and let him show it to us."

The hype followed Huggins last season. He remains the highest-rated prospect to ever sign with the Scarlet Knights, and many thought he could help turn around a mediocre run game. But Huggins was tentative at best and then got hurt. Now going into his sophomore year, expectations are higher for him to be a major contributor.

As for the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Hamilton, there is an opening at one of the defensive end spots so he will have an opportunity to win the starting job the way Huggins did last season. Flood said, "Marcus Thompson, Max Issaka, Michael Larrow and Darius are all going to get an opportunity to see where they end up." At the other end position, Flood envisions Ka'Lial Glaud and Marvin Booker splitting the game and getting equal reps.