Camp Preview: Leading tackler Javier-Castillo Heads Linebacking Corps

Camp Preview: Leading tackler Javier-Castillo Heads Linebacking Corps

KINGSTON, R.I. - With the graduation of Nas Jones and Justin Hogan, Rhode Island will be looking at some new faces filling major roles at linebacker this season. Jones, Hogan and Branyan Javier-Castillo (Rockville, Md.) each started every game last season and finished as the top three tacklers for the Rams last season, giving Rhody a consistent presence in the middle of the defense.

Javier-Castillo will be back to lead the unit. In his first season as a transfer from Lackawanna, he made a major impact for Rhode Island, tying Jones for the team lead with 78 tackles. Javier-Castillo had 6.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and one fumble recovery. With a full year in the system under his belt, look for Javier-Castillo to emerge as one of the league's top linebackers.

Training camp will go a long way in determining who lines up along side Javier-Castillo. Redshirt freshmen Chris Arrington (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) and Andre Johnson (Vero Beach, Fla.) were major pieces in last year's recruiting class and had impressive spring camps. Johnson appeared in the first four games of the season in 2018 on special teams and was active, recording three tackles. He sat out the remainder of the season to preserve his redshirt. Arrington appeared in the season opener at Delaware a year ago, but likewise was held out the rest of the year to retain the season of eligibility.

A pair of walk-ons who have seen the field for Rhode Island are senior Mazen Taman (Cranston, R.I.) and redshirt sophomore Jake Fire (Stow, Mass.). Fire appeared in all 11 games and made one start last season, establishing himself as a contributor on special teams and defense. Taman played in seven games and is likely to have a special teams role again this year.

Junior college transfer Andre Blackett (Easton, Pa.) is following Javier-Castillo's path from Lackawanna to Kingston. With two seasons of eligibility, he has a chance to play immediately. Senior Isaiah Moak (Averill Park, N.Y.) played in nine games on special teams and as a reserve and will see the field again in 2019. Junior college transfer Lattrell Stearns (Long Beach, Calif.) came to Rhode Island over the summer after two strong seasons at Cerritos, a program that produced former Ram wide receiver Justin Caines. Caines is now on the Cerritos coaching staff.

Redshirt sophomore Justin Samardich (Garden City, N.Y.) is working his way back from a knee injury suffered in the 2018 spring game. He intercepted two passes in the game, but the injury suffered that day caused him to miss last season. Redshirt freshman Zach Pinault (Smithfield, R.I.) offers depth.

The Rams brought in two freshmen linebackers in Johnny Alvarado (Bloomfield, N.J.) and Cole Brockwell (Westport, Conn.) as part of the team's signing class last February. Alvarado comes from the same Don Bosco program that produced current Rams L.B. Mack III and Sebastian Delasoudas. He was a four-year starter in high school and could see the field right away for Rhody. Brockwell is the son of URI Hall of Famer Mark Brockwell and the nephew of Kurt Brockwell, both of whom played for Rhode Island in the 1980s. The younger Brockwell had 77 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as a senior for Staples High. Local product James McGovern (North Kingstown, R.I.) will join the team as a walk-on.

Check Thursday for a look at the Tight Ends and Fullbacks.