Training camp is well underway, and that means the first game of the college football season is almost upon us. Lots of eyes will be on the
quarterback backup QB battle, but the most important position heading into the 2014 season is arguably cornerback. The secondary as a whole will be under plenty of scrutiny after last year's debacle, and they will get tested as soon as the clock hits 10PM August 28 (EST for you west coasters). How does the secondary look so far in camp?
Training Camp Depth Chart
GP is career number, rest are for 2013 season
|Lorenzo Waters||SS||6'0", 205||R-Sr.||36||49.5||2.5||0||1||4||2||0|
|Nadir Barnwell||CB||5'11", 185||So.||12||28.5||3||0||0||3||0||0|
|Gareef Glashen||CB||5'10", 180||R-Sr.||25||29||4.5||2||1||3||0||0|
|Anthony Cioffi||CB||6'0", 194||So.||12||28||4||1||0||4||2||0|
|Johnathan Aiken||FS||5'11", 190||Sr.||21||18.5||1||1||0||0||0||0|
|Davon Jacobs||SS||6'0", 190||R-So.||12||22||1.5||1.5||0||2||0||0|
|Delon Stephenson||FS||5'11", 190||So.||8||7.5||0||0||1||1||0||0|
|Kam Lott||DB||5'10", 185||Fr.|
|Andre Boggs||DB||5'11", 175||Fr.|
|Saquan Hampton||DB||6'0", 180||Fr.|
|Isaiah Wharton||DB||6'1", 200||Fr.|
|Darian Dailey||DB||5'11", 175||Fr.|
You'll notice the prominent name crossed off the list in Ian Thomas. As odd and divisive as he was, Thomas would have been a welcome re-addition to the secondary. He was a talented player who displayed the athleticism to shutdown opposing receivers. He could have been a likely starter, and his odd exit sequel leaves safety Lorenzo Waters as the lone lock to start at one position. Here's a quote from Kyle Flood from practice five on Tuesday:
"I think probably three of the four places in the secondary are pretty open. We've got a lot of guys over there that are battling right now. We'll have to keep evaluating it as we go. Certainly, Lorenzo (Waters) is going to be in the starting lineup. I don't think there's any question about that."
Cornerback isn't as unknown as Flood makes it seem. Realistically, there are three viable options for corner: Nadir Barnwell, Gareef Glashen, and Anthony Cioffi. Barnwell had quite a rocky freshman season, getting burned on several plays. Some of that was Dreadful-Dave Cohen's scheme, and some was due to inexperience. Cohen is gone, and Barnwell has a year of experience under his belt. He's due for a big improvement. Cioffi played like a true Rutgers defensive back, garnering four tackles for loss and a big strip-sack-fumble on former Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater in 2013. The knock on Cioffi was that he was undersized to handle the physicality of Big Ten offenses, so he did work in the offseason to bulk up from 180 to 194 lbs.
And then there's Glashen. Gareef opened camp behind the young guns in Barnwell and Cioffi, but Cioffi is now out until Monday with an undisclosed injury. The fifth-year senior has loads of experience in the defensive backfield, learning from players like Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon, but only has six career starts to his name. Most of his experience comes in the form of nickel coverage, shadowing the opponent's slot receiver. If he does move up to a starting corner spot, it'll be imperative that someone else picks up the job of slot coverage quickly.
Freshmen corners and the other safety spot
Three cornerbacks are not enough to make it through the season, and there's the possibility that one of them surprises by overtaking one of the veterans for a starting spot. Kam Lott and Andre Boggs have shown the most progression so far in camp, with the former the current leader for significant playing time this season. Not in a long time will a bunch of freshmen be as scrutinized as they are this summer.
For free safety, Johnathan Aiken is similar to Glashen in that he's been on the banks for quite some time, but has yet to take hold of a starting spot. He's a likely candidate to start opposite Waters, which would give defensive coordinator Joe Rossi two senior veterans to help the young guys adjust to the aggressive defense Rutgers fans know and love. Delon Stephenson is his biggest competition, as he's shown flashes before.
* * *
Here's the most important sentiment regarding the secondary: don't panic yet. It's early, and the DBs are making steady progress. The secondary has the opportunity to start fresh in 2014 with a new-yet-familiar face in Joe Rossi, and most of the key players now have a year of experience. Even better, as you'll see in the next previews, the front seven should be more helpful in 2014.