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Rutgers secondary makes strides against Penn State

Anthony Cioffi MOSSES Saed Blacknall(Judas 2.0) for a late interception against Penn State
Anthony Cioffi MOSSES Saed Blacknall(Judas 2.0) for a late interception against Penn State
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Surprisingly, then secondary was one of the few bright spots in Rutgers' awful loss against Penn State on Saturday. It is clear that this unit is talented and they seem to be showing flashes here and there of what types of players they can be in the coming years.

What Changed?

MAN COVERAGE. That's what changed. Against Washington State, Joe Rossi ran Cover 2 just about every play. Austin and Wharton were playing 5 yards off the line with their backs to the sidelines. This allowed Wazzu to throw bubble screen after bubble screen and constantly get 5+ yards. Joe Rossi was being wayyyyyy too conservative and that is what I think cost them the game.

Against Penn State, he was much more aggressive. Rossi brought more pressure and let Austin and Wharton cover receivers 1 on 1. Eventually, he figured that Penn State would run bubble screens like Wazzu so he put Wharton and Austin on the line and they were able to completely shut down that aspect of Penn State's offense. Rossi had to pay when he left the middle of the field open, as the Nittany Lions were able to get a few big plays due to lack of safeties in the middle of the field. That being said, I love seeing Rossi be aggressive and switching it up.

As a result of their newfound success, I've decided to give the key members their own nicknames.

Anthony "The FBI" Cioffi

He isn't a female body inspector, but The full-blooded Italian stallion has proven himself to be the leader of this secondary. He snagged his second interception of the season on Saturday and continues to make plays for this unit. He has decent coverage skills, but thrives in playmaking and big hits. He actually made a late break on the pass he picked off, but was athletic enough to get to the ball and make a great leaping grab. Cioffi has a chance to make it at to the next level but can't suffer any setbacks.

Davon "Mr. Inconsistent" Jacobs

Jacobs is an incredibly average safety, but has his moments. He is notorious for taking bad angles as a tackler and isn't an elite athlete. However, he has a nose for the ball and has great recovery speed. He made a great play to chase down Dasean Hamilton and saved a touchdown by doing so. He also had a clutch interception against Michigan last year. I may have been a little harsh with his nickname but it is the truth. Sometimes he looks like Devin McCourty and sometimes he looks like Bradley Fletcher.

Blessuan "Blessed" Austin

Austin has clearly been blessed with his prototypical frame. The new-age CB stands at least 6 feet and Austin, at 6-1, has a long, but fit frame that gives him an advantage when it comes to press coverage and jump balls. He can tackle and he can cover, he just needs time to adjust to the college game. Enrolling early has put him ahead of other CBs on the roster, but as of now, only game experience can help him evolve into and all-conference talent.

Isaiah "Big Dog W" Wharton

At 6-1, 210, Wharton lives up to his new nickname. 210 pound is very big for a cornerback, especially in college. At 6-1, he also is at the top of the class when it comes to height. Wharton and Austin both have size that coordinators drool over. Wharton plays great press coverage, and is one of the better tacklers on the team. He is a bigger, more talented version of Gareef Glashen. Give him and Austin another year and they will evolve into a pretty nasty 1-2 punch at CB.

Let's hope that Kiy Hester and Najee Clayton find their stride as well. This would mean 4 freshman, all possessing great raw talent, sticking together as a unit for a guaranteed 2 3/4 seasons. This group has immeasurable potential that fans should be excited about. Hopefully they get the growing pains all out this year.