Last week, Rutgers lost starting safety K.J. Gray, who was dismissed due to a violation of team rules. Late Thursday night, head coach Chris Ash found his replacement, who was actually a starter ahead of Gray previously. Kiy Hester, who announced last December he was leaving the program, is reportedly returning, per a report from Bobby Deren of ScarletNation and 247 Sports.
The move for Hester to return was a rumor that picked up steam throughout this week. While it was announced he would be playing for Florida International as a graduate transfer next season back in May, Hester was still enrolled at Rutgers completing credits needed to earn his degree before he could make the move. That worked in the program’s favor, as Ash and Hester were able to meet this past week to discuss his return.
This is huge news for Rutgers, who will now have depth once again in the back of the defense, as well as another senior leader on the roster. Four year starter Saquan Hampton returns at free safety while Hester has a good chance to regain his starting spot at strong safety. Versatile defensive back Damon Hayes was moved from cornerback to safety during spring practice in April and could stay there despite the return of Hester. Rutgers does play a lot of nickel and either way, Hayes is likely to see the field often, regardless of which defensive back spot he fills.
The Plainfield native and DePaul Catholic alumnus originally chose Miami (FL) out of high school, but soon transferred to Rutgers in 2014 under former head coach Kyle Flood, citing family as a major reason for his return to New Jersey.
Hester, who was an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and media last season, has played in a career 29 games and started in 19 of them during three seasons at Rutgers. In 2017, Hester played injured throughout the season. However, he was still fourth in the conference with 1.2 passes defended per game, as well as was tied for a team best 3 interceptions and 10 pass break-ups. He returned 2 of his 3 interceptions for touchdowns. His return will soften the blow of the loss of Gray, who backed up Hester the previous two seasons. As long as Hester is healthy, he could end up having a big senior campaign. Welcome back, Kiy!
When you know, you know.— Kiy Hester (@Hester_2k) July 19, 2018