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Rutgers Secondary Enters Ohio State Game With Health Issues

Blessuan Austin is out, while Kiy Hester and Tre Avery are game time decisions

NCAA Football: Texas State at Rutgers
Blessuan Austin suffered a knee injury after making this interception in the season opener.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

If Rutgers hopes to show improvement against Ohio State on Saturday after suffering an average margin of defeat of seven touchdowns in the previous four meetings, they will do so without their best defensive player. Head coach Chris Ash told the media after Thursday’s practice that cornerback Blessuan Austin has been ruled out of Saturday’s game.

In the article from Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media, Ash explains the reason for the decision.

“Right now, Bless will be inactive for this game,’’ Ash said. “He obviously was taken off the field and was removed from Game 1. Some precautionary stuff that we’re going through, some things we’re looking at to try to find out exactly what happened to him. But he will be inactive for this game, and it will be a week-to-week deal from there until we get some opinions from some doctors on looking at his knee.’’

Not good, not good at all. Austin tore the ACL in his knee in the fourth game last season and missed the rest of the year. He received rave reviews during training camp and Austin declared that he was 100% healthy. It’s very possible that he was and suffering this injury was just part of the game. You have to feel for Austin, who has NFL talent and hopefully the cautious approach will lead to him returning to the field for Rutgers sooner rather than later this season. It’s fair to be concerned after watching Janarion Grant, the best offensive player the past few seasons, struggle to regain his form last year after returning from serious injury. However, it makes sense for Rutgers to be conservative with Austin in hopes of making sure he is healthy for the majority of the season.

Of course, Austin’s absence is complicated by the fact that backup Tre Avery, who also was praised for his play in training camp, as well as backup and former starting safety Kiy Hester, are also both listed as game time decisions, per James Kratch of NJ Advance Media. Hester battled health issues for the better part of last season as well.

No word on what injuries those two are battling through, but this is very bad news for a Rutgers defense that is hoping to show they can compete against the best of the best when taking on the Buckeyes this weekend. Now they will enter this contest potentially without three of their six best defensive backs.

True freshman Avery Young, who looked good in Austin’s absence in the season opener, will start opposite senior captain Isaiah Wharton. There is obviously a big difference playing against Texas State at home versus being on the road at the Horseshoe against a top five team in Ohio State. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins threw for over 300 yards and five touchdowns in the season opener against Oregon State, which was the first start of his career.

At the end of the day, Rutgers can’t make excuses and the expectation should still be that they need to show progress on the field Saturday. Blowout losses, even to the Big Ten blue bloods, need to dissipate in Ash’s third season. The reality is injuries to front line starters is a much bigger deal for a program like Rutgers than it is for Ohio State. Depth is a major issue and for it to already become a factor in the second game of the season is certainly a concern. We will continue to monitor the situation leading up to Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff in Columbus.