Football: Safety leads unproven unit
Of the four returning starters on the Rutgers football teams defense, junior safety Lorenzo Waters is in the most difficult position.
Senior linebacker Jamal Merrell lines up next to junior Kevin Snyder, who has seen action each of the last two seasons.
The defensive line has senior defensive ends Jamil Merrell and Marcus Thompson — both of whom started last season — as well as senior Issac Holmes and junior Kenneth Kirksey coming off of injury.
Waters, just one season removed from his first career start, is the only member of the secondary with any starting experience.
Waters is not concerned, though.
“It’s a little bit different, but we’ve been working together with these young guys for a while now,” he said. “I’m a lot more comfortable with them, and they’re more comfortable with me.”
The coaching staff is also in his favor.
While the defense has a new coordinator, Dave Cohen spent last season coaching the Scarlet Knights linebackers.
The Rutgers coaching staff also has a face whose last stint at Rutgers even predates head coach Kyle Flood’s tenure in Piscataway.
Darrell Wilson, the team’s new secondary coach, spent the 1999 season coaching the Knights running backs.
More recently, he coached the secondary and special teams at Iowa — where he had been since 2002.
Wilson is not a completely new face to Waters, however.
“He’s a great coach,” Waters said. “I met him before. He recruited me to go to Iowa a few years back, so I know the kind of guy he is.”
Waters is going to need that coaching experience with his new role in the secondary.
Last season, he was under the tutelage of experienced players such as safeties Duron Harmon and Wayne Warren.
He has now taken on their role — which he said has been aided by the help he received from those former players.
“When I’m going over film, I know what to look for,” Waters said. “I know where I messed up — I know where I can get better. I can also see what my teammates are doing, coach them up [and] give them suggestions and tips.”
Regardless of Waters’ coaching ability, the group that will enter games will still not have much playing experience — aside from Waters.
Waters does not see that as a problem right now.
“It’s not a worry,” he said. “By the time our first game comes, we’re all going to be ready to play. We’re all going to have enough experience to do what we have to do.”
After the first week of spring practice, there has been little change in the quarterback situation.
Flood does not foresee any major adjustments in the near future either.
“I think we’ll continue with the way we have it right now,” he said. “Right now, I think [senior] Chas [Dodd] and [junior] Gary [Nova] are taking equal reps — Gary with the ones, Chas with the twos.”
Sophomore Mike Bimonte, redshirt freshman Blake Rankin and early enrollee Chris Laviano sit behind Nova and Dodd on the depth chart, but they will have very limited opportunity to move up.
“I would like to find more reps for the younger guys, but it’s hard,” Flood said. “Right now, we’re … getting about as many reps as we can, so I don’t know if we’re going to have the ability to do that. But maybe some of those things will happen when we get into the true scrimmage situations.”
The first opportunity for that will likely be Saturday, Flood said.
He also said he will try to find places for Dodd to work with the first team in the event that Nova gets hurt.
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Joey Gregory on Twitter @joey_gregory.