Rookies anticipate added time
The subtraction of redshirt freshman Ian Thomas reveals a Rutgers football cornerback unit riddled with question marks and inexperience.
Asked if opposing offenses would attack the Scarlet Knights’ young secondary, Nadir Barnwell simply answered the way many opposing offensive coordinators plan to.
“I would,” the freshman cornerback said after yesterday’s practice.
He also made it clear the green unit is not afraid if that is the case.
“I think they’re going to attack the secondary all in all,” Barnwell said. “But we look forward to the challenge. We don’t shy away from it. We definitely try to take that head on and we hope they look at us just so we can make plays and prove ourselves.”
If opponents’ behaviors in the Knights’ first six games are worth anything, Rutgers will get more than enough chances.
Whether that is good or bad for Rutgers remains unknown for a unit that has allowed 306.8 passing yards per game.
In that span, teams have attempted 270 passes against Rutgers. Only Tulane and Idaho have been passed on more.
Two quarterbacks — Fresno State’s Derek Carr and Southern Methodist’s Garrett Gilbert — threw more than 70 passes against Rutgers.
With senior cornerback Lew Toler’s season-ending broken arm and Thomas’ departure from the program in search a baseball career, expect Houston to attempt to duplicate that number.
“We just have to pick up our game and make a name for ourselves because Houston pretty much likes to throw the football,” said freshman Delon Stephenson, who moved from safety to corner last spring to add depth to the position. “So we just have to go out there and lock down their receivers.”
While junior Gareef Glashen, the Knights’ most experienced cornerback, will be available, Barnwell and freshman corner Anthony Cioffi will both play extensively. Stephenson and redshirt freshman Jevon Tyree will also see time.
Barnwell and Cioffi played alongside each other Thursday against Louisville. Despite a pedestrian performance for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s standards, he still managed to throw for more than 300 yards.
With the lack of production and inexperience, head coach Kyle Flood is still excited for what the added playing time could mean for younger players’ development.
“I think it’s fairly obvious when you stretch and you see who is in front of you and who is behind you,” Flood said. “But I think they want it. I think they’re anxious to do it and that’s the most exciting thing for me.”
In terms of experience, there is no question an added role in the Knights’ defense will aid in the development of the younger members of the secondary.
The real question not only lies in if they their effectiveness, but if they can handle the pressure.
“I think that all depends on how mature you are and if you’re ready to handle that,” Barnwell said. “You may have all the ability, but are you mature enough to handle that pressure and handle all the stuff that comes with it?”
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @Bradly_D. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.
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