Secondary continues to lose bodies from injury, arrest as unit ranks 121st nationally against the pass
There is a real possibility Ruhann Peele will see time at cornerback tomorrow against Temple.
Peele played in all seven games for the Rutgers football team this season, including the Scarlet Knights’ opener.
He is the Knights’ third-leading receiver.
“I’m a football player. I’ll do what’s best for the team,” Peele said. “If [head coach Kyle Flood] thinks it’s going to help the program this week, that’s what is going to help the program.”
The redshirt freshman’s move from receiver, which he said is just a temporary move for now, is just an attempt by Flood to fix what has become Rutgers’ biggest concern on the defensive side of the ball. Injuries, departures and poor off-field decision-making also factored into the lack of depth in the Knight’s last line of defense.
Yesterday’s news about Lorenzo Waters did nothing to help Flood’s concerns
The junior strong safety is listed as doubtful on the team’s injury report with a high ankle sprain sustained last Saturday against Houston on Rutgers’ first defensive series.
“I had him as probable earlier in the week, probably doubtful right now, not out” Flood said. “But [Waters] didn’t make the progress I thought we would see earlier this week.”
The secondary already lost two corners with starting experience — senior Lew Toler and redshirt freshman Ian Thomas — earlier this season.
Another, freshman Nadir Barnwell, was arrested early Sunday morning after he was involved in a single-car crash on the corner of Route 18 and Campus Road in Piscataway.
Flood suspended Barnwell, who was charged with driving while intoxicated and careless driving, for this week and tomorrow’s game.
Junior Gareef Glashen and freshman Anthony Cioffi are listed as the Knights’ starters, but even that is not set in stone.
Flood stated Wednesday night on his weekly radio show that freshman Delon Stevenson may start ahead of Cioffi at corner.
“He hasn’t had his opportunity yet to do that, but Delon gets a little bit better every day,” Flood said. “And I thought he got a little bit better every day this week.”
The only other cornerback on the two-deep besides Glashen, Cioffi and Stevenson is redshirt freshman Jevon Tyree.
For Tyree, who has only seen time this season in the fourth quarter Sept. 7 against Norfolk State, his ascent up the depth chart by way of attrition has been surprising.
“It’s tough. I didn’t play. I have no idea what it’s really like out there,” Tyree said. “But like I said, I’m going to give what I got and I’m going to be fine. I’m not going to let the coaches down and I have to show myself.”
He will not be the only one playing significant opportunities at corner for the first time.
Peele, who Flood said played more safety than corner at Linden (N.J.) High School, will also debut at corner against the Owls.
Although not listed on the Knight’s two deep, there is a reason Flood felt comfortable with moving Rutgers’ third-leading receiver to the defensive side of the ball.
“I don’t think you can move him over there and take him away from the offense and not play him,” Flood said.
Whoever plays will be responsible for making sure the Knights’ secondary statistics improve instead of decline, though there is not much room left below them. Only Troy and California allow more passing yards per game.
While Temple does not possess a consistently effective passing offense that the Knights have seen in their last three games — Southern Methodist, Louisville and Houston — the Owls showed last week they are capable of attacking a weak secondary through the air.
Quarterback P.J. Walker produced four passing touchdowns in Temple’s 59-49 loss to SMU as the Owls threw for 367 yards. Wide receiver Robbie Anderson burned the Mustangs’ 118th-worst passing defense for 239 yards and two touchdowns by himself.
He should get his opportunities to duplicate those numbers again.
The Knights allowed 1,194 yards in their past three games, averaging just less than 400 yards per contest.
Three freshmen, a junior and a redshirt freshman wideout will be responsible for shutting down Temple’s receivers, while an uncertain combination at safety will attempt to provide Rutgers’ last line of defense.
Tyree believes improvement can happen.
The rest of the defense hopes he is right.
“If one player performs good, it’s going to feed off,” Tyree said. “That’s how players start to perform better. It’s contagious. They see one player start doing something good and then everyone else starts to do good.”