Erb, Robinson lead wide receiver, cornerback units
The Rutgers football team finished day 12 of spring practices on Tuesday and are now one step closer to the Scarlet-White game on Saturday.
More than three quarters of the way through, the Scarlet Knights have begun to hone in on the skill positions, especially the receiving core — one that will be without Janarion Grant who has since graduated.
But at the helm this year will be Lester Erb who is in his second year at Rutgers but his first at wide receiver. Erb is hoping he can bring the same energy and spark at the wide receiver position as he did last year with the running backs.
“I've coached receivers before,” he said, according to scarletknights.com. “The great thing about coaching the skill positions, especially at this level, is that the mentality is the same. The position is different, but you're still coaching 18-22 year olds. You're still going to hold them to the same standards regardless of what position you're in. The transition has really been easy.”
Making that transition so easy for Erb are talents such as sophomore Bo Melton and redshirt freshman Shameen Jones at his disposal.
Jones redshirted last year but has impressed so far during the spring and Melton saw some action as a true freshman and showed his deep-threat ability — a continuing trend in practices.
“The thing about Bo is that he's playing with confidence right now,” Erb said. “When you play with confidence, you can just go out and play instead of thinking all of the time. He's really stepped up his game here in the spring and we just have to keep moving him forward to make sure he's keeping on himself to get better every day and he's doing that.”
Last year, Melton caught four passes for 83 yards, but the Mays Landing native played in all 12 games and tallied more than half of his total yardage on the season on one catch, his first ever catch, for 48 yards against Morgan State.
The 5-foot-11 inch, 185-pounder fits the bill as Grant’s replacement. Grant was the same height and actually weighed 15 pounds less than Melton.
But it’s not about just replacing Grant, he said. If the Knights want to accomplish what they are trying to accomplish, it’s about adding depth to the position — something Melton already sees happening.
“Last year, we were hurt and didn't have much depth. We had Janarion and a lot of others hurt, so we were going through a lot of injuries,” Melton said. “This year, we have depth. People are working hard and getting better, and once people are working hard as a group, it looks good.”
On the defensive side of the ball, first-year cornerbacks coach and pass game coordinator Cory Robinson, who spent the previous year at Temple, is excited in the team and the tools he has at cornerback.
Those tools include players such as senior Isaiah Wharton and junior Damon Hayes.
“It's been a pleasure this spring to work with the corners. It's a really talented group,” Robinson said. “Looking at that group as an outsider, I really saw those guys do some good things and the coaches have done a great job developing them and recruiting. I joked to people that my job was to come in and not mess anything up, since it was already pretty good. So I'm just trying to enhance, trying to help these guys take it to the next level.”
And with the help of the veterans like Wharton and Hayes spearheading the group, taking it to the next level shouldn’t prove too difficult.
“I've played a lot of football, and now that I'm older I have guys under me now that look up to me. I have to lead by example 24/7,” Wharton said.
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.