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Warren provides growing flexibility on back end

<p>Senior safety Wayne Warren partially blocks a Howard punt in the Knights’ Sept. 8 home-opening victory. Discounting mishaps by from sophomore Lorenzo Waters, Warren continued to see more snaps on defense.</p>

Senior safety Wayne Warren partially blocks a Howard punt in the Knights’ Sept. 8 home-opening victory. Discounting mishaps by from sophomore Lorenzo Waters, Warren continued to see more snaps on defense.

When someone talked to Wayne Warren about playing second-team defense, the senior safety was quick to say he is more of a “1a” player than No. 2.

The numbers back that up.

Warren estimates he played upward of 50 snaps Sept. 22 at Arkansas and another 30-40 plays Sept. 13 at South Florida.

“Guys are going to need rest, need breaks off,” he said yesterday. “You have to have that guy to come in and be right on beat.”

But Warren has been more than a substitute player in coordinator Robb Smith’s defense. He sees time as a cornerback in the Rutgers football team’s dime package, lines up at safety in other looks and overtook sophomore Lorenzo Waters in the fourth quarter at Arkansas.

It is an important workload for a player that claims he has no viable strength.

“I don’t think I do one thing particularly great,” Warren said. “I don’t think I cover better than I tackle. I don’t think I tackle better than I cover.”

But he has gained Smith’s trust.

Warren worked last season in the Scarlet Knights’ three-safety looks, but he continues to earn more reps in the defensive backfield. Because of Waters’ early struggles, Warren, senior starter Duron Harmon and senior cornerback Mason Robinson lined up deep in the secondary at Arkansas.

“I told him to play his game,” Harmon said of Waters. “He made some errors, but he’s a great athlete. I told him, ‘You’re going to make some errors sometimes, but you can’t live in the past. You have to brush it off.’”

Harmon said he has seen more focus and energy from Waters during the Knights’ week layoff between games. But Warren figures to continue to earn meaningful reps in the secondary.

He views his preparation as a strength and said he can expect play calls now and anticipate them.

It likely puts Smith, who worked with Warren as special teams coordinator and secondary coach in three other seasons, at ease.

“They’re afraid to put [players] on the field when they don’t trust them,” Warren said of Rutgers’ coaching staff. “It’s a smoother transition for them to be like, ‘Alright, Wayne, go in.’ They don’t have to worry about losing anything in the secondary when they’re subbing guys out.”

Sophomore wide receiver Miles Shuler left yesterday’s practice with a lower leg injury and did not return. Flood continues to await results from the training staff, although a real verdict could be days away.

Shuler has yet to catch a pass this season and has seldom been targeted. He rushed six times last year for 42 yards, but a deep, experienced receiving corps has diminished his role.

Shuler arrived at Rutgers as a four-star recruit and the third-best player in New Jersey, according to Rivals.com, but he had never played wide receiver before.

“We have some interchangeable parts there,” Flood said. “If [Shuler is out], I think we’ll be in good shape.”

In the wake of junior Isaac Holmes’ season-ending wrist injury, Flood said senior Scott Vallone will play both defensive tackle positions. Vallone saw time at nose tackle last season, but Holmes’ development allowed him to play three-technique — the outside shoulder of a guard.

“He’s working both in practice,” Flood said. “I think he’s got enough experience that he’ll be able to do both at a high level.”

Flood said he planned to look at the tape from the team’s last two practices to get a clearer picture of a new defensive tackle rotation. He said defensive line coach Jim Panagos praised redshirt freshman Max Issaka, sophomore Kenneth Kirksey and junior Michael Larrow for their recent play in practice.

“As we go forward,” Flood said, “I think you’re going to see a lot of those guys play.”

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Tyler Barto on Twitter @tbartotargum.

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