The secondary was a senior-laden group, already bound to lose three safeties and two cornerbacks with a combined 25 years of college experience. Experience is what made the 2012 secondary as effective as it was and Rutgers now has nothing but youth and potential to fill the void this spring.
Cornerback Logan Ryan — The most complete corner since Devin McCourty, Ryan was a great tackler and a two-time All-Big East defender. What would have been the anchor of the 2013 defense projects as a mid-round NFL draft pick.
Cornerback Brandon Jones — Jones was a risk-taker and often times that leads in big plays for the other team. But for the bad beats, Jones made up for it with impact plays. His blocked punt as a junior against Navy was one of the plays of the year. Jones also brought toughness to the secondary, playing his final two years banged up and with a fractured leg.
Cornerback Marcus Cooper — The biggest hitter in the secondary, Cooper's value came in his ability to push Jones for playing time. Cooper was crucial in nickel and dime packages and is a significant loss to the secondary.
Safety Duron Harmon — Safety was an early concern for Rutgers this season and likely will be again with the loss of Harmon's speed and leadership.
Safety Wayne Warren — In a Robb Smith defense, there are essentially three starting safeties and Warren was valuable as the third guy. Known best for his special teams prowess, Warren stepped up as a defensive back this season.
Defensive back Mason Robinson — Robinson was a reserve corner and safety during his final season.
Projected Spring Starters
Cornerback Tejay Johnson — Johnson is tall and has more pure speed than any other defender on the roster. With Ryan gone, Johnson is all but a lock to take over the top cornerback position after Greg Schiano moved him from wide receiver more than a year ago.
Cornerback Gareef Glashen — Glashen is by far the most experienced cornerback on the roster. He has yet to have things click, but displays an impressive jamming ability at the line of scrimmage. Expect the younger corners to push Glashen hard for this spot in spring and summer.
Safety Lorenzo Waters — It was a rough start for Waters when he became a first-team safety, but the cousin of former safety Joe Lefeged came on strong at the end of the year. Waters went from somewhat of a liability to a trusty safety by the end of his first season as a starter. With one year 24 games played and 13 starts, Waters is now the elder spokesman in the secondary.
Wide receiver/safety Jeremy Deering — Deering saw time at safety during every chance for developmental practices since Kyle Flood took over as head coach. He saw his time drop significantly at receiver this year, touching the ball just seven times for 69 yards in 2012. Deering has NFL athleticism and safety is a more significant depth concern than wide receiver this spring.
Keep an Eye on
Athlete Delon Stephenson — Stephenson will join the program this spring more physically developed after a semester at New Milford Academy. He spent the summer working out with Rutgers and joins a line of Sayreville (Parlin, N.J.) players expected to see the field early.
Cornerback Nadir Barnwell — Barnwell will be out for the spring because of shoulder surgery, but a combination of early enrollment and depth concerns make him a contender to play as a true freshman.
Safety Davon Jacobs — Jacobs made significant physical developments as a redshirting player and worked closely with graduate assistant Anthony Campanile to be ready for this spring. Jacobs is the likely starter if Deering stays at wide receiver and is expected to see major reps this spring regardless.
Safety Sheldon Royster — Flood said himself that he has not seen enough of Royster to know if he can contribute next season. The South Carolina transfer joined the program late and was a practice-squad player. With a chance to work in the Rutgers system and earn the trust of Flood and defensive coordinator Robb Smith this spring, Royster needs a strong 15 practices.