Safety was a position of weakness for Rutgers in 2013. Often victimized in the passing game, Rutgers made the change to promote Joe Rossi as its defensive coordinator and has a number of safeties vying for playing time heading into training camp.
Lorenzo Waters heads into his senior year with inconsistency in his past as a Rutgers starting safety. Waters remains safe as the starting strong safety for Rutgers, but has improvements to make as the most veteran presence, yet again, in the defensive secondary. The fact of the matter is that Waters represents captain material in the locker room, he developed well during his first four years and will have to be good for the Rutgers defense to get things done.
Waters excels against the run, and it is up to Rossi to find the best way to use him in passing situations. The former three-star recruit out of DeMatha has 140 tackles and two interceptions in his career.
One of the biggest personnel decisions for Rossi and coach Kyle Flood that needs to be made regards sophomore Delon Stephenson. Leave Stephenson at cornerback where depth concerns remain, or move him to his more natural safety position where he has starter potential? Stephenson played both spots in spring, and is the only guy that would likely push senior Johnathan Aiken for the starting free safety position. Aiken took many of Jeremy Deering’s reps at the position by the end of last season. Look for him to be a key safety contributor as the starter or first off the bench. Keep in mind that Rutgers sometimes uses a third safety in nickel and dime situations.
Sophomore Davon Jacobs is back at safety, and now he has a year’s worth of linebacker experience upon which to draw in a more physical football conference. Jacobs will back up Waters and rounds out the two-deep at safety. Incoming freshman Saquan Hampton is one to watch in spring with the small number of scholarship safeties on the roster. Hampton is unlikely to play early, but will find himself in the conversation for playing time based on lack of depth at the position. With Waters and Aiken set to graduate after this season, Hampton is a logical member of the two deep in spring.
The Rutgers safeties are better suited against the run, and that is a good thing going into the Big Ten. Rutgers will see plenty of spread and passing offenses, but not as much as it did in the American. Waters is the ideal safety to lead the Rutgers defense against Navy's triple option, and there is a ton of unproven athleticism behind him in Aiken, Jacobs and Stephenson.