Moving Forward: Cornerback Breakdown

There will be plenty of new faces at cornerback in the Rutgers 2015 defense, and training camp is the final audition for many young talents in one of the widest position battles.

The Competition -- It’s anyone’s battle at cornerback with sophomore Dre Boggs as the closest thing to a guaranteed contributor. Boggs would have been a top corner last season if not for injury issues. Three unproven players join him in the competition for major on-field roles.

Red-shirt freshman Isaiah Wharton and true freshman Blessuan Austin compete early for the second starting spot. Wharton showed he can stick at cornerback with a solid spring, and Austin was the star newcomer of camp. Austin brings length, quick feet and fluid hips and has a unique take as a former quarterback. Junior Ruhann Peele is an X-factor. He moved fulltime to cornerback after he struggled at receiver in spring. Peele missed the 2014 season for disciplinary and injury reasons.

Storyline Central -- Rutgers is without one projected starter from spring – Darian Dailey – and likely won’t have another in junior Nadir Barnwell. Cornerback inexperience burned Rutgers two years ago, and remains a concern heading into the 2015 season.

The Scarlet Knights have some great athletes at the position, but the top four guys are two freshmen with no on-field experience, a converted wide receiver and a sophomore that battled knee problems last season.

Prospect Development -- The incoming freshman class needs some quick development in camp, because Rutgers needs as many bodies as possible for the upcoming season. Cornerbacks Jarius Adams and Ronnie James are both good athletes, but they both need some time in the weight room as well.

Adams is the more game-ready of the two, but both could be special teams weapons if needed.

Preseason Grade -- C – The good news is that Rutgers only needs three or four cornerbacks if everyone can stay healthy. Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi has plenty of versatility at safety, so that veterans Anthony Cioffi and Delon Stephenson can step into different roles in sub-packages. Either one could play cornerback in an emergency situation. It could be a rough start to the season, but the athleticism is off the charts when the players get comfortable.

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