Rutgers Coach Kyle Flood Explains Decision to Play Freshman Najee Clayton

Rutgers coach Kyle Flood discussed the decision to play true freshman Najee Clayton in game eight against Wisconsin. Flood also addressed the chances that more true freshmen see action during the 2015 season.

Game eight marks the latest freshman debut in Kyle Flood Rutgers coach career. Safety Najee Clayton of Paramus (N.J.) Catholic took the field against Wisconsin and cannot red-shirt because of it.

Clayton projects to play primarily on special teams, where Rutgers seeks improvement.

“It’s just trying to get him some more experience,” Flood said. “I want him to continue to learn how he fits into our system on defense. That’s the most important thing. He’s a talented guy. He’s going to play a lot of football. We’ve got him out on special teams right now. It was great to see him out there playing some defense yesterday. He’ll be taking in a lot of work in practice as we move forward here.”

Clayton is a second-team safety based on injuries in the secondary, but can expect a similar special teams role to what Leonte Carroo did as a true freshman under Flood.

“He’s got a body that lends itself to being an excellent special teams player,” Flood said. “Ultimately he’s going to be a lot more than that. I think his upside is tremendous. Not being here in the summer maybe put him back a little bit but he’s been coming on. He’s helping us on special teams. I think he’ll always do that by virtue of his measureables and how hard he plays but he’s going to be a really good player on defense. That’s why we’re trying to get him on the field.”

Flood did not rule out other freshman appearances when asked about the final four games of the regular season. Freshman receivers Jawuan Harris and Chris Parker both saw action on the two-deep in practices but did not play in the first eight games.

“I don’t know that [the red-shirts are] really set just yet,” Flood said. “We’ve got a third of the season left to play and that’s what’s guaranteed to us right now, and we’ve got a football team that is dealing with being banged up a little bit. We’re going to check the report and see how these guys respond. … We’ve got a lot of season left to play, so I don’t think anything is set in stone yet.”


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