Chris Ash Transition: Cornerbacks

In the move to the Chris Ash era, Scarlet Report looks at each position in the 2015 season and the upcoming transition under a new coaching staff. Today, we turn to a focus of the Ash defense at cornerback.

The Facts – Freshmen Isaiah Wharton and Blessuan Austin led a young cornerback position with a combined 90 tackles, 16 pass breakups, two interceptions and 22 starts. Freshman Jarius Adams started twice and recorded 13 tackles and classmate Ronnie James played in four games.

What Went Right – Rutgers developed depth, real depth, heading into the 2016 season. Rutgers has four solid sophomores with in-game experience at cornerback and Wharton was arguably the most-improved Rutgers player throughout the 2015 season. Depth and experience killed Rutgers in 2015 but should be a strength this season.

What Went Wrong – Where to start? Offseason stupidity and shenanigans lost Rutgers multiple projected starters (with major practice experience) in Nadir Barnwell, Darian Dailey and Dre Boggs. That forced backups and should-be red-shirts into major roles. Rutgers traded a significant portion of its pass rush to protect its young and thin secondary and the result was 276 passing yards per game for the opposition.

Something to Fix – Rutgers, for better or for worse, has to put more faith in its cornerbacks. Rutgers was overly-protective of its cornerbacks in coverage last season and the statistical results spoke for themselves. Coach Chris Ash’s defense is best when cornerbacks get the chance to succeed in 1-on-1 coverage. Even if it leads to the occasional big play, take more risks.

The Ash Era – Ash is a defensive guy and his focus is clearly on a young and struggling defensive secondary. Not only does Ash have tons of hands-on experience at the position but he brought in both Bill Busch and Aaron Henry to replace Darrell Wilson. Rutgers has a ton of experience and plenty of eligibility after last season and should have some more exciting cornerbacks by training camp. Cornerback should be the most-improved position group at Rutgers in 2016.

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