Wednesday Practice Report: Safety Depth, Development and Injuries

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers safeties coach Bill Busch gives the latest on developments at his position including a health update on Ronnie James and the development of true freshman K.J. Gray.

The Headline – With or without Saquan Hampton available at safety for Saturday, look for younger players to be a part of the rotation against Howard for defensive backs coach Bill Busch.

Busch said he expects the top three players – Anthony Cioffi, Kiy Hester and Hampton, ready and that younger players worked at the position in practice.

“Those three guys right there will be ready to go,” Busch said. “Right now it's a progress. I'm not really going to comment on who it is right now but we have some guys who are getting reps for us that are doing a good job for us right there.”

Freshman walk-on Lawrence Stevens already found game action.

“The No. 1 thing is just fanatical effort,” Busch said. “The kid just plays really, really hard. I enjoy that about him right there. He's a physical young man. He's limited as far as height but he plays really hard and he's an intelligent young man. He's physical too.”

True freshman K.J. Gray rounds out the group at the scholarship level, and performed well in practices so far.

“The level of football that he played in high school is very high level, but there's such a difference between playing in the Big Ten and playing against Pac-12 and the people we played against last weekend. … He's extremely intelligent. Obviously he's got ball skills. He was a receiver in high school so that's encouraging. He's done a very good job with that type of thing. We're still working with him extremely hard right now.”

Worth Noting – Sophomore Ronnie James is close to a return at safety after offseason groin surgery.

“He's doing really well,” Busch said. “He missed a little bit of camp for us right there coming off his injury but he's doing really well. He's pretty close to being back to full speed, so we're excited about that.”

Quote of the Day – “I actually really enjoy the scarlet walk. It gives me a chance to get a little pep talk from my father real fast, very loud pep talk and all of the good lucks from my grandfather in that broken English. It's something that I've cherished since my freshman year. It's going to be a tough one when it's my last walk.” – Cioffi on pregame traditions.

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