Regardless of where Blessuan Austin lines up against on defense, the sophomore cornerback approaches each game with high intensity.
But in his second year as a starter for Rutgers, Austin has a year under his belt to understand which games bring the bigger matchups.
With that in mind, the weapons that No. 2 Ohio State boast on offense are an occasion Austin does not take lightly.
“That’s something that you definitely have to look forward to,” he said. “If you think that you are one of the best corners in the game … you got to play the best dudes.”
The Buckeyes (3-0, 0-0) are full of them.
Perhaps the most recognizable is dual-threat quarterback J.T. Barrett, who carved the Scarlet Knights (2-2, 0-1) up in each of the past two years through the air. He threw for a combined 484 yards and six touchdowns on a 67.3 completion percentage.
But with Noah Brown back from a leg injury that sidelined him for all of 2015, Barrett adds another top weapon to his arsenal. Brown caught four touchdowns in Ohio State’s 45-24 rout of then-No. 14 Oklahoma and leads the Big Ten with five touchdown receptions in the early season.
“I mean, he’s a good receiver,” Austin said of Brown. “It’s plenty of good receivers in this league, but he’s one of the better ones. He know how to use his body. He’s got sure hands, things of that nature. He’s good out of his breaks. So he’s a good dude.”
Austin recalled when the two crossed paths during a New Jersey-New York showcase in high school. Austin played against the Sparta (N.J.) Pope John XXIII product, but didn’t cover Brown. Both played offense in the game on their respective teams.
While the exact plan for Austin in coverage on Saturday remains to be seen, he said he would embrace the matchup at cornerback if it comes his way.
“I’m not sure (of the game plan for coverage assignments), to be honest with you,” Austin said. “Whatever the coaches ask me, then I’ll do. I mean, if they tell me to line up on (Brown) every play, that’s something I have no problem doing.”
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Brown poses a challenge with his nose for the balls and strong hands. Brown came down with a circus catch against Oklahoma where he wrapped around a defender’s back and held on to a 21-yard grab in the back-left corner of the end zone.
The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Austin said the goal against Brown is to limit his yardage.
“Just holding down on his average,” Austin said. “That’s something that I look forward to doing, holding (Brown). … If I can do that and make sure he doesn’t score any touchdowns or don’t get scored on at all, I mean, that’s something that I feel I got out the game and I had a pretty good game.”
With the experience gained through his second season as a starter in the secondary, Austin’s performance on the field prepared him for the potential task against Brown and Ohio State.
It also added to his development as a leader.
“I’m developing great, and the guys around me is also developing great,” Austin said. “With the new staff and everything like that, the more games we play in this new system, I mean, I think the better we getting. We starting to see things and realize why we’re playing this defense and that defense, so I think we getting good.”