Changes Possible at Safety for Rutgers, Head Coach Chris Ash Explains

Rutgers coach Chris Ash spoke with the media on the Big Ten coaches teleconference Tuesday. Ash updated the status of the secondary and discussed the challenges of the early-season schedule.

With members of the defense limited upon their returns to practice this week, availability for some players remains in question for Rutgers against No. 4 Michigan.

That includes the secondary, where the availability of sophomore safeties Saquan Hampton and Kiy Hester for Saturday remains undetermined.

“It’s just like it’s been,” Ash said of the secondary. “Our two starting corners, Isaiah Wharton and Blessuan Austin will be our starting corners. Anthony Cioffi will be our starting strong safety, like he’s been.

“And then we’re still unsure on Kiy Hester’s availability for the game. He’s questionable still. So once we can get a clear picture for that, we’ll have a better idea of who’s going to play our starting free-safety position. But that’s the only position that’s in question for the game Saturday.”

While Hester did not attend practice on Tuesday, Hampton was elevated from his non-contact status. He returned to practice with the defense in the secondary.

True freshman K.J. Gray, who has an interception and three tackles in four games, is the next in line at the position behind Hampton and Hester.

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The latest Associated Press Top 25 poll pits three Rutgers opponents within the top five. Washington now sits at No. 5, while No. 2 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan remain in their slots from last week.

Ash said the challenge is not ideal, but serves as a barometer for Rutgers to see where its at.

“For a first-year coach in a new program, any program that plays three top-five schools in the first six weeks, that’s a challenging schedule,” Ash said. “I don’t know if there’s a lot of coaches out there that would say, ‘Hey, I’d like to sign up for that. Let’s put that together.’ But it is what it is.

“I mean, we’re obviously excited about playing that type of the schedule and it’s a great measuring stick for where we’re at and it gives our players a really good indication of what we have to do to try to continue to close that gap. So if you don’t play them and you don’t really get to see them first hand, you’re not really sure how big that gap is and what you have to do to close it. Our players are getting a first-hand look at … three of the top-five teams in the country and they’re getting a better feel for what it’s going to take to close that gap.”  


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