As the veteran of the Rutgers secondary, Anthony Cioffi has mileage on him.
Nine starts into his senior season, the wear and tear is there.
Rutgers coach Chris Ash and defensive coordinator Jay Niemann said Monday that nagging injury issues were likely what led to a decline in Cioffi’s performance last week against Indiana. Cioffi provided an update after practice Wednesday.
“I’ve been in the training room a lot,” he said, “and everything’s feeling great.”
Sophomore Kiy Hester replaced Cioffi at strong safety in the first quarter of the Scarlet Knights’ 33-27 loss to the Hoosiers. Cioffi bounced off a tackle attempt on Ricky Jones over the middle, and Jones cutback left for a 36-yard touchdown.
Cioffi said it was difficult to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines, but he agreed with the decision.
“It was very tough, but it was the call and it was the right one,” Cioffi said. “So it was just another day for me to get my body right.
“It was good (getting rest), but sometimes you really don’t want it. But it was necessary and helped me out.”
Cioffi said he feels refreshed ahead of Rutgers’ trip to Michigan State. Evidently, the rest of the position group does as well.
After Hester sat out the previous three games, he made an effective return and filled in nicely for Cioffi when his number was called. Sophomore Saquan Hampton, who had an interception for a 30-yard return and a tackle for loss, also progressed in his third game back from injury.
With all three available, Rutgers looks to a three-man rotation at safety.
“It’s good, it feels good,” Cioffi said of the rotation. We’re all getting a feel of it. And the rotation, we’re all comfortable with each other. So that was another plus.
“It’s big because when we rotate, we get fresh guys in. Sometimes the offense will go three and out and we’re right back on the field and a fresh guy will go in on that series.”
While Ash and Niemann didn’t disclose how the reps will be distributed Saturday at Michigan State, Cioffi said the goals stay simple for this week and beyond.
“Got to win out,” he said. “We got to get a ‘W’ and we haven’t gotten one in many weeks. We’re just working on our keys and working on everybody coming together and filling the right gaps and all of that schemes.”