Experience molded Blessuan Austin through two years at Rutgers as a starting cornerback, but he knew what he had to do to become a complete defender.
When cornerbacks coach Henry Baker joined the Scarlet Knights’ staff in January and saw the tape, he challenged Austin to study it.
Austin answered by getting in the film room.
“I feel like I improved, I became more of a student of the game,” Austin said. “Coach Baker definitely helped with that, just realizing certain things — splits, body language of a receiver running his route … running formations, things of that nature.”
Fresh off sophomore season where he was named an All-Big Ten honorable mention after 14 passes defended and an interception in 11 games, Austin enters his third spring camp hungry to clean up the plays he should have made.
While Austin broke up plenty of passes that came his way, he knows some of those could have been takeaways if he completed the plays.
“Just great timing and know how to play the ball,” Austin said. “I’m also aware, though, some of the pass break ups I had were supposed to be interceptions, so having those pass break ups isn’t something I’m extremely happy about.
“That’s something I’m working on now — being able to make some of the plays I’m supposed to make.”
The 6-foot-1 Austin checked in at 195 pounds to start the spring. He entered at 180 pounds as an early enrollee two years ago.
“Getting the two years of experience that I got, it was definitely a blessing,” Austin said. “Now, going against the guys I went against early like Leonte (Carroo), Andre Patton, Janarion (Grant), it’s just a blessing to be able to get on the field this year and be comfortable.”
Expectations are high for Austin and a defensive backfield full of battle-tested juniors. Is this the year they finally breakout as a lock-down secondary?
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t have that mindset at all,” Austin said. “Honestly, just being a competitor answering that question, I think this should be the year.”