After three years as a reserve running back with for Michigan, Ross Douglas became a defensive back in a fresh start at Rutgers.
In year five, Douglas' travels find him without a conventional role.
“Call me hybrid,” Douglas said. “I’m a hybrid safety-linebacker. I’m not a linebacker. I’m not a safety. So it’s like a nickel (cornerback), you can call it.”
While Rutgers returns three starters at linebacker in Deonte Roberts, Trevor Morris and Tyreek Williams, coach Chris Ash said throughout the spring that competition would ensue at the position in the fall.
The 5-foot-10, 201-pound Douglas provides a versatile option. In the hybrid role, he can line up as the SAM or in slot coverage as a nickel corner.
“I feel very comfortable,” Douglas said. “It took me a little, couple of practices to progress more, but I feel like I’m playing a lot better. And I feel like the coaches are impressed with how I’ve been playing, too.”
Douglas spent his first season at Rutgers largely as a contributor on special teams and backup in the secondary. In 10 games, he made one start at free safety.
With each practice that came in the spring, Douglas grew acclimated to his new role in the defense.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “I’ve had it for 15 practices now. I’ve progressed well at it, so I’m going to continue to work through the summer, continue to progress as the fall comes, too.”
Douglas said he added five pounds to crack 200, but wants to bulk up more before he straps up in the fall.
“I could get a little bit leaner,” Douglas said. “I’m 200 pounds now, but I want to lean up a little bit, continue to get faster and just work on the technicalities of the game so I can continue to help this team.”
Experienced around the defensive backs and the linebackers, Douglas was optimistic about unique roles for the back seven of the defense.
“We have a lot of guys,” he said. “Obviously, the back seven, a lot of them played a lot of football last year. We have a lot of depth, too. So I feel like we can be one of the best units in the country, but we’ve got to continue to work, improve it every day.”
Saturday's game closed the first and last Rutgers spring camp for Douglas. He joined the team last summer after completed his undergraduate degree at Michigan.
From the fall to now, Douglas sees the overall progress around the program.
“I can’t speak for what they did last spring because I wasn’t here, but obviously, being here in the fall, our team is very, way further along than we ever were in the fall,” Douglas said. “But we’ve got to continue to get better, because obviously, last season, the results were the results but we’ve got to a gap to close. We’ve just got to keep continuing to work. So the next phase of that is just summer conditioning. We’ve got to have a good summer conditioning session.”