Preview: DBs

Chris Demarest's secondary took a step-up in production and consistency in 2005, largely because of some key new additions and added maturity.

Chris Demarest's secondary took a step-up in production and consistency in 2005, largely because of some key new additions and added maturity. Courtney Greene gave RU a big-time hitter and playmaker at safety. He was a force last year and seemed to be always around the ball. His stellar performance gained him First-Team Freshman All-American honors. Corey Barnes made the switch from WR to CB and was very impressive with his corner skills. Those two alone, along with the added maturity of Ron Giraut at safety, were the brightest spots in the back 4. Jason Nugent, who had entered last year's camp as the starter at safety, was unseated by Greene, but still gave consistent production up until the 4th game, where he suffered a season ending knee injury. Joe Porter started the year at CB, but had an uncharacteristic year and ended the season as a bench player. CB Derrick Roberson showed some great spurts with solid coverage and tackling skills, but was beat quite often in big games, most notably the Insight Bowl against Arizona State. Manny Collins was dependable as usual and made most of his play in nickel and dime packages. Glen Lee was a monster on special teams and is best known for his game changing hit/forced fumble against Pittsburgh. Jason McCourty and Leslie Jackman also were solid special teams contributors and showed flashes as potential good CB in limited play.

And what is promising for the Scarlet Knight is they lose only Nugent and Barnes to graduation, while everyone else returns back with added size and maturity from the year gained in the program. The CB's have looked good in camp and the safeties have been stellar. The talent and depth in the back four should give Rutgers plenty of opportunities for big plays and shut down opposition's drives.

    Impact Players lost off the two-deep include:
    CB Corey Barnes (37 tackles, 1 int)
    S Jason Nugent (6 tackles)

CB Corey Barnes came to Rutgers as a QB/WR from Carol City HS in Miami. A career back-up, he was asked to make the move from WR to CB on the fly during the Connecticut game in 2004. Many recall the shock of watching this man seem a bit lost playing in the secondary during that game. And when he was asked to man one of the CB positions in 2005, he took the bull by the horns and shocked people again. This time he made his impression by being the best cover-corner on the team. Known as an extremely hard worker, the under-sized 5' 8" Barnes had great ball hawking skills and consistently was in position to make a play on balls thrown his way. He was also a good special teams player, and remembered for returning a blocked punt for a TD against Syracuse. His leadership and work ethic will be missed on this year's unit.

S Jason Nugent, from Brampton, Ontario, Canada, came to Rutgers as a highly skilled RB. He had a great performance as a true freshman at Boston College, where he was a breath of fresh air and ran for over 100 yards in that season finale. However, due to a lack of depth in the secondary Nugent was converted to safety, a position that he seemed to have ups-and-downs with as a sophomore and junior. Entering his senior campaign, Nugent had a very strong summer camp and appeared ready to make noise at the position. But in stepped Courtney Greene, who provided stellar play from the onset. However, Nugent did get some back-up minutes in the first four games of the year and played the best football during his tenure at Rutgers. An ACL injury ended his career and what appeared to be developing as a very good year for Nugent.

    Players returning off of the two-deep and returning players from injury, include (position indicates prior status, not projected 2006 position):
    So Courtney Greene (97 tackles, 8 tackles for losses, 3 forced fumbles, 2 sacks)
    Jr Ron Girault (46 tackles, 5 tackles for losses, 2.5 sacks, 3 int.)
    So Glen Lee (18 tackles)
    So Robert Baham (DNP)
    So Jason McCourty (9 tackles)
    Sr Derrick Roberson (51 tackles)
    Sr Joe Porter (25 tackles)
    Sr Manny Collins (27 tackles, 2 blocked kicks)
    So Leslie Jackman (3 tackles)

Courtney Greene not only filled a position of need as a freshman, but he far-exceeded any ones expectations. The New Rochelle product was a fierce hitter who made a name for himself by forcing several fumbles that led to takeaways. Greene was rewarded for his play with a Freshman All-American nomination and is an All-Big East pre-season selection for this upcoming year. Greene has developed his body and now looks more like a LB than a S. That means he will bring more of a load with his punishing hits. He needs to continue to develop in his coverage skills, as many times his technique would break down and would rely on pure athleticism.

Ron Girault, known back in his home town of Spring Valley, NY as the Haitian Sensation, had a quiet sophomore season in comparison to his breakout freshman year. His decrease in production could have been largely due to the monster year by Courtney Greene, and thus changes in responsibility. All things being equal, Girault is the hawk in the secondary. He has an incredibly high football IQ and very seldom will miss an assignment. He is another player in the secondary who will vie for All Big-East honors.

Glen Lee has the talent to be a starter. Unfortunately, he played in the shadows of Courtney Greene at New Rochelle HS and will continue to play in his shadows at RU, thus being relegated to 2nd team status. Lee is a young man who in HS knocked out seven opponents from football games. He also suffered two concussions himself in the process. He plays the game with anger and reckless abandon. That special teams hit against Pittsburgh was a thing of beauty. And to strike more fear into opponents, Lee is now in the 205 range and has made a big change on his physique. Lee should make a lot of noise this upcoming season.

Robert Baham came to Rutgers after being named one of the top safeties in the Tampa, Fl area. He red-shirted his first year and looked to fill-in during his 2nd year on the banks. A hip injury during camp required him to have surgery and miss the year. He trained really hard in the off-season and was impressive early in camp, only to have a re-aggravation to the hip. His status at this point as a contributor is unknown.

Jason McCourty enters his sophomore year at Rutgers as a starter at one of the CB spots. In HS, Jason had incredible feet and moves as a RB and earned First team All-State honors as one of the more exciting players in NJ. However, he had a rail thin frame and recruiters doubted if his body could manage the wear and tear of major college football. He has proved the doubters wrong, and is up to a shredded 180 pounds, on a very tall lean frame. He has the potential to be a great CB on the banks.

Derrick Roberson had an up-and-down season last year. And sad enough, his lowest point came after a rough performance against ASU in the Insight Bowl. The good thing for Rutgers though is that Roberson has been a man on a mission this off-season. He looks like a mini-Beckford physically. And he has continued to work on his speed. He may be one of the fastest and quickest players on the team. And with entering his 4th season at RU, he has the maturity and look that makes one think he will be a prime-time performer at the CB spot.

Joe Porter had a slump of a junior year, after being the top CB on the team as a sophomore. He worked hard this off-season and elevated himself from the bottom of the depths-chart to working in with the 1st team in camp. He appears to be set to make a big impact this season. He has incredible speed and in track is one of the top sprinters in the Big East.

Manny Collins is Mr. dependable in the Rutgers secondary. He is not flashy. But he covers well, tackles well, and is a playmaker. He very rarely gets beat in his coverage. He is overall a very good football player and a big asset to the RU secondary. It looks like he will get the call in Nickel and/or Dime packages. Many also will serve as good insurance and depth if one of the starters needs to be replaced.

Leslie Jackman was a very highly-regarded late signee to the freshman class last year. He has great all-around ability. Unfortunately, he struggled with a hamstring injury last year that limited his action. This year, he is expected to make a big impact on special teams and will attempt to make it back into the 2-deep. If healthy, he has the potential to be a lights-out CB.

    RS Fr Devin McCourty
    Fr Kevin Holloway
    Fr Zaire Kitchen

    Devin McCourty
    Kevin Holloway
    Zaire Kitchen

After the relatively consistent 2005 year, the RU secondary looks to be one of the stronger units on this year's defense. The CB position remains a question mark, after the up-and-down performance of Derrick Roberson and Joe Porter. Jason McCourty and Leslie Jackman played mostly on special teams and some spot duty last year as freshman, but are considered highly talented young men. McCourty has locked up one of the first team positions after a strong spring and summer camp. Veteran Manny Collins returns for his senior year and looks to play in the nickel and dime packages, as well as continue to be a fixture on the special teams. Collins plays with confidence and the CBs will not lose a step if he has to enter a contest. The rocks of the secondary will be the safeties, who return Courtney Greene and Ron Girault. Both are a year more mature, have improved physically, and will be two of the more vocal leaders on the team. Hit-man Glen Lee is now up above 200 lbs. from the 180 he entered his freshman campaign. He looks the part of a developed man now and will be one of the more fierce competitors on the squad. Robert Baham looked to have the 2nd team FS position down, but has aggravated his surgically repaired hip. He plays with a lot of fire and passion, but his ability to get on the field will depend on his ability to have that hip heal. Devin McCourty then moves onto the 2nd team FS spot and has been a pleasant surprise in camp with his ball-hawking and tackling ability. For a RS-Freshman, he plays like a veteran. It is yet to be determined what Zaire Kitchen and Kevin Holloway will bring to the table as true freshman. They both were very highly regarded young men in high school and most likely will contribute this year on special teams.

Previous 2006 Preview Installments:

Offensive Line

QBs and RBs

WRs and TEs


Defensive Line

Defensive Backs

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