Freshman Fill-In

When Rutgers safety Ron Girault went down with an injury earlier in the season, the Scarlet Knights figured to have a big hole in their secondary that would need quick filing. Freshman Joe Lefeged provided Rutgers with a spark after gaining extra playing time.

Joe Lefeged provided playmaking ability and displayed a nose for the ball that enabled him to step in and do what was needed. In fact, Lefeged even earned Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors one month back.

"That's a great honor for Joe Lefeged, especially because he is a true freshman," Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano said following the Syracuse game. "To win player of the week when you play 20 defensive plays is a pretty good achievement. It's a lot of production. I thought he was a tremendous high school player."

Lefeged had to prepare like he would be the starter early in the season with the understanding that his playing time would be limited behind veterans such as safety Courtney Greene and Girault.

"I was just trying to get as much out of the veterans and coaches as possible," Lefeged said. "In practice, I don't get as many reps as the first team guys. You just have to take mental reps while you are out there."

"Practicing against the first team offense, you watch what they are doing and play the plays in your head. Then in the film room, you have to imagine yourself in those positions and that helps you during the game," Lefeged continued

Greene was very helpful to Lefeged in making him feeling comfortable out on the field, a necessary quality that every successful player, regardless of position, must attain. Greene took over the defensive calls once Girault went down with the injury.

"It makes our job a lot easier with the communication," Lefeged said. "Before the play, he gives me calls that help me out to do my job better. Communication wise, on the field, it helps a lot to have a veteran in the backfield."

Lefeged has registered 23 tackles and three and a half sacks this season. He has drawn praise from many people around the program and many believe he can be a special player at Rutgers.

Lefeged was the No. 23 ranked safety coming out of Northwest High School in Germantown, MD. He was multi-talented in high school playing running back, wide receiver, linebacker, quarterback, punt and kickoff returner. Lefeged was an Associated Press First Team All-State selection.

Last week against Connecticut, Girault returned to the field and now provides Rutgers with an anchor in its defensive secondary. However, Girault is a senior and the extra experience that Lefeged has gained this season puts him very much in the mix to be a starter next season.

"It is good to have someone like Girault and Courtney [Greene] here to help me out through this year along with Devin and Jason [McCourtey]," Lefeged said. "I have been getting a lot of game experience and I am just very thankful for that."

Certainly, Lefeged did not expect to be playing on a four loss Rutgers team this year. He is just one of the many members of the team that are trying to turn around the recent streak of losing.

Rutgers finishes the season with games against Army, Pittsburgh, and must then travel to Louisville. Lefeged and the rest of the Scarlet Knights will try to make the adjustments needed to finish the season strong.

"We need to become a complete team on defense," Lefeged said. "We weren't playing together. We just need to play as one defense and have everyone do their 1/11th on the defense."

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