Safeties need to set a tone for the opposing offense.
They're more famously known for laying punishing hits on wide receivers that come down the middle because they're willing to take a chance or they're left hung to dry by the quarterback. In addition, safeties are also the last line of defense so they need to be able to stuff the run and make plays on the ball when it's in the air.
Sophomore Joe Lefeged knows what the position is all about. He understands the important role the safety plays and he tries to model his game on fulfilling each aspect of the spot the best that he can.
"I try to do a lot of everything," Lefeged said. "[Whether it's] covering, tackle well, hitting hard. I just try and play a complete game."
Lefeged got a taste on what being a safety is all about on the Division-I level as a freshman when he was propelled into action after Ron Girault went down with a leg injury.
The Germantown, MD native showed he could handle the responsibility with 38 tackles and let the opposition know what number he wore from his first start against Syracuse. At the Carrier Dome, Lefeged came from the nickel corner position to lay a vicious hit on quarterback Anthony Robinson, leading to a fumble.
During the Rutgers-Syracuse contest in 2007, perhaps then young man's best game performance of the season, Lefeged finished with six tackles and two sacks and was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week. His efforts from the season didn't go without notice, as he was tabbed Freshman All-Big East selection by Scout.com and was an Honorable Mention Freshman All-American by the Sporting News.
Coming out of Northwest High School, Lefeged was a highly touted linebacker. He was a four-star linebacker who was selected as the Washington Post's All-Met Defensive Player of the Year.
To make the switch from linebacker to safety, Lefeged needed some help, especially since he would be involved in Schiano's game plan right away. Courtney Greene and Girault showed him the ropes and made the transition a whole lot smoother.
"The biggest adjustment was getting to know the playbook," Lefeged said. "That's where Ron and Courtney came in and helped me out a lot. It made the adjustment a whole lot easier for me."
With Girault in the NFL now, the torch has been passed to Greene, who now serves as Lefeged's mentor. They're just another example of the family atmosphere Head Coach Greg Schiano has created, helping each other whenever possible.
"Courtney's here now and is still on me," Lefeged said. "We watch film together, read the playbook together and every break we get in training camp. He's becoming more like a big brother to me. I'm just trying to follow in his footsteps and do whatever I can to help the team win."
This year's Rutgers secondary is an experienced crew made up of the Devin and Jason McCourty twins at the corners and with Greene manning the free safety spot. Lefeged said the focus this summer was to bring the group together and become a cohesive bunch.
"We're looking good," he said. "Over the summer we came together, watched film together and came together as a unit. We've made big steps and have come together. We play hard in practice and the chemistry is really good."
What keeps Lefeged on the field is his experience playing the nickel and his ability, if needed to play some corner. It doesn't matter where he plays, however, as he intends on approaching whatever coach needs from him with the same work ethic he uses all the time.
"I'm probably going to play a little bit of both," he said, referring to the Safety and CB spots. "Wherever the coach asks me to play, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability and continue to progress in the mental aspect of the game."
Wherever he plays, Lefeged will find a way to set a tone for the defense.
Lefeged The Punisher ...
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