Lefeged transitioning to leadership role

Despite losing both Courtney Greene and Jason McCourty to the NFL, the Rutgers secondary isn't the least bit concerned about a lack of leadership. Devin McCourty is still there, and acting like more of a leader than ever despite no longer playing with his brother, and he's confident that junior safety Joe Lefeged can be just as much of a mentor for a budding secondary.

"Joe's going to be a great leader on this team," McCourty said of the Germantown, Md. native. "He's tough and he's very athletic and the younger guys are going to be able to learn a lot from him."

When asked how the transition from student of the game to teacher is going, Lefeged described it in one word: smooth.

"It's been smooth just because of the great leadership we've had on the team like Devin and Jason [McCourty], and Ron [Girault] and Courtney [Greene]," Lefeged said. "They've helped me out a lot in my freshman and sophomore years to become the best leader that I can be, but at the same time, I'm never done learning either so I'm going to be looking to others for advice."

Shoulder surgery sidelined Lefeged for spring practice as sophomore Patrick Kivlehan covered for him on the first team. But the shoulder is no longer an issue, Lefeged said.

"It feels good," Lefeged continued. "I've just been rehabbing it since I got my surgery and it feels good. I feel good to be back out here with the team. Everything's going well."

Just being out there again has been a refreshing feeling, he said.

"It's not fun sitting down while everyone else is out there working and doing spring ball," Lefeged said.

Despite missing time, Lefeged has still managed to catch the eye of head coach Greg Schiano at practice with his athleticism at the safety position.

"I think Joe's getting more comfortable," Schiano said. "Joe's thing is that he's been out and he's never really got to go and keep going. That's going to be the challenge. Joe's an incredible athlete. There are not a lot of people on the planet that have his explosion and we just got to get him where he's consistent."

Last year, in his first season as a starter, Lefeged was fourth on the team with 72 tackles, totaling four for losses, one sack, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He and senior safety Zaire Kitchen alternated at the strong safety spot alongside Greene as the year progressed, something that could be beneficial as they start alongside each other this season.

"[Kitchen] was great to talk to while I was rehabbing my shoulder," Lefeged said. "He's been through injuries before and made the process easier."

As a freshman, Lefeged had 38 tackles and 3.5 sacks, playing sporadically behind Greene, Girault and Glen Lee.

After finding success in his first two seasons, Lefeged said that he plans to continue that success as a junior because of the offseason conditioning program that put him in the best shape of his life.

"It was the hardest of what I've experienced," he said. "The strength coaches pushed us hard, just passed the limit where we think we can go and once we wanted to quit, we were doing more and continue to push ourselves. It pushed us mentally as well as physically."

And with that training, came his development as a leader, pushing other defensive backs to succeed and give it their all.

"While training, we always compete with each other and that's what's going to make us better," he said. "A healthy competition has helped us out a lot over the summer and [it's continued] to training camp."

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