Notes: Kitchen's resiliency, Munoz's move

Rutgers free safety Zaire Kitchen will be one of the players honored on Senior Day before Saturday's game vs. West Virginia. It is a game Kitchen thought he would never reach because of multiple knee injuries earlier in his career. Also, Damaso Munoz talks about how he prepared for the move to SAM linebacker.

Zaire Kitchen had to be honest. He never thought Saturday would come.

Rutgers' senior free safety had plenty of those days, and many of them two years ago, when he thought Senior Day would be something he watched from the sideline.

But even with three major knee surgeries and a body that barks after every practice, Kitchen will join the list of players honored before Saturday's regular season finale against West Virginia at Rutgers Stadium.

"I thought I was done two years ago, after my second surgery,'' Kitchen said. "I really thought I was done, but God-willing I was able to move on. It definitely feels good, playing in front of all the Rutgers fans, and for my parents to get to see me play in the stadium one more time.''

Despite an injury-riddled career, Kitchen never red-shirted because the injuries happened in the latter part of each season.

"I feel like my Rutgers career went kind of fast,'' said Kitchen, who arrived on campus in the summer of 2006.'' I haven't really thought about that last game being in the stadium. I guess it will hit me when it happens.''

Kitchen has been banged up again this season, including a leg injury that knocked him out of the second half at Connecticut, but he has played in every game.

He is fifth on the team in tackles with 53, and third with five pass breakups. He also is the team's biggest hitter in the secondary, and a calming influence to the younger players.

"You don't realize how good he is until you don't have him,'' Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "He's been a real consistent player for us, and make no mistake about it, he's played beat up all year. He's going to need a good rest when this season is through.''

Kitchen acknowledged his body is sore, but he is not about to take a day of practice off. "The season is real hard on me,'' he said. "I'm not like I used to be. I practice every day, all the banging …it's a lot.''

Strong change
One of the seamless transitions the Rutgers defense has made came from senior linebacker Damaso Munoz sliding from weak side linebacker to strong side linebacker because of an injury to Antonio Lowery.

Munoz made the move during practice the week prior to the Louisville win, and he responded with four tackles, including a sack.

"There are some things that mesh,'' Munoz said. "But it's definitely different being the Sam (strong side), and being on the edge of the defense and stuff like that, focusing on the tight end.'' Munoz said film work is crucial to making a successful move.

"A person like me, when I change a position, I like to prepare and get the little things, the fundamentals, and stuff like that,'' Munoz said. "(Linebackers) coach (Bob) Fraser is real cool with staying late and watching film with me, and fixing minor things that changing a position brings.''

"Before (the snap) you want to have a checklist. You definitely have to change your mindset because there are different things, so you want to go through the checklist. You do that, you'll be all right.''


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