Notes: Abreu, position change, Shimko, etc.

Rutgers opened spring practice Tuesday, and one of the interesting things was the position change of linebacker Marcus Witherspoon. Meanwhile, linebacker Manny Abreu stayed put, and he talked about his changed mental approach. Also, quarterback Stephen Shimko spoke about the importance of him having a strong spring, and coach Greg Schiano updated the Bubble problem and more.

PISCATAWAY – There was anticipation one of Rutgers' reserve linebackers could move to defensive end, and it was unveiled in Tuesday's spring practice opener.

However, it wasn't what many expected.

Marcus Witherspoon, a highly-touted transfer from Michigan in 2008, was moved to defensive end while red-shirt junior Manny Abreu remained at linebacker.

Abreu said he had brief discussions with the coaching staff about making the switch, but was pleased he was remaining at linebacker. He opened spring practice with the first unit defense playing on the strong side while Antonio Lowery and Ka'Lial Glaud played on the weakside and Steven Beauharnais sat in the middle.

"I think there is (pressure) in a good way to play,'' Abrue said. "Being here for awhile, I don't take the pressure as bad pressure. It's more of, ‘It's time.' ‘'

Abreu started in seven games in 2008, and played in eight games last season. But the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder said his mindset changed coming into the spring.

"My maturity level, my focus, being more of a leader in a different way has changed,'' Abreu said. "In the past I learned that winning a job isn't everything. It's more of being the best I can be, being great, reaching my full potential and competing against myself.''

At 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, Witherspoon has the size and athleticism to be used in the hybrid defensive end role Rutgers likes to use as he can rush the passer or drop into coverage.

"He hasn't played yet,'' Schiano said. "So I don't know if that's a change, or a beginning.''

Steadying Shimko
One of the biggest goals of the spring is to get red-shirt sophomore Stephen Shimko ready to backup starting quarterback Tom Savage.

Shimko is yet to take a snap in a game, and was the scout team quarterback last season. Has he looked at the depth chart?

"What depth chart?,'' Shimko said with a laugh. "It's good because me and Savage get a lot of reps, and both of us will get better. You get a lot of throws, and you never have enough reps, you never have enough throws. I think it's real beneficial having just the two of us there.''

This is Shimko's third spring practice, but he hasn't been in a game since the fall of 2007, when he starred at Ewing (N.J.) High.

"It taught me how to get hit, for one,'' Shimko said. "It taught me how to stay in the pocket, trust me teammates, and how to run an offense. We were running another team's offense, but you still have to be a leader out there and you have to make sure everyone is in the right position, and running the right type of things.''

Fixing the Bubble
Rutgers' indoor practice facility, affectionately known as "The Bubble,'' deflated over the weekend after a glitch. And it may be a while before it is inflated again since the school is looking into purchasing a new tent for the two-decade-old structure.

"We brought the experts in and the bubble's 18 years old, so we're probably going to have to sometime later this spring get a new skin for the thing,'' Schiano said. "So the university is looking into all the different options. So that'll be down for a while. But we don't use it in the spring anyway. It's part of our getting tougher, right? The media, coaches as well as the players.''

Extra points
Schiano said receiver Mark Harrison had groin surgery after the season, but he was practicing full go. …Schiano said receiver Mohamed Sanu was still involved in the punt return game, but Mason Robinson, Logan Ryan and Quron Pratt were each back fielding punts as Rutgers looks to build depth there. …Class of 2010 signees Sam Bergen (linebacker) and J.T. Tartacoff (receiver) attended the practice.

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