Spring Review: Cornerbacks

One of the more interesting comments to come out of the end of spring practice came from coach Greg Schiano, who said there remains open competition for both cornerback spots as the Scarlet Knights try to replace first-round NFL draft pick Devin McCourty. Three players emerged in spring practice for two spots, so the battle will intensify for once August training camp commences.

One of the most interesting statements Rutgers coach Greg Schiano made at the conclusion of spring practice was the open competition for the cornerback positions.

Yes, cornerback positions.

It came after incumbent David Rowe, senior Brandon Bing and red-shirt freshman Logan Ryan each had a strong month. And the statement wasn't made because Schiano didn't like what he saw, but because there are three candidates for two spots.

At the cornerback spot, Rowe followed up his solid sophomore season with nice showing in spring practice. His cover skills were good and his awareness to locate the football stood out, but the question remaining for Rowe is whether he has the speed to be an elite cornerback.

The promising Ryan has the speed to play corner, and at 6-foot, 180 pounds has the size to be physical at the line of scrimmage. As spring practice wore on, his confidence grew in being able to play close to the line of scrimmage and also in coverage. But he lacks experience, which is something defensive coaches always fret about in games.

Bing did a good job of putting a disappointing 2009 season behind him and re-emerging as a cornerback candidate. His play wasn't eye-popping, which isn't always a bad thing. In this case, it meant he didn't gamble on balls and allow big plays.

Bring has the 4.4 speed to play corner, but he also showed a better understanding of the system, which he said resulted from his commitment to watch more film.

Another interesting development was the transition of Marcus Cooper from receiver to cornerback. For a player with no experience at the position, Cooper moved right in. His coverage was tight and his ability to find the ball and defend was, well, receiver-ish.

He has the speed to play the position, and at 6-2, 185 pounds, brings length to the edge to defend in the passing game. It remains to be seen how he does stopping the run, but he was willing to stick his shoulder into plays in the spring.

Brandon Jones played in dime packages last season, and is a feisty defender. But there were times he was a step slow in the spring, which means his summer development will be crucial if he is to remain in the mix.

Of the three touted corners to red-shirt last season, the least heard about in the spring was Abdul Smith. Ryan stood out and Darrell Givens was shifted to safety, which left Smith in the middle of the pack.

Much is still expected from Smith, but his non-descript spring left him stuck in the same spot while Ryan moved past him.

All coaches like competition, and there will be some for the two starting cornerback spots come the fall.


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