The good news for the Scarlet Knights is red-shirt sophomore Khaseem Greene appears ready to take over the position after a strong spring practice.
The physically gifted Greene, who is 6-foot-1, 215 pounds of muscle and speed, is No. 16 in ScarletReport.com's countdown of the 25 most important players for the upcoming season.
Greene gained valuable experience last season as a reserve, but now is being asked to become an intimidating presence in the defensive backfield. Among Kitchen's specialty was doling out big hits and running down hill to make high-impact tackles.
Although Greene isn't long on experience, he does have maturity on his side. He turned 21 in February, the by-product of prepping at Avon (Conn.) Old Farms after his high school career at Elizabeth (N.J.) High.
Another thing working in Greene's favor is what he learned as an apprentice to Kitchen, first as a freshman and then last season as a red-shirt freshman. The two talked often, and Kitchen went over plays and scenarios with him.
Athletically, Greene is a specimen, much like Kitchen before knee injuries disrupted his career. As a backup last season Greene played in all 13 games and made 33 tackles and saw his playing time increase as the season wore on. He added a pair of interceptions, but he needs to improve his open-field tackling.
Moving into a starting position, which he will achieve if he continues to build on a strong spring in which he roamed the secondary well, showed good cover skills and also made some big hits, should add athleticism to the secondary. And he won't be forced to be the leader of the group.
With senior Joe Lefeged back at strong safety, the leadership role falls to him, and will allow Greene to grow into the position and concentrate on his job.