Rutgers Defense To Rely On Ex-WRs
Rutgers' defensive players know Dave Cohen, the Scarlet Knights' second-year linebackers coach, but they have yet to see him in his new role as defensive coordinator. Cohen, who got the promotion when Robb Smith left to coach linebackers for Greg Schiano with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, begins his new leadership role this week as the Scarlet Knights begin spring practice.
He is no stranger to running a defense, though; he has coordinated defenses at Western Michigan, Delaware and Fordham, in addition to being head coach at Hofstra. He inherits a unit that ranked 10th in the FBS in total defense last season, but must replace seven starters in 2013. Perhaps his biggest challenge will be molding a secondary that will include a new position coach and three new starters, two of whom may be converted offensive players.
The secondary lost Marcus Cooper, Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan, with only senior safety Lorenzo Waters returning. At a pre-spring practice press conference on March 25, head coach Kyle Flood said Jeremy Deering and Ian Thomas, both converted offensive players, could fill two of those vacant spots.
Thomas, a redshirt freshman, came to Rutgers as a wide receiver, but made the switch to corner before the team's bowl game last season. Deering bounced between running back and wide receiver for three seasons before switching to safety for his senior year. Flood said Deering enters spring practice as the starter opposite Waters.
Charged with getting this group ready to play is defensive backs coach Darrell Wilson, who comes to Rutgers after 11 years at Iowa. Spring practice will be crucial for Wilson, who must get used to the staff and roster, evaluate his guys and teach Deering and Thomas how to play defense.
There are other big losses on defense, including linebackers Khaseem Greene and Steve Beauharnais and defensive linemen Scott Vallone and Ka'Lial Glaud, but there is more stability at those positions because of Cohen and Jim Panagos, who is in his second season coaching the defensive line.