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March 10, 2008

Spring Ball Breakdown: Defensive Secondary

Rutgers finished the 2007 season with the second ranked pass defense in the nation. Returning three out of four starters and the promise of some young talent is likely to make the secondary equally as effective this year. Here's a look through the defensive backfield heading into spring practice.

Jason McCourty: McCourty did an excellent job in pass coverage last season as quarterbacks rarely looked his way. He brings the most experience of any of the cornerbacks. It will be his third year as a starter and his leadership will be very valuable this season. He was a solid cover corner in a secondary that is quite familiar and comfortable with one another.

Devin McCourty: In his first season as a starter, McCourty made some big plays. He also made a few great special teams plays and provides Rutgers with a tandem of talented cornerbacks. If McCourty can build on last year's performance, Rutgers will have a good chance at equaling last year's production against the pass.

Brandon Bing: The speedy Bing got the opportunity to play last season, but he just wasn't ready. A lack of depth at the position forced him into early action. Bing has outstanding speed and could turn out to be effective this season. He needs to adjust to playing at the college level and could benefit immensely from spring practice. He will be right in the thick of the fight for the third cornerback position.

Billy Anderson: An excellent spring last year helped Anderson move up the depth chart. He always fared well in practice against Rutgers' tough corps of receivers. A great work ethic also allowed Anderson to win the favor of the coaching staff. Nonetheless, Anderson will have to prove he can consistently keep up with speedier receivers. He and Bing will duel for time this spring.

Al-Majid Hutchins: A red shirt was given out to Hutchins last year because he wasn't ready to play at the college level. He had a tough training camp and will need to have a better showing in the spring. Bing and Anderson are currently ahead of him, but he has the talent to pass them. In order to accomplish that, Hutchins will have to show good coverage skills against Kenny Britt and company.

Courtney Greene: The senior was close to leaving early for the NFL, but opted to stay one more year. It may prove to be a very wise decision as Greene could wind up being the top safety in the nation. His experience and leadership will also be important in the development of some of the younger players. They will get the opportunity to learn from one of the country's best. Greene's decision to remain at Rutgers instantly bolstered the defense significantly.

Joe Lefeged: The Maryland product has all the makings of a superstar after a breakout freshman year. Much like Greene, Lefeged has the ability to lay some thunderous hits on opponents. The staff brought him along slowly, but now Lefeged may be ready to claim a starting role. If his progress continues through the spring, Lefeged will be tough to beat out in training camp. Losing Ron Girault hurts, but having a player like Lefeged to step in definitely helps.

Glen Lee: Lee stepped in adequately when Girault went down with an injury last year. While he played well, he didn't grab any headlines. He'll have to step it up a notch in order to beat out Lefeged. Lee can also lay some crushing hits on people and even if he doesn't win a starting spot, he'll probably be in on passing situations.

Davon Smart: Smart improved last season and could be a valuable backup this year. If any of the three players in front of him go down with injury, Smart will have the chance to see some quality minutes. The spring will be important for him, especially with a plethora of incoming freshman joining the secondary this summer.

Mark Orosz, Rami Nubani and Colin McEvoy will return to their special teams roles but probably won't see any time in the defensive backfield, barring a big showing this spring. Richard McCann and Rob Cervini remain longshots to get onto the field. Zaire Kitchen is still recovering from another knee injury and is hoping to be back before the start of the season. Kitchen won't be available this spring.


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