By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 9, 2014) – As the elder statesman in Rutgers’ secondary, Gareef Glashen knows there’s plenty he could say about the unit’s improvement, about how this season will be one of redemption and how all of the skeptics will eventually be proven wrong.
But the fifth-year senior cornerback knows those are just empty words right now. It’s still August. The season opener isn’t for another 19 days.
So what’s said now really doesn’t matter.
“I can say something but when the game comes it’s time to show it,” he said. “Me saying something now doesn’t mean anything. It’s what you do on the field. Until we prove something by our play it doesn’t matter what we say.”
After being roughed up last year, going through seven different starters at cornerback and becoming the only team in the country to start two true freshmen at corner in the same game, this Scarlet Knights secondary says it will be better collectively for the experience.
Senior strong safety Lorenzo Waters has seen evidence of that already.
“Just their overall demeanor, that they can go out there and really not think too much about the calls,” said Waters, embarking on his third season as a starter. “Now they look at an offense and can determine and predict routes just by splits. They’re able to play fast without having to think too much about their assignments.”
The secondary, especially at the corner positions, is still young. Sophomore Anthony Cioffi and Glashen are competing for starting corner spots, and sophomore Nadir Barnwell was in that mix until an ankle injury sidelined him indefinitely. His absence has opened the way for true freshmen Dre Boggs and Kam Lott to work their way into the rotation.
At free safety, sophomore Delon Stephenson is battling with senior Johnathan Aiken.
“I think these guys are coming along nicely, just by the way I’ve seen them adjust to the playbook,” said Waters. “It’s a tall task to learn everything in this playbook and I think they’re all doing a pretty good job so far.
“The young guys from last year are making great strides and Glashen looks like an older guy with experience now. They’re all taking the experience from last year and using it to become better players and it’s showing.”
But the skepticism persists. Rutgers set a school record for passing yards allowed in 2013 and the Scarlet Knights’ opening day opponent, Washington State, led the nation in pass attempts (756) and completions (470) last season.
So it’s an immediate test offering almost no relief for the secondary.
“We expect people to be questioning us,” said Cioffi. “But we’re not that group. Some of the players are the same but we’re older, we’ve had experience, we understand what the games are about. But we’re not going to talk about. What we have to do if we want the questions to stop is produce. It doesn’t matter what we say. It’s what we do.”
Waters knows the only way this secondary can silence critics is through deeds, not words.
“It is what it is. It was what it was last year,” he said. “Of course people are going to have questions about (the secondary) this year. But we’re a whole new team with a new secondary. That’s how we see it.”