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Monday, June 24, 2013

TOP 20: Proving it in Piscataway (No. 19)

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: Tyler_Barto

Less than six weeks remain until the start of Rutgers training camp. This top-20 countdown will run infrequently, documenting who's got the most to prove in 2013.

No. 19  redshirt freshman DB Delon Stephenson (5-foot-11, 190 pounds)

(Courtesy of
Why Stephenson's on the list: Stephenson just went through his first organized team activities this spring since he spent the 2012 season prepping at Milford Academy (N.Y.). 

He will have to play catch-up during his first training camp. As history suggests — it took former prep player Tejay Johnson a year to see the field — several factors will be in play before Stephenson could make an impact in Rutgers' secondary.

But unlike Johnson, who could be in line to be the Scarlet Knights' top corner in 2013, Stephenson does not enter a secondary ripe with experience. Sensing a need, head coach Kyle Flood added fifth-year senior Lewis Toler from Western Michigan as insurance against the team's youth.

Coaches seldom add graduate transfers for no reason, especially ones with incentive to play immediately.  Stephenson will have to adjust quickly with the Knights' unfolding numbers game at corner.

During training camp, keep an eye on: Where Stephenson earns an opportunity to contribute. He's not a true freshman, so if reps start to dwindle at cornerback, he'll most certainly be used in a number of special teams capacities, namely as a returner.

The coaching staff will likely try to find any way to get the ball in Stephenson's hands. When he arrived in the spring, Stephenson said he played on nearly every special teams unit at Sayreville War Memorial High School (N.J.)

Johnson didn't have as much experience, and the sophomore drew Flood's praise as a sure tackler last season on the kickoff team. Stephenson should be as versatile.

2013 season outlook: With Toler around, Johnson's emergence and true freshman Nadir Barnwell, the team's highest-rated commit, lurking, opportunities could be slim in 2013 for Stephenson.

That said, he could be in line to be arguably Rutgers' top special teams piece — on kickoffs, as a gunner and returning kicks. The coaching staff as a number of guys it likes on the return teams, but Stephenson will make his case.

More from the countdown: No. 18 — Quanzell Lambert
No. 20 — Chris Muller

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