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Friday, July 12, 2013

TOP 20: Proving it in Piscataway (No. 11)

Junior Lorenzo Waters made subtle strides in pass defense last season after being taken out Sept. 22 at Arkansas. (AP Photo)

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: Tyler_Barto

Less than a month remains 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. 11 — junior safety Lorenzo Waters (6-foot, 205 pounds)

Why Waters is on the list: The obvious angle is pointing to Waters as the lone returning contributor — let alone starter — in Rutgers' secondary.

But even Waters is still developing at strong safety.

The Accokeek, Md., native struggled mightily in pass coverage in the beginning of 2012, so much so former defensive coordinator Robb Smith turned to seldom-used Mason Robinson in a two-deep safety look late Sept. 22 at Arkansas.

Waters made strides, especially in his angles of pursuit. His lasting image from 2012 came on a fourth-quarter interception return Nov. 29 against Louisville. 

(Courtesy of
Rutgers finished 39th nationally last season in pass defense — even with four players currently in the NFL. A number of factors affect that ranking, namely opponents' lack of success on the ground.

It's still worth noting as the Scarlet Knights welcome a former running back at free safety and a host of underclassmen into the fold.

During training camp, keep an eye on: Where Waters lines up around the line of scrimmage.

Despite his learning curve, Waters emerged early on as a solid run defender. He led Rutgers defensive backs with 6.5 tackles for loss, sixth on the team. 

He could earn trust from new playcaller Dave Cohen to play more instinctively in the box as a run defender. He could also figure into a pass-rushing role up the middle.

2013 season outlook: Waters can become a versatile chip as an eighth run defender, and Rutgers should remain a top-25 run defense. 

He should maintain that role against the pass, serving as a quarterback spy and handling intermediate pass coverage. Watch for a spike from last season's two sacks, fifth-best on the team, as Cohen compensates early for a developing secondary.

More from the countdown: No. 10 — Nick Marsh
No. 12 — Leonte Carroo

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