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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Before the snap, Rutgers' Steve Longa's work really begins

By Tyler Barto 
Twitter: Tyler_Barto

Steve Longa is staring.

He squats in a two-point stance, trying to read a developing play run during positional drills Tuesday. Three linebackers line up as a center and guards in front of him.

Another replicates a tight end, and two more occupy the offensive backfield. 

There is no football. Teammates jog to simulate several running plays, pulling guards and play-action passes. Laminated play sheets diagram their routes underneath them.

This all occurs within a small corner of Rutgers' F3 practice field. Still, if you think there isn't pressure, it might be wise to reconsider, especially with defensive coordinator Dave Cohen barking out miscues.
Steve Longa works on a one-man sled with position coach and coordinator Dave Cohen on Wednesday. Longa: "(Cohen's) a high-motor person. That's what this defense is about." (Tyler Barto)

"The more often you do it, it's just second nature," Longa said Tuesday. "You don't really have to look at it, you just feel it. It's more feeling it and reacting. That's why we do it so much."

Longa's pre-snap reads mean as much in training camp as his execution.

IN PRINT: Longa says he's the fastest MIKE in the American

Before the snap during 11-on-11s, Longa will make an initial call and align Rutgers' front seven. Junior Kevin Snyder, at the weakside, will relay calls from the secondary, likely Lorenzo Waters, and return them to Longa.

This all occurs within a 15-second window. It's difficult to replicate during positional drills, Longa said.

"You don't have the d-line in front of you," he said. "You have to be very, very alert and focused. You have to see it, which makes it easier when you go into team."


Rutgers began installing its dime defense Wednesday, its first sub-package outside of its base defense during training camp.

Last year's dime package (designed to defend four receivers): three safeties; three cornerbacks; Khaseem Greene, a former safety, in a single linebacker look; and Steve Beauharnais, a middle linebacker, lined up in a three-point stance as an edge rusher.

RELATED: Taking a look at Rutgers' third-down defense

Each year offers new wrinkles, and a mobile linebacker could occupy Greene's role in the middle of the field this season. Longa fits the billing, along with Jamal Merrell and safety-turned-linebacker Davon Jacobs.

Don't be surprised if Rutgers gets creative with its defensive fronts, either.

"It's all about what coach has planned out for me," Longa said. "It's all about his vision. I'm just going to take it and run with it.
"We need all those weapons on our defense. We have speed in our defense. That'll make our coverage a lot better, just covering the field a lot quicker."

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