Lorenzo Waters' high-ankle sprain against Houston adds to Rutgers' injuries, adjustments
By Tyler Barto
PISCATAWAY — Neither Kyle Flood nor Jamil Merrell wanted to use injuries as an excuse for Rutgers' 49-14 loss Saturday to Houston, but its depleted defense is hard to ignore.
Consider: Five projected starters during training camp have missed a combined seven games. Rutgers has lost two of them for the season. Another, junior safety Lorenzo Waters, suffered a high-ankle sprain on the first play from scrimmage Saturday, Flood said.
A return from that type of injury takes time.
How has Rutgers compensated?
- Two true freshmen start at corner. Both Nadir Barnwell and Anthony Cioffi struggled to get their heads around on sideline fades, a recurring issue for Rutgers. "Leaning and locating the ball in the secondary is one of the skills you train the defensive backs every day to do," Flood said.
- The Scarlet Knights rotated five linebackers against Houston. Freshman L.J. Liston played his first meaningful snaps. Quentin Gause replaced captain Jamal Merrell at SAM at times.
- David Milewski, a former linebacker who's played exclusively at end this season, played his first extended plays at three-technique defensive tackle, where Rutgers is thin. "Each and every player understands that once a player goes down and the coach asks you to do something, you have to get it done," Jamil Merrell said. "There's no excuse it all."
- Johnathan Aiken, who's played primarily in Rutgers' pass-down subpackages, replaced the injured Waters. He has 15 career appearances, mostly on special teams.