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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lorenzo Waters' high-ankle sprain against Houston adds to Rutgers' injuries, adjustments

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @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.
Despite a need to look back at film, some of these issues aren't correctable. Flood can't account for injury reports in game preparation. Several teams with spread principles remain on Rutgers' schedule, while its front seven remains intact.

A template to move the ball against the Scarlet Knights is available. It's one they couldn't prevent against.

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