As the start of the Rutgers football season draws closer, The Daily Targum looks at the secondary and predicts the starting cornerbacks and safeties for the 2021 season. This group helped the Scarlet Knights record eight interceptions in 2020, and the four starters will have a lot of responsibility in pass coverage this year.
Cornerback: Tre Avery
In 2020, Avery started all nine games at cornerback and was named to the Third Team All-Big Ten by the coaches and the media. The senior led the program with eight passes defended and his seven pass breakups ranked fourth in the Big Ten. As 1 of 9 returning starters, Avery looks to lead the defense into the new season.
“I’ve got to lead my group and lead my team,” Avery said to the Asbury Park Press. “I’m one of the leaders on the team. So I feel like I lead by example, some days when it’s hot and things like that — I can’t afford to slack or be tired."
Free safety: Avery Young
Another returning starter in the secondary, Young was selected as an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten member and also made the Academic All-Big Ten list in 2020. The junior led the conference with three forced fumbles, and also served as the primary punt returner for Rutgers. This role led to one of his biggest highlights of the season, throwing a lateral across the field that led to a return touchdown against No. 3 Ohio State.
Strong safety: Christian Izien
Izien produced on a national level in the 2020 season. His four interceptions, all recorded in the last three games of the year, not only led the program but also placed him third in the Big Ten and eighth in the nation.
The junior also recovered three fumbles, once again leading the Knights, ranking second in the conference and tying for third nationally. The honorable mention All-Big Ten member started all nine games last year, and the chemistry between all the returning starters will likely help him continue his high production rate.
Cornerback: Patrice Rene
The only new piece in the secondary, Rene enters his final year of eligibility after transferring from North Carolina. In 2020, he played in the Orange Bowl, one of the biggest events in college football, against No. 5 Texas A&M. He appeared in all 10 games, starting six and recording three pass breakups.
Rene’s most successful season in Chapel Hill came in 2018, where he started all 11 games and totaled two interceptions. The increase in playing time and overall college experience gives Rene a chance to make an immediate impact.
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