PISCATWAY – Rutgers’ depleted cornerback core has gotten thinner.
Cornerback Ian Thomas has left Rutgers’ football program, head coach Kyle Flood announced.
Thomas will pursue a baseball career despite starting three games at for Rutgers this season.
“I didn’t see a sign that this would happen,” Flood said. “It’s a strange occurrence to me, but it happens. It happens here and it happens other places.
“I saw an article about a kid at UCF [Blake Keller] who was playing for him and decided it wasn’t the right place for him for whatever reason and players make those decisions. Division I football certainly is very demanding and if you’re not 100 percent and you’re heart’s not in it, I could see why somebody would want to move on.”
Still, it’s a shock to everyone in the program.
”It’s something that came out of nowhere,” safety Jeremy Deering said. “But I wish him the best and we have to move on and the next guy has to step up and fill in that void.”
One that will have to be filled by freshmen Nadir Barnwell – who has started three games – and Anthony Cioffi, who’s most significant action came in the last game against Louisville.
Fortunately, redshirt junior Gareef Glashen has returned after missing the past two games for personal reasons. However, fifth-year senior Lew Towler – who started five games – is likely gone for the senior with a broken arm.
“Same thing we’ve been doing,” Deering said of what Rutgers does next. “Come out here, work, next guy can step up, do more than they’re used to doing, fill the role and we’ve got to help everyone along and prepare to be the best we can be.”
Those next guys are freshmen Delon Stephenson – who has been playing safety – and Jevon Tyree.
However, this is a pass defense that ranks 116th in the country, allowing 306.8 yards per game.
Still, Flood said the way Rutgers plays defense won’t change.
“Other than the fact that he’s not in our plans going forward, not really,” Flood said. “We’ve got to build depth though and I think that’s what your question is, and a guy like Delon Stephenson is going to work some in the corner and maybe at slot and give us a chance to provide a little more depth than we have right now.”
And while he’s losing a valuable asset in Thomas,
“”I’m really excited about the opportunity that this provides for the freshman,” Flood said. “I think that we’ve got a couple guys over there in Nadir and Anthony who have shown flashes of doing a really nice job for us. And getting Gareef Glashen back – he was out there today. That’s going to help us build some depth and it’s going to provide opportunities for Devon Stephenson and Jevone Tyree two of the younger guys in our program that have been working really hard and as we go through this bye week, it will be a great opportunity for all these guys.
“I put all my focus on the one’s that are on the field and I’m excited for that opportunity that this provides this players.”