Should Rutgers Football be in the conversation for DBU?
Rutgers as a collegiate football team has not been anything close to good over the past five years. The Scarlet Knights have totaled just 13 wins to their 43 losses and so far 2019, they have started off to a lackluster 2-7 (0-6) record. However, not all is bad for Rutgers football fans.
Rutgers has had 20 of their graduates rostered by NFL teams at some point in 2019. While all of them are not currently on 53-man rosters a handful of them were able to etch out a roster spots for the season. This by itself is a great accomplishment as only about 1700 people can say that they are playing in the NFL. However, the praise due to Rutgers alumni does not end there.
Every year there is always a big debate about which college should be considered defensive back university (DBU). The usual schools that are always brought up include LSU, Ohio State and Florida State. However one university that is never in that conversation is Rutgers, but should they be mentioned?
This claim would come as a surprise to most because college football team hasn't been all that competitive. However, some of the former defensive backs that Rutgers has produced have been very good players in the NFL, especially this season.
The McCourty twins have displayed to the NFL that they have been a force to be reckoned with. The pair of have helped the Patriots secondary become one of the best in the NFL as the unit only surrenders 234 passing yards a game. In nine games the unit has only surrendered three passing touchdowns. These numbers as a team scream elite but as individuals, the McCourty twins have been nothing but amazing.
Devin McCourty has put on a defensive player of the year campaign this season. Devin leads the league with five of his interceptions. The Patriots’ captain has also recorded 28 total tackles this season along with one fumble recovery and six pass breakups.
While Jason has not had nearly as electric of a season, his performance does not follow far behind. Jason McCourty has totaled 37 tackles along with five pass breakups and one interception. This play has put Jason in the conversation of being one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Pro Football Focus ranks Jason McCourty as the fifth-best corner so far this season noting his league-high 14 coverage stops.
The third member of arguably the best secondary in the NFL, from Rutgers, is Duron Harmon. Harmon is a situational third safety that the Patriots like to use all over the place. While he does not get nearly as much playing times as the McCourty’s, Harmon has made every second count.
So far this season, Duron Harmon has totaled two interceptions, 13 tackles, and four passes defended. His two picks make him tied for 16th in the NFL and the most out of non-starters.
Ryan is a former Patriot whose stellar play with the team along with 2 Super Bowl championships allowed him to sign a $30 million contract with the Tennessee Titans in 2017.
Now in his third season with the Titans Ryan has quietly put together the best season in his career. Ryan has forced six turnovers---three interceptions and three forced fumbles. He also leads the league with 14 pass breakups. To round out Ryan’s impressive season he leads all cornerbacks with 3.5 sacks and 64 tackles.
Blessuan Austin was drafted in the sixth round by the New York Jets. He fell that far due to his bad injury history at Rutgers. These injuries caused Austin to miss the first nine weeks of the NFL season. However, in week 10 Austin showed everyone he can still perform after two ACL surgeries on the same knee. In his professional debut, he racked up three tackles, two pass deflections, and one forced fumble. This is only a small glimpse of what is to come for Austin.
The last member of elite Rutgers secondary products is Saquan Hampton. The New Jersey native was picked by the New Orleans Saints early in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. So far he hasn't seen a ton of time on the field, only appearing in two games so far. However he the Saints coaching staff is very high on his potential for the future. Zach Strief, the voice of the New Orleans Saints had this to say about Hampton back during training camp, “I think he’s had a tremendous camp. I think he’s a better player than even the Saints anticipated. He’s been super productive. He’s playing like a guy that was drafted much earlier".
AS A UNIT
The six individually have pieced together some amazing seasons between the past and present, but when looked at as one unit from Rutgers they have arguably the best performance by a group of defensive backs from any college.
So far this season alone, they have totaled 11 interceptions so far this season, which is more total interceptions than 29 NFL teams (all but the Patriots). This group of defensive backs has also been responsible for 31 total pass breakups and 16 takeaways.
To further confirm their dominance, a Rutgers defensive back has recorded an interception in each of the first eight weeks. A feat no other college can say they have accomplished.
So while Rutgers fans have a lot to hang their heads about at home, at least their alumni have made it possible to argue that Rutgers could actually be DBU.