by Allen Kellogg
Piscataway, New Jersey
Since 2010, Rutgers University is the top school in the nation for championship defensive backs. LSU, FSU, Miami, Texas, South Carolina, Ohio State and Florida all refer to themselves with the title of “DBU,” but none can match the achievements of Rutger’s corners and safeties in the NFL.
These schools use many different metrics to fool people into thinking they’re the school which produces top notch NFL defensive backs. Some use pro bowls, other uses draft numbers or first round picks, but none of these metrics really matter. The only thing that matters in the NFL is winning a Super Bowl. Since 2010, five defensive backs from Rutgers have been drafted into the NFL, three of them already have Super Bowl rings and could win another next Sunday. That rate of 60 percent is higher than any other college. Kansas are Oregon are second, with 40 percent of their DB’s drafted during that time period NFL having won a Super Bowl.
The AFC champion New England Patriots have three defensive backs from Rutgers, all of whom are starters. Devin McCourty is the former Defensive Rookie of the Year and an All-Pro free safety. Logan Ryan is a starting cornerback and sure to be one of the most coveted free agent prizes in the offseason next to his fellow Patriot corner, and Super Bowl hero, Malcolm Butler. Finally Duron Harmon is the Patriot’s starting nickel corner and has proven to be one of the top nickel corners in the league. During the Patriot’s opening playoff game against the Texans, McCourty, Ryan, and Harmon each had an interception. This not only was the first time 3 players from the same school recorded an interception in a postseason game, but the first time in NFL history this occurred.
“These guys out of Rutgers have been phenomenal,” said Patriots Head Coach Bill Bellichick, “They all came ready to work from day one and have put in a ton of effort. That school[Rutgers] really has a great training program for defensive backs. They are all great athletes who can play many different types of coverage, and most importantly, know how to tackle. Now it’s up to me and the rest of the coaching staff to get them ready for Atlanta, who have the best passing attack I have probably seen in my time in the NFL.”
Devin McCourty’s twin brother Jason McCourty, who also played DB at Rutgers and now plays for the Tennessee Titans, said Rutgers really changed the way he prepared before the game and the skills he learned at Rutgers made him a better corner.
“Our pass rush was so terrible when I was at school it was really up to us to hold down the pass defense,” Jason McCourty said, “Teams were scared to try and throw on us so we also go a lot of experience in learning how to tackle as they ran over our defensive line and linebackers.”
Patriots Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia said that guys from Rutgers came in with a chip on their shoulder. He said players from other schools had gotten by on raw athleticism alone and most didn’t really know how to play the position in the NFL.
“You can get away with not knowing as much about the game in college, but in the NFL everyone is a world class athlete. It’s the guys who took the time to really learn to position that have the most impact.” Patricia said.
Defensive backs aren’t they only pro product from Rutgers, Rutgers leads all other schools with five alums in the super bowl. Four with the Patriots and Mohamed Sanu of the Falcons. Three other schools are tied with four.
These figures speak volumes about former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Head Coach, and current Ohio State defensive coordinator, Greg Schiano. His ability to turn underrated HS prospects into NFL starters is second to none. Schiano said most of the credit for the DB’s coming out of Rutgers should go to defensive back coaches like Chris Hewitt (Ravens), Jeff Pinkham (Western Michigan), and Robb Smith (Minnesota). Schiano says he hopes to turn around a disturbing trend with Urban Meyer’s defensive backs.
Under Urban Meyer, both Florida and Ohio State have had 14 defensive backs drafted. They have the same number of Super Bowl rings combined as points Ohio State scored in the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson; none.
Schiano will soon find another head coaching job. The players he has helped produce for the league speak for themselves. Schiano failed as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but his body of work proves that he is one of the best developmental coaches in college football today. Just as Rutgers has proven to be where teams can find championship cornerbacks and safeties.