Watching the Rutgers defense at times last season was rough, to say the least. The lackluster offense didn’t help, often leaving the defense to play a substantial amount of snaps. That’s a quick way for opposing Big Ten powers to get the score up into the 50’s (and even the 70’s). Although it looked terrible, there were a few positives and some players really stood out. One of those players was cornerback Isaiah Wharton.
The redshirt junior from Florida has been a staple in the Scarlet Knight defense, starting every game since the start of the 2015 season. Listed at 6-foot-1, 205-pounds, he brings ample size and athleticism to the cornerback position.
Wharton has the ability to blanket opposing receivers, shutting down whatever routes used against him. He showed the ability to be beaten over the top in last season’s opening game against Washington. However, that was by John Ross, the same guy who broke the NFL combine 40-yard dash time. So that may not be a knock on him as much of it showing the pure speed the now Cincinnati Bengal receiver possesses.
Although he only has two career interceptions, Wharton has closing ability that you can’t teach. We’ve seen him plenty of times baiting opposing quarterbacks before jumping the route and breaking up the pass. His coverage abilities will only get better as he comes accustomed in his second year in head coach Chris Ash’s defense.
Another place Wharton stands out on film is his ability to tackle. His lean frame allows him to hold his own in the run game, setting the outside edge on toss and stretch plays. The former three-star recruit has registered 103 total tackles in his two seasons playing in the Scarlet Knight defense. With eight tackles-for-loss in that same span, he’s shown able to disrupt opposing backfields. Even receivers that are lucky enough to get receptions on Wharton often find the turf before anything can be made of it. The guy is as sure of a tackler as they come, an asset to a defense that was consistently run on.
Overall, Wharton may be the cornerstone to a secondary that’s on the rise. The Scarlet Knights finished last year ranked 18th in the nation in pass defense. That’s awfully impressive for a team that finished 2016 with just two wins. What’s even better is the fact that Rutgers will return four starters (including Wharton) to the secondary that combine for 64 starts. That a lot of experience so only expect them to get better from here.
As for Isaiah, I see nothing less than a breakout year for him, and that’s considering if he hasn’t already. Wharton will surely be working his way onto the NFL radar. So, whenever he decides his time is up in Piscataway, he’ll be ready to make waves on Sundays.
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