Rutgers linebacker Kevin Snyder has waited patiently for his chance to start. Now that his time is finally here, he has no major nerves or fear.
Because he learned from the best.
Snyder credits departed stalwarts Khaseem Greene and Steve Beauharnais for helping him prepare for his big moment. He has picked up on the way Beauharnais expertly studied film; he has picked up on the advice Greene gave him to just stop thinking on the field and go out and make plays.
As Rutgers prepares to open spring practice next week, Snyder hopes everything he has learned serves him well as the linebacker group undergoes a makeover.
"The first two years, I was more of a thinking player," Snyder said in a recent phone interview. "I didn’t want to make mistakes to mess up the whole defense. I just wanted to do my part to make sure nothing went wrong. I just need to play looser. I understand the defense now, I know where I’m supposed to be. I just have to be a football player now and make some plays."
He had limited opportunities to do so as a reserve the past two seasons. But he did get playing experience, which is huge. Along with increasing his base knowledge of the system, Snyder has put on 15 pounds and is up to 237. He also has been told he will not be playing outside anymore, something that should help with his ability to make plays.
"I hear it, but I don’t mind what they say because I know up front, we have one of the best defensive lines in the conference," Snyder said. "I’m confident in that. I think at the linebacker position, we have guys in Jamal [Merrell] and myself that have played football. We just need to find a couple more guys to fill spots and work in and rotate in at the linebacker spot. People continue to say we’re young. We are young in the secondary, but we have a ton of talent there with great coaches that I think can bring them along and get them ready to play for the season."
As for replacing two-time Big East defensive player of the year in Greene, Snyder said, "I don’t think you can do any more than you’re capable of. He’s a great player. We have a lot of great talent, too, like Steve Longa and Quanzell Lambert that can also come in and help out a lot and help to replace Khaseem Greene. We have a ton of depth now that can help us in the future.
"You can’t replace a guy like him just like that. You have to work at it, you have to develop a lot of reps and all that. We have the talent necessary to replace Khas and Steve."