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Film Study: Breaking Down 2021 Transfer Trey Rucker

OSU is getting a talented safety from Wake Forest

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Next up in the 2021 recruiting class film study series is Wake Forest transfer safety Trey Rucker. Before we take a look at the former Demon Deacon, you can find my previous breakdowns in this series below:

Rucker played his high school ball at Flint HS in Oaktown, Virginia. The three-star recruit recorded 54 tackles, four interceptions and one fumble recovery during his senior season at safety for the Huskies. In addition, Rucker had 20 receptions for 438 yards and 12 touchdowns on the other side of the ball at wide receiver. He also returned punts for Flint. His performance that season earned him a spot on the All-State First Team Defense.

Rated as a three-star recruit, Rucker held offers from Indiana, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Purdue, Virginia and Wake Forest before initially committing to Maryland in July 2018. However, after former Terps’ coach DJ Durkin was dismissed from the team, Rucker decommitted from UM and eventually signed with Wake Forest.

His freshman season at WF was a successful one. Demon Deacon coach Dave Clawson is notorious for redshirting almost all of his freshmen, but Rucker saw action in every game that year and started nine of them while primarily manning the free safety position. He finished the year with 65 tackles (fourth on the team), including two for loss, one interception and one fumble recovery. Last season, Rucker battled a foot injury that caused him to miss four of Wake Forest’s nine games. In the five games in which he played, Rucker tallied 19 tackles, one interception and one pass defended.

The Demon Deacons looked to primarily base out of a type of 4-2-5 look with a rover linebacker/safety hybrid position in 2019, though they were more multiple last season. Rucker mainly played the role of a free safety, but wasn’t afraid to fit in as a strong safety who would come up and attack the run at times. He has the speed, clocking in at a verified 4.46 40-yard dash, and size at 6-1, 195 pounds, to play both positions. Wake ran a lot of Cover 2 and Cover 4 zone coverage, but also added in some Cover 3 and Cover 1 man.

Rucker entered the transfer portal on Jan. 4 and then decided to transfer to OSU a few weeks later.

I was able to watch Rucker play against Clemson, Florida State, Michigan State and Utah State (a game in which Cowboy transfer Jaylen Warren also played) in 2019 and his game against Syracuse from this past season. Below I’ll breakdown some of the key areas for safeties and how Rucker stacks up in each one.

Coverage Skills

Rucker was primarily put into situations at Wake Forest where he was a single-high safety or playing a deep half/third. He showed that he has the the range to roam the back end and has the speed to cover large areas of ground. Rucker earned his way onto the field for the Demon Deacons by showing off his football intelligence, as he was able to quickly pick up WF defensive coordinator Lyle Hemphill’s defensive scheme.

He shows a nice understanding of zone coverage spacing. However, he did show a tendency to get caught in no man’s land on occasion. I would’ve liked to see more opportunities and more plays made in the shallow and intermediate areas of the field, but he did well with the assignments he was given at Wake Forest. In addition, his overall play at safety was very sound, but there weren’t many examples of him baiting the QB into throws, breaking on the ball and making plays.

In the film I watched, he had limited reps in man coverage, but when he was put in these situations he held his own, as you’ll see him intercept a pass from former Utah State and current Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love in the video below.

He’s got good length and is strong enough to hang with tight ends, while also having the speed to keep up with slot receivers.

Ball Skills

His lack of plays on the ball may seem concerning when you look at his passes defended numbers for the Demon Deacons, however he wasn’t really tasked with contesting the catch point very often and, as I noted above, wasn’t given very many reps in man coverage. Although, when the opportunity presented itself, Rucker did well to use his length to make plays on the football. In the following clip you’ll see him almost come down with the interception against Syracuse last season.

Rucker did miss a few interception opportunities, but I still think he has decent hands for a defensive back, as you’ll see him secure the pick in the video below.

As I mentioned earlier, I would like to see him do a better job of reading the QB’s eyes and disrupting throwing lanes, but I do think he has the athleticism to improve upon this in Stillwater.

Tackling

If you look at Rucker’s highlight tapes coming out of high school, the first thing you’ll notice is his tackling ability. He continued to display this ability at Wake Forest, and was given the opportunity to play as a downhill, run-attacking safety on occasion. See him showcase this in the following video.

Rucker doesn’t shy away from contact and is an incredibly physical hitter. However, there were instance where he would lower his head upon contact, leading to missed tackles, and he did take some poor angles at times. But he is not afraid to get upfield and make a play on the football. Additionally, he very seldom gave up additional yards after contact and often times drove the ball carrier backward. Below you’ll see a tackle for loss against Clemson in 2019.

Rucker is apparently already enrolled at Oklahoma State, but has not yet officially joined the offseason program. In addition, he is currently a walk-on and is not on scholarship at the moment, but my understanding is he will be placed on scholarship this fall.

The Cowboys have a lot of talent returning at safety, as Kanion Williams, Kobly Harvell-Peel, Jason Taylor II, Sean Michael Flanagan, Tanner McCalister, Thomas Harper and Tre Sterling are all still on the Cowboys’ roster. However, I think Rucker adds nice depth, and I could see him being a rotation piece as early as next season.

He still has several areas of his game he can improve, and I would like to see more play-making ability, but he is a very talented player who I think could have a bright future in Stillwater.

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