BY MIKE VORKUNOV
Three days into training camp and Devin McCourty is already tired of being asked what it feels like to be playing without his twin brother Jason.
"Everyone asks me that," McCourty said of how often that question is brought up to him.
For the record, it's something different for him, but McCourty is getting used to it.
The two have spent the previous four years together at Rutgers, the last two opposite each other as the starting cornerbacks. Now Jason is in the NFL, trying to make an impression after being selected in the sixth round by the Tennessee Titans. Devin is still wearing the scarlet and white, as a fifth year senior.
But he isn't suffering from any separation anxiety. He knows this day has been a long time coming.
"You're used to being around someone your whole life, it's different," McCourty said. "But growing up we knew eventually we'd have to go our own ways."
And Devin isn't sweating it because he's busy with a new role that should take up any time he would spend pining for the old days.
As far and away the most experienced member of the secondary, McCourty has a new responsibility to be a leader among the defensive backs, along with the entire defense.
"Without a doubt Devin is a leader in the secondary," coach Greg Schiano said of McCourty.Along with linebacker Ryan D'Imperio, Schiano is counting on McCourty to not only lead the defense but the whole team.
This role hasn't been thrust upon McCourty. He and Schiano have had meetings throughout his four years at Rutgers about taking on a leadership role, so this year has been the end result of a linear development.
"It was a given that I had to come in this season and be a leader," McCourty said. "Just looking around, I wanna be a leader for this team and get guys going."
He has relished the opportunity. The Nanuet, N.Y. native is making an effort to be more vocal on the field. During team meetings, McCourty sits with the freshmen cornerbacks and pays attention to how well they understand the new information thrown at them by gauging their facial expressions. If they don't get it, he works with them so they will.
"He's great. From day one since I've been here he's been helping me out. Him and his brother," said Joe Lefeged. "Dev he's a talented player, he's an even better leader. Especially off the field."
McCourty's leadership will prove important because of how inexperienced the secondary is. Lefeged will start at strong safety, but he has never held the starting position to himself as he and Zaire Kitchen split time last year. Kitchen will start at free safety, but will have to change positions in the process.
The starting cornerback position opposite McCourty is still in question. Fifth-year senior Billy Anderson is at the top of the depth chart going into camp, but has only played 10 games so far in his Rutgers career. Junior Brandon Bing and freshmen Logan Ryans and Darrell Givens will also vie for the role.
Still, McCourty is confident in the secondary.
"We're doing pretty well," McCourty said of how the group has progressed so far this week. "We're a group of guys who haven't all started but we've all played together for a while. Billy been here for five years, just like me. This is going on Joe's third year. Zaire [Kitchen]'s a senior also, so Zaire started some games last year. Joe also. As a group we're pretty good and we've been together a lot."