Drew Morgan began with the Rutgers men’s soccer team as a midfielder, but he might not play that position again.
The freshman moved to defender after two games once senior Joe Setchell went down with a leg injury. Three games later, Morgan is part of a defensive backfield that has put together consecutive shutouts.
“Drew has been fantastic,” said head coach Dan Donigan. “He’s given us more than we anticipated, to be quite honest. He’s been able to come in and fill several voids for us. Having three true freshmen along the back line, I think that shows a lot about those kids.”
Setchell started 18 games last season and was one of the more experienced pieces returning to this year’s defense, along with senior defender Dragan Naumoski and senior goalie Kevin McMullen.
Morgan started at midfield for two games before he took Setchell’s position and made the Scarlet Knights defense a little less experienced.
But that was as far as Donigan had to search for the answer of replacing Setchell. Morgan has played all 270 minutes since making the position change.
Morgan shares a back line with freshmen Mitchell Taintor and Ross Tetro, who have helped Rutgers allow only 0.8 goals per game, second in the Big East behind Connecticut.
Morgan gained experience in the midfield and back four from St. Pius X Catholic High School (Ga.), so it did not take him long to familiarize himself with defense at Rutgers.
“I’ve played defense before, so it hasn’t been hard,” Morgan said. “Everyone else back there has also done a great job.”
The Atlanta native said he looked at mostly southern schools before deciding on Rutgers, with Bucknell his other option up north.
All Morgan knew was that he was not going to stay in Georgia.
The biggest schools in the state are Georgia State, Georgia Southern and Georgia. Georgia State and Georgia Southern do not have soccer programs. Georgia only has a club team because the Southeastern Conference does not have soccer teams.
Morgan noticed and Rutgers last year, when it made the Sweet 16 and finished with a 10-7-4 record, and gave it serious consideration.
“I liked Rutgers because they had a very good soccer program, especially after last year,” Morgan said. “We haven’t gotten off to a fast start this year, but we’re coming around. And I really liked all the coaches, and it seemed like a good place to go to school.”
Setchell’s injury is day-to-day, and Donigan does not know when or if he will return. Donigan is also uncertain of whether Morgan will be a defender or midfielder if Setchell returns.
“We’re quite happy with Drew [at defender],” Donigan said. “Drew is a very defensive-minded midfielder. If or when Joe comes back, we’re going to have some options.”
Donigan, for now, is content with Morgan being the third freshman in a young yet effective defensive backfield.
“Those guys just know what’s going on in the back line,” Donigan said. “From a performance standpoint, they’ve been holding their own among some of the best strikers they’ve been playing against.”