Rutgers safety Christian Izien is a hard-hitting safety who is not afraid to get into the box and stop the run. In fact, despite standing at only 5’8″ 197 pounds, Izien finished his collegiate career as one of the most prolific tacklers in Rutgers history. At the East-West Shrine Bowl, Melanie Friedlander and I got to interview Izien and talk to him about who he is as a player.
Izien played five years at Rutgers and finished his career with 303 tackles, four interceptions, 19 pass breakups, and three fumble recoveries in 50 games. What really stands out is his 303 tackles, an extremely high number for a safety.
But, Izien said that was planned, as he knew his job when he got Rutgers would be to play in the box so he made sure to master it starting all the way back in high school.
“The transition [started] to more my senior year of high school, you know, the safety position and focusing more on defense,” Izien told Steelers Depot. “I knew I was going into Rutgers to be just that, you know, be in the box, be a physical player and I hold on to that. And in my four or five years there, I just played real physical football. All the coaches that came before me and that came after me and they seen [sic] that and kept me in that position.”
Not only do Izien’s tackling numbers show how physical he is, but when you watch you can see he lays the boom. His ability to play in the box as a safety is something that will be valued in the NFL. While free roaming safeties who make splash plays get more of the love, box safeties such as Terrell Edmunds and Budda Baker are very important to their teams. In fact, Izien says that Baker is one of the safeties he tries to model his game after.
“If I was [to] named two safety’s [it would] probably be Budda Baker one, and then, Antoine Winfield Jr.”
While both Baker and Winfield can play in the box, both are also effective in coverage, an aspect of the game Izien wants to improve in. With only four interceptions in five seasons, Izien knows to succeed in the NFL the aspect in his game he will need to improve the most is his cover skills.
“I would say just more transition to like more man coverage skills. You know, I’ve played a lot of like safety back deep and this last year I played a bunch of nickel. So just, you know, sharpen my man coverage skills, press man stuff where I’m able to cover to be versatile enough to play back deep and play up front as well.”
To Izien’s credit, he did well covering tight ends in particular during the week of practice leading up the Shrine Bowl. With him likely being a box safety in the NFL, it will be important for him to be able to cover athletic tight ends and slot receivers.
Another aspect of Izien’s game that will be appealing to NFL teams is that he plays special teams, which is something he is veery proud of. It makes him a more versatile player than someone who would only be used in defensive practices.
“I played gunner. I think I recorded like five tackles this year at gunner. So yeah, special teams is something I pride myself on.”
With his versatility to play box safety, deep safety, and special teams, Izien will be someone on may team’s radar come draft season. While I see him more as a box safety in the NFL, his ability to play anywhere will certainly be appealing to many teams.