July 20, 2018 | ° F

Decommits matter more than ratings

Photo by Shawn Smith |

Darius Hamilton was one of several at defensive tackle to produce as a true freshman.

A class full of only two- and three-star recruits wouldn’t be as big of a deal if that were the recruiting class the Rutgers football team intended.

Head coach Kyle Flood defended his recruiting class, in which 13 players de-committed, with an optimistic outlook that Rutgers is looking forward to.

It also mattered little to Flood that none of the recruits hold a four-star rating, according to Rivals.

“You are doing the best job you can as a recruiter to say, ‘OK, here’s where this player is right now when he’s in high school, how much better is he going to get in our system?’” Flood said. “Because how much better he gets in our system might not be the same as how much better he gets in another system.”

The problem for the Scarlet Knights is this isn’t the recruiting class they wanted. Three four-star recruits who de-committed — quarterback Tyler Wiegers, running back Jonathan Hilliman and wide receiver Saeed Blacknall — signed yesterday with Iowa, Boston College and Penn State, respectively.

The star-ranking system certainly contains flaws, and Rutgers developed several two-star recruits into NFL players.

But now it is a matter of how future recruits perceive the myriad of de-commitments when considering Rutgers. If other four-star commitments realize that several recruits of their caliber reconsidered Rutgers and chose other schools, that may make them change their minds.

If the Knights expect to compete in the Big Ten, it is vital to be right with those teams in terms of recruiting.

Rutgers’ recruiting class ranks 57th nationally, according to Rivals. Only four of the Big Ten’s current 12 teams rank lower.

Three Big Ten teams yesterday landed one five-star recruit. All Big Ten teams landed at least one four-star recruit, besides Illinois.

The Big Ten teams that visit High Point Solutions Stadium next year — Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana — combined for 18 four-star recruits this year.

Arguably the most important aspect for recruits overall is Flood developing a reputation as a winning coach. Recruiting is a game of its own, in which schools and coaches compete to land the players they want.

When Rutgers received the nation’s 24th-best recruiting class in 2012 that was essentially a victory for the program. When defensive tackle Darius Hamilton became the program’s first — and still only — five-star recruit, that was a win, too.

This recruiting class can still end up a good one, depending on what they accomplish in college. In fact, landing highly touted recruits doesn’t ensure success.

Rutgers landed four four-star players in 2011: running back Savon Huggins, defensive end Djwany Mera, wide receiver Miles Shuler and defensive tackle-turned-fullback Marquise Wright.

Shuler and Wright are no longer with the program. Huggins considered transferring, too. Mera, entering his redshirt junior year, still has time to make his mark.

It can also be just as harmful for recruits of decent ranking to fail at Rutgers than to simply go elsewhere, although that obviously shouldn’t stop the Knights from pursuing them — and it hasn’t.

But de-commitments reflect a lack of stability in the recruiting process in the first place.

“What’s happened in college athletics right now is in recruiting we have a flawed system,” Flood said. “And there’s some really good people like [former Texas head coach] Mack Brown who are leading the charge to try to rectify that situation. But when you live in a world where you hear words like ‘soft commitment,’ I don’t really know what that means. Or on the other side of it words like ‘committable offer.’”

It could mean Rutgers needs to change how it recruits if de-commitment is more a trend than an anomaly. If that keeps happening, that matters more than the recruits’ stars.

By Josh Bakan

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