RU inks new recruiting class
A few months ago, this was supposed to be the day the Rutgers football team officially announced arguably its best recruiting class in school history.
ESPN ranked the Scarlet Knights’ group of 22 verbally committed high school prospects 18th nationally in early November. Rivals rated five of Rutgers’ commits as four-star recruits.
That was before the Knights plummeted into a dreary three-game losing skid, nearly missed a bowl game and bullying allegations within the program surfaced surrounding former defensive coordinator Dave Cohen.
Over the next several weeks, all five of Rutgers’ four-star recruits de-committed, including quarterback Tyler Wiegers and wide receiver Saeed Blacknall.
In total, 13 prospects withdrew verbal commitments, and Rutgers’ class ranking dipped below ESPN’s top 40.
The Knights finally inked 20 signed letters of intent yesterday on National Signing Day. Along with five early enrollees, it finalized the nation’s 57th-best recruiting class, according to Rivals.
In his 20-minute press conference yesterday, head coach Kyle Flood made only one concession when addressing criticism of the class’ numerous de-commitments.
“The last 14 months have created a lot of challenges for us here at our University,” Flood said. “We’ve come through those now, and these 26 players that are committed to playing in our program, [they] believe in our program and believe in this University. Now we get to go forward as a family and turn the page for the first time looking towards the 2014 season, our inaugural season in the Big Ten, and really move on to the next chapter of Rutgers football.”
Rutgers’ recruiting class includes eight in-state players, seven from Florida, three from New York, two from Minnesota and Pennsylvania and one from four other distant states.
The biggest area the Knights addressed was up front, landing five defensive and four offensive linemen. Each offensive lineman measures out at no less than 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds. Three hail from outside New Jersey.
Rutgers also added two tight ends and four linebackers, other positions Flood said Jan. 6 via teleconference needed more depth.
Scout.com rated 6-foot-5, 230-pound tight end George Behr as the eighth-best prospect in Minnesota, while three-star tight end Logan Lister played high school ball in Texas.
“That is probably the biggest impact the Big Ten has had on us in recruiting,” Flood said. “I think it’s given us access to other areas and given us openings where there’s going to be some players every year from our nontraditional areas that want to be part of ... a great conference like the Big Ten and have an opportunity to play for Big Ten championships.”
Still, Flood acknowledged recruiting starts at home.
Rutgers let some of New Jersey’s best prospects, including Blacknall, wide receiver Adonis Jennings and safety Kiy Hester, slip away.
In light of the program’s numerous de-commitments, Flood called for an earlier signing period to help eliminate the ambiguity of verbal commitments.
He also dispelled notions he pulled any players’ scholarship offers.
“When a player commits to us, we take a scholarship and we put it aside,” Flood said. “When that player decides to visit other places, well, then we have to look at other players.”
Above all else, Flood insisted that recruiting is about relationships and finding the right people for Rutgers’ system.
He has repeatedly asserted that how a player gets recruiting means little once they join the program, noting that several former two-star recruited Knights have gone to the NFL.
To those ends, Flood considered National Signing Day a success.
“What I would say is with this class, with this group of 26 players,” Flood said, “I’m really excited about how much better I think they can get in our system and really excited about how good they are right now on film.”
Knight Note: Junior Tejay Johnson will switch from safety to wide receiver this season, Flood announced.
Johnson switched from cornerback to free safety last training camp. He only recorded 33 tackles and three pass breakups last year.
Flood announced this when discussing his recruiting class lacking pure wideouts.
For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Greg Johnson on Twitter @GregJohnsonRU. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.