Early enrollees adjust to college life in first semester at Rutgers
Signing a National Letter of Intent is a dream for most high school football players across the country.
Putting pen to paper on National Signing Day ends the draining recruiting process and ensures the student of the school he'll be attending for the next few years of his career.
For most recruits, NSD marks the beginning of an unbearable wait as they finish their final semesters of high school before reporting to training camp in late August.
That is not an issue for those who graduate high school early.
Four of the 19 recruits who signed to the Rutgers football team on Feb. 3 have already enrolled to the University for the spring semester, allowing them to participate in workouts leading up to and including spring practice.
Getting a head start on the rest of their recruiting class has some perks.
“(Arriving on campus early is) huge,” said mid-year enrollee linebacker Jonathan Pollock. “Just getting acclimated, honestly, just to the future for the playbook and how they like to do things. Just little etiquette things — don’t step on the 'R', run 2 yards past the line — just little things (the other recruits) will have to learn.”
The Orlando, Florida, native is one of the multiple recruits who had originally committed to Rutgers when it was led by former head coach Kyle Flood. While some jumped ship and recommitted following Flood's firing and current head coach Chris Ash’s hiring, seven, including Pollock, stuck around.
He bought into Ash’s vision for the future, and feels a sense of pride in maintaining his commitment to the Scarlet Knights.
“Yeah, definitely,” Pollock said when asked if he’s proud of his loyalty. “I feel like I stuck through a lot, and like coach Ash says, things are going to get a lot better. Things are going to get better for the fans, for the players for the coaches. I feel like I’m part of a tradition that’s coming up, especially in the Big Ten, and I feel like a lot of things are going to get better fast.”
Of the four mid-year enrollees, three of them come in listed as linebackers.
While just one — Elorm Lumor — was recruited by Ash, the first-year head coach is pleased to receive new players in a position of need.
“Well, we have immediate needs (at linebacker),” Ash said. “We have needs right now for this football team going into the 2016 season, and we got future needs that we’re going to have to address at that position. Some of the linebackers that we signed are tall, they got length, they can run, they got growth potential …”
Lumor is the only one of his fellow spring enrollees to have gone through the prep-school route.
A former Temple commit, the Piscataway native attended Milford Academy in New Berlin, New York, for a semester before enrolling at Rutgers. After a strengthening process at the Academy, he’s ready to play for his hometown team.
“It helped me because it made me tougher as a person. Milford’s tough, so it made me smarter, stronger as a person so ultimately, I appreciated it in the long run,” Lumor said. “(Rutgers) was a great fit because it was at home, I believe in the coaching staff and it’s just a great chance to ball for my city.”
After his pseudo-redshirt year, his ambition upon getting on campus is clear — playing right away.
“Yeah, definitely (playing right away is a goal),” Lumor said. “As long as I grind and do what I gotta do, listen to my coaching staff, ultimately, my goal will be achieved.”
The other three spring semester startups didn’t set a starting spot as a goal, or at least they didn’t say as much.
Pollock said his goal was to come in, work hard and give “110 percent,” while running back Trey Sneed and linebacker Solomon Manning gave no indication their ultimate goal was to grab a starting spot on Saturday afternoons next fall.
Regardless of their aspirations, Ash refused to comment on how “game-ready” the recruits are before seeing them in action.
While he would not tell recruits what their immediate roles would be upon arriving on campus, he did make one promise to every single one of them.
“The only thing I’m going to promise recruits is every single one that’s going to come into this program, you’re going to have a chance to compete for playing time,” Ash said. “That’s part of the competitive environment that we want to create here in this program … the signing class that we just put together, every one of them have been told we’re in the preparation phase, which means they’re signed, they’re ours, get ready to come in and take somebody’s job.”
Regardless of where he falls on the depth chart, Pollock is just happy to be here.
With a fellow Florida freshman in Sneed, as well as a fellow Orlando native in men's basketball freshman forward Jonathan Laurent by his side on the Banks, he's surrounded by familiar faces in a school he's wanted to attend to play a game he loves.
“It’s awesome. I’ve always really wanted to come here," Pollock said. "I love this place a lot, I consider it my home ... I got my boy Trey (Sneed) from Florida, so, a lot of fun. It’s football, man. Everybody talks about these little things, but at the end of the day, it’s just football.”