Rutgers announces Class of 2016 commits on National Signing Day
National Signing Day — the first day high school players make their verbal commitments official — marks the end of the speculation.
The Rutgers football team had 17 players sign National Letters of Intent to become Scarlet Knights Wednesday.
The Knights signed five linebackers, four offensive linemen, two defensive backs, two defensive lineman, two wide receivers, a running back and a quarterback.
Head coach Chris Ash believes the incoming class will help fill holes left in the roster.
“We filled some needs,” Ash said. “We had needs on the offensive line for the future. We signed four offensive linemen. We had current and future needs at linebacker, (and) we signed several linebackers. We had some needs at defensive back, so I’m happy about the guys we brought in to fill the immediate and future needs in positions we had identified early in the recruiting process.”
Officially named former head coach Kyle Flood’s successor Dec. 7, Ash didn’t come to Piscataway full-time until he completed his tenure as the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State after the Buckeyes won the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame.
Having just one month to reach recruits before Wednesday was one of many challenges he tackled upon taking the head coaching job he’s always wanted.
“We had a new staff in a new area, we had a blizzard to deal with, but I’m really excited how it all came together and how we got to this point with the young men we’re going to bring into this program to help us build this program the way we want it built,” Ash said.
Flood had received multiple verbal commitments while at the helm on the Banks.
Ash and his staff decided to honor them, showing the same loyalty he displayed by staying with Ohio State until its season ended.
“As we came in, there were several guys that were committed. We made the decision that we would honor those commitments if they chose to still come to Rutgers,” Ash said. “Some of them did, some of them did not, but I believe that was the right way to do it and we wouldn’t do it any other way.”
The most notable Flood recruit that jumped ship was Elite 11 quarterback Anthony Russo (Warminster, Pennsylvania), leaving the Scarlet Knights without a commit in the position.
Ash and his staff worked quickly to find another recruit to fill the hole. After offering three different players, dual-threat quarterback Tylin Oden (Columbia, Tennessee) was the one to make the jump, flipping from Louisville to the Knights.
While it wasn’t a priority to get a 2016 commit at the position, believing the current quarterbacks on the roster could win games, Ash is more than satisfied with getting Oden.
“It wasn’t a make-or-break position for us, but it was important to find the right type of quarterback,” he said. “If we didn’t sign one, we wouldn’t worry about it too much. We have some outstanding quarterbacks on this roster that we could win some games with, but I think we hit a home run with Tylin.”
Among the 17 recruits were two graduate transfers — former Boston College defensive lineman Malachi Moor (Hackettstown, New Jersey) and former Michigan cornerback Ross Taylor-Douglas (Avon, Ohio).
Demonstrating they know what it takes to succeed both on and off the field, Ash believes they provide invaluable experience right out of the gate.
“I think they could provide depth, they could provide competition in certain spots,” Ash said. “They’re guys who have gone through programs before, they know what it takes to be successful … I think they’re great character kids that could help the culture in the locker room.”
A big concern surrounding Ash and his coaching staff were its lack of ties to New Jersey.
While he was unable to reach the success Michigan — who signed five of the top eight Class of 2016 New Jersey recruits, according to 24/7Sports — had in acquiring the top recruits from the Garden State, Ash convinced 10 kids from the local state to play on the Banks.
“We’re very excited about (getting 10 New Jersey kids)," Ash said. "We’ve talked about the importance of being able to recruit right here in our home state and take New Jersey kids and build this program with kids from these programs and I think we’ve done an outstanding job of identifying the right type of kids that fit the culture of what we’re trying to build.”
While signing a National Letter of Intent is a monumental moment in the lives of the players making the jump from high school to college, Ash is quick to tell them it’s only the first step in a long process.
The Ottumwa, Iowa, native has told all his players there will be an even playing field — every starting position is up for grabs.
But nothing will be earned without hard work.
“The signing class that we just put together, every one of them have been told we are now getting into the preparation phase, which means they’re signed, they’re ours, get prepared to come in here and take somebody’s job,” Ash said. “Not everybody wants to compete. Some guys want things handed to them. We’re not going to hand things to anyone.”