Just an outstanding class. Top notch. Grade A. The class is made up of tremendous athletes who showed exceptional character and stuck with Rutgers even after the head coach left. And for that, they will always have a special place in my heart.
So the GOOD news is: we signed a damn good class during a year that saw us go 9-4 and watched our conference mates go on their separate ways, leaving us in the Conference of Misfit Toys. The BAD news is that this stuff normally has a year or so lag on it...so I’m not really looking forward to next year’s NSD. Might not be a great year.
But we got top-notch talent in positions of dire need, and we did it in on the heels of the most devastating departure (departures?) the program has ever faced. Is that succinct enough for you? If so...skip down to the recruits. If not, read on.
RASSoR (Rutgers Adjusted Sliding Scale of Recruiting): 9.3
Our first ever RASSoR above a nine, and a solid .5 points higher than last year. Is there still room for improvement? Of course there is—the RASSoR scale goes to 10. But this class is easily the best class to ever grace the Bank. I know you've heard this before, so let me prove it to you with my "Ten Reasons Why This Is the Best Class Rutgers has Ever Had...Ever:"
Reason #1) ESPN.com (a tiny little division of Disney) ranked us as the No. 24 class in the nation, higher than we had ever been ranked by ESPN.com before.
Reason #2) Rivals.com (a tiny little division of Yahoo!) ALSO ranked our class as the No. 24 class in the nation, higher than we have ever been ranked before. It’s nice to see consensus among the two, isn’t it?
Sure, some schools like USC, Alabama and Florida State wrinkle their nose at such a ranking, but schools like Arkansas (No. 33), North Carolina (No. 41), Pitt, WVU, USF, Cincy, and Penn State (conveniently lumped together at No. 44-49, respectively)? Those guys? They’re jealous. We did just fine.
Reason #3) Our class was small—19 players in total (kind of 20 if you count transfer RJ Dill, but we'll just say 19). That's about 75 percent of a full class, "full" being the 25-man limit the NCAA puts on a particular class. Contrast that with teams whose classes ranked above ours, like Texas (28 commits), Virginia Tech (28 commits) and Miami (33 commits).
Now, I won't bore you with the details of gray-shirting and academic non-qualifiers and how these schools find loopholes to support their over-signing of players...just know that's something Rutgers DIDN'T do. So, we must have gotten some quality players to have only 19 commits and be ranked No. 24.
Reason #4) The size of the class (again, Rutgers' class was small) is actually a very key metric in the recruiting rankings, which kind of makes sense. Obviously, you'd rather have a class of two 3-star guys as opposed to just one, right? So, the fact that we ended up as high as we did with a small class speaks volumes to the quality of the players we landed. Is this sort of the same idea as No. 3? Kind of, but it’s important to stress the difficulty in getting a high ranking with a small class.
Reason #5) We landed exactly ONE 2-star player, and it was our kicker—Kyle Federico (it should be noted that the highest rated kicker in the entire country is still only a 3-star guy with a 5.5 Rivals Rating, and he's going to Duke—not exactly a football factory). On top of that, there are only eight 3-star kickers in the nation, so contrast that with the fact that there are FORTY NINE 4-star-plus wide receivers, and it's not really an indictment of Mr. Federico, but more of a sign that nobody really cares about ranking kickers (that’s a long aside about kickers).
So, kickers aside, this class has no 2-star players, which means very few risks, very few gambles, fewer projects, fewer "well, the coaches must have seen something in him at the summer camps." Very solid group of football players.
Reason #6) We have the highest average-star-rating-per-player we have ever had, at 3.26. Up until now, we had never broken the 3.0 barrier, although we did reach that mark exactly in 2009. But a .26 improvement over our previous best? That’s big. That’s HUGE. That’s Jessie Owens laying the towel down before the board and still winning gold. Just an emphatic leap into a new class of class.
Reason #7) We brought in eight of the NJ Top 15 (over half, for the mathematically disinclined) AND...the No. 1 recruit in New Jersey AGAIN...AND...continued our pipeline to some of the best private schools in the nation.
Reason #8) We landed our first EVER 5-star recruit in DE/DT Darius Hamilton.
Reason #9) On top of that, we landed four 4-stars, putting our total number of players at 4-stars or above at five—our highest ever.
Reason #10) Our average Rivals Ranking was 5.67, which is our highest ranking ever—although surprisingly, not all that much higher than last year's 5.60. Also, don't tell our kicker, but if you take him out of the class, we boost our average stars to 3.33 and RR to 5.69. Just sayin'.
So, in the interest of brevity (my strong point, obviously), we landed our best player EVER, the largest number of 4-stars or above EVER, the fewest number of two stars EVER and achieved our highest recruiting class ranking EVER—and not just by me, but by people who actually get paid to do this.
AND WE DID ALL THAT JUST SIX DAYS AFTER OUR HEAD COACH QUIT ON US. I mean...I guess that's less quantitative and more qualitative and that's why I left it off the list, but, man, somehow, after a week of sitting on pins and needles waiting for Highpoint Solutions Stadium to actually crumble to the ground, this class pulled through in a ridiculous show of community and commitment and faxed in their letters. Absurd.
On the one hand, I'm proud of the team because it was obviously either a blind spot or a challenge to bring in quality OLs, and they came through in spectacular fashion. On the other hand, it was also such an obvious team need that if they DIDN'T land a great OL, I personally would have penned transfer requests for our quarterbacks out of concerns for their safety.
Schiano may never have completed that wall around New Jersey, but as a parting gift, he left behind the wall he should have been building all along—the one in front of our quarterback and averaging 6’4” and 300 pounds across. The offensive line class was ranked as the No. 10 OL class in the nation, partially because we brought in a full line, but also because it has some serious talent.
They are headlined by two 4-star Pennsy bulldozers (J.J. Denman and Chris Mueller), the sixth best center in the country in Brandon Arcidiacono, a 3-star Washington, DC lineman with a mean streak and a great attitude (more on him later) in Derrick Nelson and a stud 3-star NJ guy that many think could have the highest ceiling of them all (Ryan Brodie).
Throw in Maryland transfer (and a 3 year starter on the line for the Terps) RJ Dill and you’ve got yourself a deep and talented O-line class.
Honorable Mention: Wide Receiver. For a few reasons: one, because we brought in four of them (maybe more with the athletes, who knows?), so we’ve got some depth. But also because of the talent there: headliner is 4-star Bosco talent and all-around nice guy, Leonte Carroo, followed by 3 guys who just fell short of that fourth star in Ruhann Peele (Rutgers’ first commit), Ian Thomas (one of Rutgers’ last commits) and Carlton Agudosi, a lanky 6’6” receiver in the mold of Brandon Coleman.
It’s also possible that 3-star ATH Delon Stephenson lands in the slot, where he could be a very dangerous playmaker.
Tight End. That’s easy. We had one, but then we lost one, so we didn’t get one. Thanks, Mike.
Dishonorable mention: Defensive backs. Well, we didn’t land any safeties, so that’s a downer. And we needed a corner, and it looked like the only player we were going to sign was Davon Jacobs—a nice player, but not enough to make you say, “Oh, okay, we’re set at that position.”
Our depth was somewhat buoyed by the NSD addition of Jevon Tyree who is, again, a nice player that just doesn’t make me feel like we’ve got our bases covered. So hopefully one of them will work out, but both TE and DB will be positions of need in 2013.
STRAIGHT UP STAR OF THE CLASS
Darius Hamilton. He’s a 5-star player! He might have had 50 offers. He might have had more than that. He’s the son of local NFL star Keith Hamilton.
He even comes ready with own nickname: “The Technician”.
So he’s probably not the 6’4” at which he is listed, and he isn’t a flash off the snap...but he’s relentless in his pursuit, he has the ability to physically impose his will—and he is so smart at the position already that he should early playing time next season.
Honorable mention: Tougher call, but I think I’m going to go with Quanzell Lambert. If you had to design a high school kid to look and play like a MLB, you could probably use Quanzell as the mold. Quanzell also comes ready with his own nickname: “Quanzilla”...or “Quan-jira”, for those of you who insist on authenticity.
So, a note to future recruits—if you want to be considered for the “Straight Up Star of the Class” category, it doesn’t hurt to have a cool nickname.
One could make an argument for Ryan Brodie who, like Kaleb Johnson, is a 4-star player trapped in a 3-star rating. That said, I think judging by the general sentiment of the fanbase (yes, I take informal polls) and the fact that Rutgers was his only offer, I’ll go with Delon Stephenson.
He’s got the speed and moves to play the slot, he could end up as a terrific corner and there’s a good chance he’ll end up fielding punts/kicks for us. He might have some grade issues, though, which likely hindered his offers, so keep your fingers crossed that he’s in our summer camp.
Honorable mention: Desmon Peoples. A smaller back, but agile with great cutting ability. Apparently, Urban Meyer was recruiting this kid a few years back (when Urban was at Florida) and might have even tried to get back in the game late when he was hired at Ohio State. I’m not saying we beat out Urban Meyer for Peoples, just that Urban recognizes talent when he sees it—so maybe the kid’s better than a low 3-star RB.
I’m going with 3-star Davon Jacobs. I like his speed. I like his playmaking. Heck, I even like his film. I don’t know what it is, really. Maybe it’s his size: I don’t know if he has the build to warrant his offer list, which is both extensive and impressive.
Just like last year, there are some that say this guy might be the most UNDERrated kid in our class, but I’m not buying that just yet. I’m a little leery of this one, this could be Quran Pratt 2.0 and this guy could make me look like a jerk.
It’s rare to be able to go back in time to fix your mistakes, so when you have the chance to set something straight, you need to make the most of it. The most annoying thing about doing a terrible job of offensive line recruiting is that it can take YEARS to remedy.
There’s just no such thing as a quick fix for an offensive line: even landing a class like ours can mean pressing young lineman into service before they’re ready, often against far more developed 22-year-old D linemen.
Yet, in probably our most underrated offseason move, we hopped into the DeLorean, punched in “Feb. 6, 2008”, and zoomed back in time to pick up a 6’7” 300-pound offensive lineman.
A belated “Welcome to the Banks!” goes out to RJ Dill! So what has Dill been up to the last 3 years? Oh, nothin’ much, just STARTING at offensive tackle in 33 games for the Maryland Terrapins, that’s all. And now he’s transferred to Rutgers as a graduate student. Just a FANTASTIC pickup.
You know what’s funny, though? As bad as the O-line was, we somehow had two All-Big East caliber players on our squad—offensive guard Art Forst was All-First Team and guard Des Wynn was All Second Team.
This might be akin to when they gave Terry Shea the "Coach of the Year" honors back in '95. Like a subtle jab where other teams' coaches say, "Yeah, whatever you're doing...keep doing it!" and then laughing all the way back to their chalkboards.
THE NAME GAME
Best Named Rutgers Commit: MLB Quanzell Lambert
Almost the Best Named Rutgers Commit: LB Jazzmar Clax (offered as walk-on)
Best Named Overall 2012 Recruit (Excluding those of Polynesian descent): Boston College Offensive Tackle Win Homer
Early Lead for 2013 Best Named Overall: OLB Money Hunter (Torii Hunter’s son, FYI)
ROCK ON, WALK ON
One of the best indicators of the program’s progress is the quality of the walk-on talent we have gotten over the last few years. The prime example this past season was the hard-running, power-blocking, pass-catching, position-owning and completely unheralded fullback Michael Burton.
Paul James, another walk-on running back, is a promising young player who made some noise on the practice field last year with his bruising running style.
Continuing the tradition this year is massive OT Sean Henigan of Bridgeton, NJ. At 6'7'', 330, Mr. Henigan had early offers to UNC and Duke, but those spots filled quickly. This is a GREAT pickup for a walk-on.
We are also looking to take QB Grant Heyman, a 6’4” 205-pound dual-threat quarterback. And Rutgers should also be adding the slight-but-blazing athlete from Montclair, Aubrey Lewis, who was receiving steady interest before he injured his knee. And there’s a chance we could also bring in prep product, 6’3” 310lb lineman Dane Dudick—yet another big body.
We were this close to having Jazzmar Clax as a preferred walk-on, but he took a full ‘ship at UConn instead.
What I Like
I think what I like best about this class is the efficiency. More than 25 percent of our recruits are 4-stars or higher, and about 58 percent of the class is a high 3-star or above. The rest of the guys are all basically 3-stars. That’s efficient. Minimal waste.
I feel like the staff did a great job of landing high-end talent while limiting the low-end risks, which is key in a smaller class. And it probably goes without saying that I am over the moon about our incoming offensive linemen.
What I Like About the New Coaching Staff
I like that our coaches can do some serious name-dropping out on the recruiting trail. Dave Brock coached arguably the best receiver on the Super Bowl champion Giants in Hakeem Nicks, as well as Green Bay revelation Jordy Nelson.
Jeff Comissiong coached Pro Bowl DT and NJ native, BJ Raji, while Ben Simrans coached my fantasy team backup, Javon Ringer (I had such high hopes for him). Plus, our new tight ends coach, Darnell Dinkins, earned a Super Bowl ring as a tight end with the Saints a few years ago.
Most of the new coaches have Jersey roots in some way or another, which should help. And with better delegation under the new Flood regime, I can see the coaches getting excited to step up and take ownership of their areas.
What I Don’t Like
Speed. I guess “class speed” is one of those things that suffers when you recruit a ton of offensive linemen. I just don’t see any whippets on either side of the ball, although I do see talent.
What else, what else, what else...oh, right, the untimely and hasty departure of our head coach, the architect behind our entire program, and his decision to take our top two recruiting specialists with him.
Honorable Mention: We may have taken on a few more academic risks than we normally would have—which would explain the fact that we signed 19 kids in a class that Schiano himself came out and said would probably only have 15 or 16 kids.
What I Don’t Like About the New Coaching Staff
Enjoy it while it lasts. Turnover is turnover, no matter how you cut it. Not only are we losing just about every established connection at every local high school, but we are losing two of the very best in the business in PJ Fleck and Jeff Hafley. Can we resuscitate the pipelines? Sure we can—but it’s going to be a hard road ahead, particularly if we have a slow start on the field. I definitely foresee a step back on the recruiting front next year.
Okay, that’s a lot of one man’s opinion. It’s time to let another man weigh in (and then I will weigh in on his weigh in’s). So, lady (singular) and gentlemen, let’s meet the Twenty Twelves:
Darius Hamilton, DE, 5-star, 6.1 RR, 6-4, 245, Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, NJ)
Flood says: “I’ve seen Darius play live, and he is as disruptive a force as I’ve ever seen at the high school level. A guy who makes plays in the line of scrimmage on the interior, makes plays rushing the passer, he makes plays sideline to sideline. We’re really excited to have Darius in our program today.”
Jimmy says: This is just a tremendous recruit from both a football standpoint and a PR standpoint. This guy is our biggest signing since Paul Robeson sent telegraphs and nickelodeons in the Northeast abuzz. He had offers from USC, Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma...literally, he could have gone to any of the 120 1-A schools in the country, and he committed just a day before NSD in front of regional television cameras. The guy has the bloodlines, the size, the skills, the nickname, and the drive to succeed early and (hopefully) often. He’s ALSO already a regular at the Hale Center gym and is very motivated to play this coming fall."
Chris Muller, OL, 4-star, 5.9 RR, 6-6, 287, Boyertown Area (PA)
Flood says: “I would put Chris in the same classification as Ryan Brodie, he’s another guy who, going forward, you say he has the skill set to be a left tackle. He’s exceptionally strong, really runs well for a guy of his size. In this recruiting class, he was a tremendous leader for us. He and Darius Hamilton and many others really [held] this recruiting class together over the last four or five days. You guys are going to enjoy being around Chris, he’s got a good personality.”
Jimmy says: "This guy is a candidate for most underrated just because I love his story. Penn State was hot on this guy and putting pressure on him to commit (this is pre-Sandusky scandal, back when Penn State actually had a decent class) and Muller didn’t like being pushed around. They gave him a deadline, he didn’t commit to them, missed the deadline, and then committed to Rutgers the very next day—almost like a big slap across the face to them, saying, “Oh, I AM ready to commit, I just don’t like you guys being pricks about it.
"Another tremendous recruit in an obvious position of need, tons of offers, all that...but where he is really underrated is as a recruiter. He committed early (in June, the same day we learned that Ron Artest was changing his name to Metta World Peace), worked the phones with everybody, and was instrumental in landing our Pennsy guys and the O-linemen. He (and the rest of the PA kids, oddly) were HUGE in voicing their commitments to Rutgers after Schiano’s departure, and instrumental in keeping the rest of the class committed as well. He moves very well for his size, but might be better suited to playing guard instead of tackle. Regardless, he was a huge brick in our recruiting wall this year."
Leonte Carroo, WR, 4-star, 5.8 RR, 6-1, 205, Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, NJ)
Flood says: “Leonte is lightning fast. All American track athlete, plays on their basketball team, excellent hands, great ball skills. A strong finisher, he knows how to finish.”
Jimmy says: "I like everything about Leonte Carroo. Great athlete? Check. 4-star wide receiver? Check. Army All American? Check. College-level ready speed and physicality? Check. But it might be the off-field stuff I like the best. After he committed, he was (again) one of our best recruiters with the other recruits, even helping to reel in Ian Thomas, a guy who plays the same position as Leonte.
"He’s mentioned that Rutgers was his dream school since eighth grade. And after Schiano left, he talked about committing to the program, not a single man—which is probably a credit to both Carroo and Schiano, actually. And according to his coach, his best asset is his desire to improve himself. If you had to design the perfect recruit, it might come out looking a lot like Leonte Carroo."
J.J. Denman, OL, 4-star, 5.8 RR, 6-7, 305, Pennsbury (Fairless Hills, PA)
Flood says: “J.J. is a young man that I had in camp two years, and JJ is a roadgrader-type offensive lineman. Big, strong, barrel-chested, physical, a guy who plays with an attitude. If you’re an offensive line coach, that’s the kind of guy you want to start with.”
Jimmy says: "With Muller, Arcidiacono, and Nelson committed, and Brodie a strong lean, we always looked to have a “darn good” OL class. Denman, a late January commit, was the icing on the cherry on the whipped cream on top. This guy is a terror, just a huge lineman in (again!) a position of need.
"Originally committed to PSU, he looked around after the Sandusky story broke, and quickly switched over to Wisconsin—which made sense, he is a typical Wisconsin-type kid, just a huge guy with great brute strength. Some Wisky fans even considered him their best recruit.
"Somehow, though, Rutgers was able to get him on an official and he just really connected with the guys on the team and his fellow commits, so then he switched to Rutgers. How often does THAT happen? The guy is a great talent, and I would love a redshirt for him, but he might see time this year. Oh, and as weird as I am, I would never comment on a high school kid’s “barrel chest”. That’s just weird, Coach Flood."
Quanzell Lambert, LB, 4-star, 5.8 RR, 6-2, 230, Timber Creek (Sicklerville, NJ)
Flood says: “Quanzell is...he is going to be our middle linebacker. He is going to be the guy who makes the calls, makes the adjustments. And then ultimately when the ball is snapped, he makes the plays.”
Jimmy says: That “WHAM!” sound you heard at the beginning of January? That was just Quanzilla smacking down a running back at the Semper Fi All-American game. Or maybe that sound was him kickstarting our homestretch of January recruiting.
"Just a great pickup from a heat-seeking missile of a middle linebacker, an impressive physical specimen—and one that seemed destined to never happen. As much as Quanzell liked our coaches, our program and our school (he wants to be a mechanical engineer and really enjoyed seeing some students working on building cars), he seemed like a goner. Alabama was very interested early on, and it didn’t help that he is good friends with Quinton Alston, a 2011 kid that never got a Rutgers offer and ended up at Iowa. Some in the Alston clan were bitter and were in Q’s ear constantly about it.
"Somehow, through all of that, we locked him up late in the process, which is doubly great because Timber Creek looks to have possibly five D-1 kids on the team next year—like 2013’s version of Don Bosco—and many of his teammates look up to him."
Carlton Agudosi, WR, 3-star, 5.7 RR, 6-6, 203, Franklin, NJ
Flood says: “Carlton is cut from the same mold as Brandon Coleman, already in our program. Tall, long, a guy who is going to win the one-on-one matchups. A guy who should be able to go up and get the deep balls, and we’re really excited about having him in our program.”
Jimmy says: "What does Carlton bring to the table? He has great size for a wide receiver, with almost disturbingly long arms. And while he isn’t smooth, he does a nice job of adjusting his body and going up and attacking the ball in the air. However, like Brandon Coleman, he might need a year or two of seasoning and bulking up before he becomes the weapon we hope he can be. While his long strides make him a downfield threat, he looks a little gangly in his route running.
"On top of that, his grades were pretty awful early in his high school career, and while he has made strides, he might need to focus on academics first when he arrives on campus. Once he puts it all together, though, he could be a fantastic addition to our arsenal of receivers. If he bulks up enough, he could even fill the void at tight end. Regardless, I just want him to score a lot because I’m hoping to GOD that his touchdown dance is “The Carlton”.
Ryan Brodie, OL, 3-star, 5.7 RR, 6-5, 260, Long Branch, NJ
Flood says: “Ryan is going to be one of two guys that will be your prototypical NFL-type left tackles. I’ve had Ryan in our camp, and he really has all the tools, he’s got the skill set that you’re looking for in an offensive lineman. He’s got the height and the size and the length and he’s got the ability to change directions, he’s got the balance, keeps his body centered. He is a player that is going to be fun to watch for a long time.”
Jimmy says: "I hope that Coach Flood works Brodie HARD this summer, and really make him sweat—because Brodie made US sweat it out this entire year. Supposedly a "lock" back in April, he finally announced less than a week before NSD. I have pit stains on my undershirts that I can directly attribute to him. But he is a huge pickup for our O-line (unbelievable that he’s our THIRD highest-rated OL) and some think he may have the highest ceiling out of all of them.
"I’m very excited about this kid, PLUS...he is the frontrunner to replace San San Te in the “varying hairstyles” department. We’ve seen the long and curly, a hightop fade, the long dreads, a blowout—but Brodie also ACCESSORIZES, sometimes putting on those black thick-rimmed geek-chic glasses that you can pull off if you’re a "hipster," if you're 5’8” and 120 pounds, OR if you're 6'5", 300lbs—because who is going to tell you otherwise?
Steve Longa, LB, 3-star, 5.7 RR, 6-1, 207, Saddle Brook, NJ
Flood says: “If I was going to compare Steve as a player to somebody, it would probably be Khaseem Greene. He’s that type of player, which in our defense is the WILL linebacker. He’s a guy who can really run, is physically strong, a guy who is really going to be fun to watch over the next couple of years. An excellent leader of young people.”
Jimmy says: "Longa is a very intriguing prospect, and a guy that I feel can be a sleeper in this class. Some have speculated he would make a great fullback, but I think he stays at the WLB spot. He is extremely athletic, has a great frame to pack on size and a terrific motor to go with it. A native of Cameroon, he still looks a little raw on the field, but I think the fact that he didn’t spend his life playing football might actually help him to not give up on plays, because he is absolutely relentless on the field.
A quality kid off the field, he was a monster at the combines and looked great this season (against weak comp, admittedly), taking his Saddle Brook team from pretender to contender. He could absolutely use some good coaching up, but is a guy I think we’ll be thrilled with 2 years down the road, if not sooner."
Ruhann Peele, WR, 3-star, 5.7 RR, 6-1, 170, Linden, NJ
Flood says: “Tremendous ball skills, tremendous ability to make the play, to make things happen when he has the ball, to make people miss. Ruhann’s going to be an excellent receiver for us.”
Jimmy says: "I think I like Ruhann Peele. He likes to come in first. He was the first player to commit this year (back on April 18th). He was also the first player to fax his letter in on NSD. I like that. He’s a go-getter. Ironically, he did face some academic hurdles earlier in his career, but hopefully, that has been cleared up.
"On the field, I like his versatility. As a receiver, he maneuvers his body to make a play on the ball, has great hands, and runs good routes. He’s also got some experience returning kicks, and call me crazy, but I could see him developing into a defensive back. But I dream..."
Julian Pinnix-Odrick, DE,3-star, 5.7 RR,6-5, 260,Montclair, NJ
Flood says: “Extremely disruptive defensive lineman. I watched him play in his state title game, I watched him make TFLs, I watched him personally sack the quarterback in the game and as a defensive, he’s not the guy who is just going to take up the blocks, he’s the guy that’s going to take on the blocks, get off the blocks, and ultimately make the play in the backfield.”
Jimmy says: "I REALLY like JPO. While he committed to Rutgers in early summer, he wavered a bit in November, possibly due to the team’s mediocre record, conference upheaval, and who knows what else. That he somehow stuck it out after Schiano’s departure is a miracle amongst a field of miracles. He’s got the bloodlines (his half brother is Dolphins defensive lineman and former Penn State stud Jared Odrick), the size, the frame, the speed, and the talent—and he’s supposed to be a role model kid off the field.
"He is still a bit raw and may need to work on his strength, but if he does, he could have NFL potential at the DE position. And while he is a true DE, he could actually play in a lot of places—including the offensive line, where some people think he could have even more potential. Possibly the best thing about him is that he is only starting to realize his potential as a DE, so he should develop into a very, VERY good player for us."
Ian Thomas, WR, 3-star, 5.7 RR, 6-1, 193, Franklin (Reistertown, MD)
Flood says: “Ian Thomas is another receiver who makes plays when the ball is in his hands, makes people miss, can go and get the ball in a lot different places even if it’s not thrown perfectly, and then ultimately gets the ball in the endzone.”
Jimmy says: "Ian Thomas was 2012’s Signing Day surprise. Sure, he was always ON the Rutgers radar, but as nothing more a faint blip, a “wishful thinking” type of recruit. No matter how often we heard, “We’re in pretty good with that Thomas kid from Maryland," it felt like it was just brushed off, mainly as a self-defense mechanism.
"But come Signing Day morning, his LOI rolled in, and I’m pretty thrilled that it did. Here’s a guy with a laundry list of quality offers, and he is just a terrific receiver with a very solid build (think of him as the Anti-Tiquan). He runs precise routes with ease and quickness, has very soft hands, and a build that allows him to shrug off arm-tackles. He may also be the guy to carry on the Rutgers traditions of Maryland safeties, but that’s just me talking, and I think I’ve said that 3 times about other players already."
Brandon Arcidiacono, C, 3-star, 5.6 RR, 6-5, 250, Archbishop Wood (Warminster, PA)
Flood says: “Brandon is going to be a center for us, very athletic, very quick to the second level. When I was the offensive line coach, I was really excited about coaching him. And now as the head coach, I know that our next offensive line coach is going to love him just the same.”
Jimmy says: "A down year for centers, I guess—or maybe they just don’t get the love they deserve. There are only two 4-star centers in the entire country, and Arcidiacono, for being “only” a 5.6 RR player, is still the sixth-best center in the nation.
"The thing that stands out about him the most is his speed and his motor – he does a nice job of getting downfield for blocks and plays until the final whistle. He’s probably a year or three away from contributing, but with an offensive line like ours, the sixth-best center in the country is a huge addition."
Davon Jacobs, ATH, 3-star, 5.6 RR, 6-0, 185, DePaul Catholic (Wayne, NJ)
Flood says: “Davon is a corner from Depaul Catholic high school. We think Davon is a lockdown corner. Excellent feet, good quickness. Excellent change of direction, closing speed that you’re looking for in a corner. He’s going to be a good one for us.”
Jimmy says: "I don’t want to rag on the guy—I just think he probably needs to improve his speed, his strength and his size to be anything more than backup at the next level. But Davon does have some things going for him: he is a gamer, one of those guys who is always around the ball, and a guy who just makes good things happen...but again, that was at the high school level.
"He also had a very impressive offer list, so there must be something in his game that I’m missing. He’s smart and tough, though, so again, we might have to wait a year or two, but he could very well become a name we hear in a few years. And Coach Flood called him a 'lockdown corner.' So I’m clearly going against the tide."
Blake Rankin, QB, 3-star, 5.6 RR, 6-4, 195, Bloomsburg, PA
Flood says: “Blake has the skill set of everything we were looking for in a quarterback moving forward. He’s got the height, he’s got the arm strength. He’s got the athleticism, and he’s got the speed—he was a sub-4.7 guy when we timed him here in the summertime live. Just an excellent young man, and really embodies everything you want in a quarterback, somebody that’s going to lead your team in-season and out.”
Jimmy says: "Blake Rankin committed the morning of the spring game—before I even cracked open a beer, which was EARLY—and was probably the No. 1 quarterback recruit on our board. While he wasn’t mentioned before, Rankin probably deserves a mention in the “Most Underrated” category if only because Rutgers was the only offer he had.
"At 6’4”, I like the fact that he has true QB size, and he has a great blend of accuracy and arm strength. He seems patient in the backfield, and seems to make great throws on short, intermediate AND long routes. Finally, while he is nowhere near Pat White (or even Jabulani Lovelace), he rushed for almost a THOUSAND YARDS and 16 TDs his senior year—to go along with 17 passing touchdowns with only 3 interceptions. With the depth we have at QB right now, redshirting him shouldn’t be an issue (thank God) and I think he could be deadly in a few years."
Jevon Tyree, ATH, 3-star, 5.6 RR, 5-11, 170, South Brunswick (Monmouth Junction, NJ)
Flood says: “Jevon is a guy that we really feel can help our corner depth as we move forward.”
Jimmy says: "High praise from Coach Flood. A tackling dummy with a fake ID could provide depth to our corner spot. However, Jevon was yet another Signing Day surprise, only this one really seemed out of nowhere. I really hadn’t heard much chatter about him, and then on NSD, he opted for the Knights over Georgia Tech.
"For a guy who came out of nowhere, though, he does have a very impressive offer list and some very nice film. With his speed and hips (and Coach Flood’s commentary), he will most likely play the CB position in college. However, he is supposedly cousins with both Mohammed Sanu AND David Tyree, so it would seem like we should at least give him a shot at WR—even if it’s just for a week."
Derrick Nelson, OL, 3-star, 5.5 RR, 6-4, 285, Archbishop Carroll (Washington, DC)
Flood says: “We had Derrick live in camp this summer, and Derrick is going to be an excellent inside player. He runs really well, you’re going to like the way he pulls, he’s already physically strong and he’s just going to get stronger here in our weight program. We’re excited to have Derrick coming up to us from Maryland.”
Jimmy says: "Here’s a kid who didn’t have great grades as a freshman, but then his GPA rose every year. When he took the SAT, he received a qualifying score, meaning he could play ball at the college level, but he wasn’t satisfied, and thought he could do better. So he took an SAT course and bumped his score up 80 points. His coach tells a story of how Nelson is the first to practice and the last to leave. One day, the coach was in his office when school was out for conferences and he looks out his window—and there is young Derrick, out there flipping a tire by himself. Yeah. I love Derrick Nelson. Every class needs a guy like Nelson. When you look at stars and rankings, he's an afterthought of a signing. But when you hear the stories of his dedication and work ethic, he's just one of those kids that you know will be an asset to the team, PLUS he's an offensive lineman.
"We need to pick up an extra work-ethic-y O-lineman in EVERY class. Let's just do it for 3 years and see how it works out, that's all I ask. Nelson projects at the OG spot, and could be a nice diamond in the rough. He either plows people backwards or straight plants them, and he is very mobile for a guy his size. When Rutgers had him in camp, they couldn't offer him fast enough. However, with that said—he didn’t field many other major offers. K-State, ‘Cuse, Georgia Tech (with their emphasis on mobile linemen) and that was about it, really. So am I slightly worried about the fact that his hometown Terps didn’t recruit him? Yeah, a little. But if you’re going to take a risk, this is exactly the kind of kid you roll the dice on."
Desmon Peoples, RB, 5.5 RR, 5-7, 160, Archbishop Wood (Warminster, PA)
Flood says: “We really feel like Desmon’s the quickest running back in the country, bar none. When he has the ball in his hands, boy, is he tough to get on the ground. We’re excited to get him here, and we’re excited to see what he can do for us here at Rutgers.”
Jimmy says: "While I think Coach Flood may be hyperbolizing, I do think very highly of Peoples. I’m not sure if he will end up as an RB or a slot WR in college (he has very good hands), but he’ll be dangerous in either spot. He doesn’t have great size or blue-chip speed, but he has tremendous vision, agility, patience, and can cut on a dime. He doesn’t even need the proverbial “hole”, but with his aforementioned lack of size, all he needs is a crack and he zips through it for a 7 yard gain.
"He is dangerous in open space (one of my least favorite sports axioms, by the by—"dangerous in open space." Everyone is dangerous in open space. Everyone. I would CRUSH me some open space). Listed at 5’7”, and you KNOW they exaggerate measurables, he is a smaller and thicker back, and makes great use of jukes and spins to evade tackles, making him reminiscent of the running back Rutgers fans just can’t seem to forget..."
Delon Stephenson, ATH, 5.5 RR, 5-11, 170, Sayreville Memorial (Parlin, NJ)
Flood says: “A last name you might recognize. A guy who can play a lot of different positions. Delon can do a lot of things. I saw him right down at our stadium this winter in a state title game, I walked right out the tunnel, the game was already in progress, and I look up and the first play I see, Delon Stephenson makes an interception to help change the momentum of that game.”
Jimmy says: "Last year, when we recruited Daryl Stephenson, some speculated that it may have been a ploy to “get in good” with his younger sibling, Delon. That’s how highly people thought of Delon’s talent. Oddly, his commitment was barely noticed by many in recruiting circles. Delon committed in July, and at that point, with his commitment and that of Devin Jacobs, we had to tell Kye Morgan from Franklin, a top 10 kid in NJ, that there was no longer an available 'ship for him. A top ten kid in NJ, who WANTED to be at Rutgers...and he missed his shot because he waited too long. Interesting. Kye is a more complete footbal
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