Rutgers Football: Flood Under Pressure to Win and Keep Talented NJ Recruits

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Rutgers Football: Flood Under Pressure to Win and Keep Talented NJ Recruits
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It had been the philosophy of former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano to keep the local high school talent from the State of New Jersey in the Garden State in order to build a winning football team.

The strategy was one that worked, as he was able to breathe new life into a downtrodden program, lead the Scarlet Knights into postseason bowl games and continue to recruit high-level local talent.

That fact is reflected in the last recruiting class which pledged itself to Rutgers under the Schiano regime. Two of the top six players from New Jersey (either 4- or 5-star recruits per Scout.com) elected to stay at home and play for their State University.

To his credit—and the surprise of many—new head coach Kyle Flood was able to keep nearly all of his predecessor's 2012 recruits on National Signing Day after Schiano answered the call of the NFL.

While Kyle Flood has compiled an impressive list of recruits this spring, there is one notable difference: Not one of Rutgers' 2013 recruits has higher than a 3-star rating on Scout.com.

A review of the top 2012 prospects [all ratings per Scout.com] from New Jersey reveals the difference between last year and this year:

Darius Hamilton (5-star DE) chose Rutgers, Devin Fuller (4-star QB) opted for UCLA, Elijah Shumate (4-star safety) picked Notre Dame, Yuri Wright (4-star CB) settled on Colorado, Leonte Carroo (4-star WR) chose Rutgers and D.J. Singleton (4-star TE) went for Wisconsin.

By comparison, Kyle Flood's 2013 class features not one of the top 4- or 5-star prospects [again, all ratings per Scout.com] from New Jersey. The top seven prospects coming out of New Jersey have all chosen out-of-state schools:

Kevin Olsen (4-star QB) is headed to Miami (FL), Eli Woodward (4-star CB) chose Ohio State, Greg Webb (4-star DT) picked North Carolina, as did Dajaun Drennon (4-star DE).

Finally, Tashawn Bower (4-star DE) will play for Auburn, Garrett Sickels (4-star DE) chose Penn State, and Corey Clement (4-star RB) is headed to Pittsburgh.

Put succinctly, the 2012 class was ranked No. 24 nationally by Rivals.com, while the 2013 class ranks only No. 44 by that same website.

A new coach, a new staff and the uncertainty of the program's direction is enough to explain this season's downturn in recruiting talent. But Flood now faces the daunting task of trying to continue—if not elevate—Rutgers' success in recent years to ensure that this downturn does not become a trend.

The preseason poll conducted during Big East Media Day picks the Scarlet Knights to finish third in the conference. While respectable, that type of performance may make future recruiting an uphill battle for Flood, who seemed unfazed by the poll.

"Whether you’re picked last or if you’re picked first, ultimately it’s going to be the ranking you earn at the end of the season that’s going to matter," said Flood as reported by the Asbury Park Press [via APP.com]. "That’s really the one that we’re working for."

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