A swift exodus of talented 2014 prospects has left Rutgers football searching for answers in the recruiting spectrum. The Scarlet Knights saw Adonis Jennings, Kiy Hester and Lamont Simmons decommit during a two-day span, according to NJ.com writer Todderick Hunt.
The loss of three players leaves head coach Kyle Flood's 2014 class with 22 commits. Rutgers' national recruiting ranking has dropped from 22nd to 32nd as a result, according to 247Sports.
The devastating domino effect began Sunday evening, when Jennings (Haddonfield, N.J.) backed out of his verbal pact. The 4-star wide receiver showed sure signs of unsteadiness in his relationship with Rutgers this month, visiting Iowa and Pittsburgh.
He originally committed to Rutgers in June and seemed excited about his prospects in Piscataway during a late September conversation with Bleacher Report.
"Rutgers really stood out to me," Jennings said in September. "It's my home state, and they're going into the Big Ten. I think I was one of their top receivers on the board, and they really liked me a lot. I really like them, and that's why I committed to them."
That was then; this is now. Jennings is likely to run routes elsewhere in college.
The 6'3", 185-pound Timber Creek High School product is enjoying a dominant season. Jennings has 53 receptions for 883 yards and 11 touchdowns through eight games, per MaxPreps.com.
He is expected to spend an official visit at Pitt in January. Jennings has other offers to consider, including Arkansas, Arizona and Clemson.
The Scarlet Knights sought to shake off Jennings' disappointing departure, but Monday brought more bad news for Rutgers. The team lost another in-state standout when Hester, a 4-star safety, reopened his recruitment.
Hester (Wayne, N.J.) wanted to explore his options before national signing day while remaining committed to the Scarlet Knights. When he called the Rutgers coaching staff to inform them of his decision, it seems tension escalated and the situation changed.
"I called coach Flood, and the way the conversation went, they basically closed the door," Hester told NJ.com. "That's the way it sounded to me. That's how the conversation basically ended. He was just like, 'There is nothing left to say.' And that was the end of the conversation."
The 6-foot, 200-pound St. Joe Regional standout committed to Rutgers in June. He is now free to visit a long list of potential destinations.
Vanderbilt, Boston College, Arkansas and Michigan State are in the mix for his talents.
While Hester and Jennings each attracted national attention during the majority of their high school careers, Simmons (Jacksonville, Fla.) was a late riser in the recruiting scene.
The 6'2", 180-pound cornerback didn't receive an offer until after his junior season at Raines High School. The 3-star prospect began to build a list of scholarship opportunities and eventually committed to Rutgers in early October.
Simmons spent an official visit in Piscataway a few weeks later. On Monday, he became the third Rutgers recruit to announce a change of plans after adding an offer from a Pac-12 power.
“I have an offer from USC and have decommitted from Rutgers,” Simmons told Scout.com writer Patrick Burnham.
Simmons has received substantial interest from BCS programs across the country since dealing with a slow start to his recruiting process. He told Burnham that Rutgers remains among his top five choices, along with USC, Georgia Tech, Arkansas and Auburn.
A growing list of opportunities forced Simmons to reconsider his initial commitment to the Scarlet Knights.
“I just felt like I committed too early,” he told Scout.com.
Rutgers must now pick up the pieces in the aftermath of a stunning series of decommitments. The program is on the precipice of making a major leap in competition, joining the Big Ten Conference next season.
The Scarlet Knights watched three players with instant-impact potential walk away during the developments of Sunday and Monday. In his second season at the helm since Greg Schiano's departure, Flood is now charged with the task of getting Rutgers' recruiting efforts back on track with less than three months remaining until national signing day.