Happy belated Valentine's Day to my Scarlet kinfolk, and welcome to my 4th Annual Four-Week Late National Signing Day Mostly Ignorant and Largely Misinformed Recruiting Roundup!
RECRUITING: Not just for players anymore!
It was four days after Christmas 2004 when Syracuse University athletic director Daryl Gross decided to fire then head coach Paul Pasqualoni, leaving the team and their incoming recruits in the lurch.
Glenroy Lee and Courtney Greene, a pair of New Rochelle teammates who were pretty set on Syracuse, sought guidance from their teammate, a three-star defensive back who had verbally committed to the Orange the previous summer.
Whichever way he went, they said, so too would they go.
Well, their good friend, one Raymell Rice, didn't like the uncertainty of the head coaching situation in the frozen tundra of upstate New York and switched his allegiance to Greg Schiano and Rutgers University. Glenroy Lee followed suit, as did a reluctant Courtney Greene.
Needless to say, Courtney Greene started from Day 1 and enjoyed one of the best careers we've seen on the Banks before heading off to the NFL.
Ray Ray...well, all he did was change the face of Rutgers football forever.
Glenroy Lee? Best known for being on the receiving end of a Mike Teel punch/slap at the end of a loss to Navy, but still, the point is that sometimes, you can't make your own luck, but you sure as sugar can jump all over the mistakes of others.
So when Pitt fired Coach Wannstedt (good friend of Schiano, by the way) this past winter, Rutgers wasted no time going out and snatching up their offensive coordinator, their defensive backs coach and, more recently, their tight ends coach.
Now, I can see how some people might not be all worked up about hiring coaches that were basically fired for not meeting expectations, but a couple of things should be noted:
First and foremost, Jeff Hafley (defensive backs coach) is a recruiting dynamo, particularly in New Jersey.
He is directly credited with stealing four-star DT Marquise Wright, three-star DE Max Isaaka, and at least partially three-star QB Gary Nova out of New Jersey. He was just as responsible for dragging them all back home after each pretty much wanted nothing to do with their state university.
Given a full year, I think he and WR Coach PJ Fleck will be like Pop Rocks and Coke on the 2012 recruiting trail.
Second, Frank Cignetti (offensive coordinator) runs a classic pro-style offense, exactly the kind of offense we want to see, and I don't think I've ever seen Pitt run the "Wild Panther", let alone every third play.
Honestly, how could you DEprove our offense from last year anyway? ("Deprove" is the antonym of "improve", FYI. Look it up.).
So he's an immediate upgrade by default. A very good recruiter in his own right, he also gets most of the credit for turning Nova to the Scarlet side.
Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program, and these guys are like blood thinners. I'm excited.
But I digress...back to college football players!
RASSoR (Rutgers Adjusted Sliding Scale of Recruiting): 8.9
For anyone keeping track, that is the highest single RASSoR in the modern era.
As per usual, a multitude of criteria factored into this rating. How talented was the Jersey class? (Very). How did we fare as a football team this season? (Terribly). Did we address our needs? (Verdict is out).
Overall, this is the deepest and most talented class to ever come our way, and we did a lot of things right.
First, we brought in the consensus No. 1 player in NJ (Savon Huggins), which we've never done before, and he's a kid we may have needed more from a public perception standpoint than a football standpoint.
Second, we laid some rumors of Rutgers rifts to rest as many believed that our inability to land upper-echelon talent from the top-tier private schools in NJ must of course be due to the hatred that their respective coaches had for Rutgers.
Well, we landed two kids from St. Peter's Prep, two kids from Don Bosco and another from Paramus Catholic.
All studs, and I’m hoping all May the first drops in a flood of future private school recruits. Third, we landed three of the top four kids in NJ.
Did we "lock down" Jersey? Well, no, not all the way.
But three of the top four sends a message: We aren't going away.
Considering we did this after a 4-8 season, this is a very impressive class by the staff.
It means those established relationships with the kids from the time they are young are starting to pay off. Could we have used one more offensive lineman? Yes. I would even say two, especially a nice, ready-to-play-this-season offensive tackle.
But that shouldn’t diminish the quality of the class that we brought in. We are exactly one Josue Matias away from a 9.4 RASSoR.
It's nice when you have a really tough time deciding on the Class Strength. Almost too close to call between defensive tackle, running back, and defensive end.
In this case, I think you have to go with the DT spot. First of all, we brought in four of them which is an accomplishment in and of itself. That's two starters and their backups.
The headliner is explosive four-star DT Marquise Wright (No. 4 kid in Jersey), along with a guy many were drooling over last year, the very quick Kenneth Kirksey who spent a year at prep school and already enrolled in January.
Coupled with Bronx product 6'3'' 290lb Al Page and local giant 6'3'' 270 lb Daryl Stephenson (a guy who actually played DT, OG, and KICKER for his Sayreville team), they just added a smidge over 1100 pounds to the defensive line.
Honorable mention: Running back.
The obvious answer to an anemic run game is adding the No. 4 running back in the country. But what isn't immediately apparent is that both Charles Davis and Ben Martin are two very capable and quick backs, and late signee Paul Canevari is a tough, gritty runner who will end up in our backfield in some capacity.
So high-end talent and depth. I like it.
CLASS WEAKNESS: Offensive Line.
I'm getting sick of saying it, really. Offensive line recruiting is an art, and it can be extremely difficult to tell who is going to pan out and who won't.
So to be an elite team, you need to either be bringing in ultra high-end, can't-miss talent, or at least be bringing in a number of bodies so you can afford some hits and misses.
The way I feel about offensive lineman is the same way most Americans feel about cupholders: Can you ever really have too many?
No. No, you cannot.
The 2010 O-line couldn't even meet the low expectations that we had for them this year, and if you were expecting a good year out of them, well, your expectations were grossly out of line because you just haven't been paying attention.
The stats were embarrassing. I mean, dead last in the country with 61 sacks allowed. That’s 120th out of 120 contestants. We were ALSO 120th in tackles for loss allowed.
In 2009, we were 111th and 113th in each category, respectively, and went to a bowl game. All we need is a NOT ATROCIOUS offensive line, and we’ll go bowling. Can you give me a non-atrocious offensive line, Coach Flood? Can you? Abysmal.
And the coaching staff responds by bringing in three offensive linemen. THREE!!! And that's WITH a bit of a Signing Day miracle from Kaleb Johnson!
We whiffed on local talents like Josue Matias and Angelo Mangiro as well as sought-after JUCO Fou Fonoti. Now, the true freshmen look to be pretty solid and the JUCO center we landed looks dirty (literally and figuratively), but still . . . I would have felt a LOT better with four guys and a TON better with 5 OLs.
Know how many OL’s we landed in 2008? Two. Know how many we landed in 2009? Two. And then last year, we pulled in four, which was still a touch on the light side but I can accept four OLs in a class.
I can't believe I have to say it again, but the offensive line will continue to be a point of emphasis in the 2012 recruiting class.
Dishonorable mention: Safety. I'd like to say something bad about the safeties we brought in but we didn't get ANY. We’ll be OK in the short term, but this better be addressed in 2012.
STRAIGHT UP STAR OF THE CLASS
The easiest selection in the history of NSD Roundups. If you want to appear like you've spent countless hours or even days poring over recruiting materials and websites for the state of Rutgers recruiting so that you can have an intelligent discussion with other like-minded dorks, you need only remember four sweet syllables: "Sav-on Hugg-ins".
I'm actually tempted to simultaneously label him as the most overrated recruit because expectations on the kid are so high, but he is legit, grade-A talent with a big name . . . which will hopefully act like a magnet for other local talent.
Coach-speak aside ("The running back job is wide-open . . ."), I would be stunned if Savon doesn't AT LEAST split carries from Day 1.
Honorable Mention: ATH Miles Shuler. I like this kid. Always have. I like kids with good grades, good hands, and the third fastest 100 meter time in the country. I like that he's a football player with track skills, not the other way around.
I like the way he opens up the field and the way he juxtaposes our other larger though not nearly as quick receivers. I like his versatility as a potentially game-breaking kick returner.
I like Miles Shuler.
I'm going with low three-star OL Kaleb Johnson. A signing day decision (a signing MOMENT decision, actually, as you'll read later), the Florida product had 20-plus offers from across the country and was down to Miami and Louisville before selecting . . . Rutgers.
Anyway, the kid can play, he's a very versatile lineman reminiscent of Jeremy Zuttah (okay, that's really high praise, but still) and I think he was key in keeping this OL class from ranking as a total disaster.
Honorable mention: LB Kevin Snyder. While the kid may look as bland as banana pudding, his play is anything but. I know Rutgers is looking at him at the LB spot, but most of his tape is of him ripping off 70-yard touchdown runs and hauling in 20 yard passes and tearing off down the field.
So I like his versatility, and if he ever gets his hands on the ball on the defensive side, watch out, because he’ll want to take it to the house.
Honorable mention for the honorable mention category: RB Ben Martin. The lowest rating of anyone in the class? Really? I lovethe way this guy runs.
DE Kyle George. To be fair, Mike Farrell, a recruiting analyst who does this for more than 14 days out of the year, believes that Kyle George could be the most underrated player not just at Rutgers but in all of the Big East.
And it is possible—in fact, I am hoping—that George will turn into a beast somewhere down the line.
He was ranked as the 15th best weakside DE in the nation, and while he has the frame and the tangibles to back it up, it just didn’t seem evident on the field. Thankfully, we pulled in some other quality ends so we might be able to slap a redshirt on George and get him some seasoning before turning him loose in a year or two.
One of the reasons this year was so crazy was that kids that were gone and then later regained (Issaka, Wright, Nova, Pitts) and kids that we thought were ours but then weren’t (Buie, Lucas, Matis, and again, Pitts).
Now you see them, now you don’t . . . but now you can see NEW stuff!
Anyway, we had 5 overall decommits this year, about two more than I would have liked. The Lafayette Pitts decommit officially occurred within 10 minutes of the Kaleb Johnson commit, so I considered that a fair swap and that sting went away quickly.
After that, it is mostly the losses of Lucas and Matias that will forever occupy a dark corner of my heart.
The good news is . . . we aren’t Pitt. They had at least 12 guys de-commit after their coaching change, and three of them ended up on our roster. Ouch.
Recruiting giveth, and recruiting taketh away.
(in order of least painful to most painful)
LB Andrew Campolattano
This one was a bit of a shocker for a couple of reasons. Mainly, the kid is a mega-star on the wrestling mat.
Not just a "good wrestler" or even, "Oh, hey, he's a state champ!" I mean like, a four-time, top-three kid in the nation who could have punched his ticket to any school with a wrasslin' program. Also, because he ended his recruitment so early—back in April—and he was a kid everybody thought was a total enigma.
Kid is a project, though, and would have taken some time to develop into any sort of serviceable linebacker. He has decided to stick with wrestling and will not be playing college football.
Good for him, and no huge loss for Rutgers.
RB Chevelle Buie
Sometimes, when a player commits, I’ll write down a few notes to remind myself what I was thinking when the kid gave his verbal.
My notes in this case: “Early commit + From Florida = Needs to be babysat”.
An instant candidate for the “Best Named Recruit” (the early 2012 favorite is Jazzmar Clax), Buie is a speed merchant from down Florida way.
Listed at only 5’7’’ and 153 lbs, he drew many comparisons to Tim Brown and even though he was listed as the No. 7 all-purpose back in the nation, Rutgers would have likely used him in the slot, so his loss was lessened by the Shuler commit.
Buie was plagued by some fairly weighty off-the-field issues and he and Rutgers decided to go their separate ways.
Buie ended up at East Carolina, which tells you something about a four-star running back out of Florida with blue-chip speed and agility.
Guy has more issues than a Huron country stripper.
CB Lafayette Pitts
This one was interesting. I can’t say Rutgers wouldn’t love to have an athlete like Pitts because they definitely would. However, there was something about Pitts that just didn’t sit right.
He lives and grew up 15 minutes from Pitt. He committed to Pitt. And his last name is PITTS, which is only an apostrophe away from telling you exactly whose team he belongs on.
Still, with the coaching turnover there, Pitts decided to look around, chose to follow Hafley to Rutgers, but “still wanted to take his visit to Pitt”. Uh huh. I see. Pitt wanted this guy so bad, they gave a last-minute offer to his cousin to sweeten the deal.
So we’d LOVE to have him . . . but Pitt/s is where he belongs.
OL Marquis Lucas
Lucas angers me a bit. Nobody knows for sure what went wrong here, but Lucas would have made a terrific guard here at Rutgers a year or two down the road.
Another early commit from Florida, the rumor was that Al Golden (former Temple coach, recently hired at Miami) and Greg Schiano do not get along. Well, Golden supposedly went down and negative recruited the hell out of Rutgers, but didn’t even bother to positively recruit Miami, didn’t even give the kid an offer.
Sounds weird, and I don’t know if it’s true, but I know the relationship got very strange in January, and Lucas just sort of floated away before landing at Big East rival West Virginia.
Shame, because we really could have used him on the O-line.
OL Josue Matias
I’m not angry at Josue for de-committing. I’m angry at Josue for committing to us in the first place.
Even after he committed to Rutgers (immediately following a big visitor weekend), multiple sources stated their surprise since Rutgers wasn’t even in Matias’ top two schools.
There was also the long-standing belief that Matias did not want to play in the shadow of fellow-former Union City standout Pedro Sosa, a Rutgers alum. Supposedly, both Miami and Florida State sent Spanish-speaking assistant coaches to work on Matias’ Cuban parents and it worked like a charm.
FSU sent in the big guns right before (and I mean RIGHT before) the pre-signing day silent period to get the last word in, and the magic swayed Josue to Tallahassee. That stung AND made me nauseous.
I can’t think of anything that really stings AND makes me nauseous to compare this to. Maybe playing “Finish That” with a bottle of Jim Beam. That’s what this is like.
WHAT I LIKE:
Security. I don’t put full faith into the ratings system, but I do believe there is a strong correlation between a kid’s rating and his overall chance of contributing at the college level.
Not only did we tie our all-time high for four-star players with four, but we saw a 40 percent increase in high-three-star players (Rivals rating of 5.7 or above).
Even a few of our “low three-star kids” had 15+ D1 offers. These kids were all sought-after, multi-offer kids. So while recruiting overall can be hit or miss, this class has mitigated that risk better than any in history.
I also really like that the “State of Rutgers” finally sounds like it might be coming together. Landing three of the top four kids from Jersey and making serious inroads at the top prep schools could be huge as many of the 2012 kids are tight with the guys we just brought in.
God forbid we open up private school pipelines.
Honorable Mention: Rutgers, No. 1 in APR (Academic Progress Rate). I mean, they broke the record set by Stanford in 2008 by a fair margin, and beat out Duke, Air Force, Navy, Rice, Cal and . . . well, and all 114 other teams in Division 1 football.
That’s how first place works, I guess. You beat everybody.
Schiano runs an underratedly clean program, and while I want a Big East championship and bowl games and all that, I have to say that this is a very impressive accomplishment.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Schiano is not perfect, but there might be 10 people on the planet who could have pulled off what he’s done. Suck it, Rutgers 1000.
WHAT I DON’T LIKE: Also known as the “Beating a Dead Horse” category: O-line recruiting. And I’m done here. I’ve said my piece, Chrissy.
You know, while we’re on the topic of football, and specifically Rutgers football, it would be remiss if I didn’t mention the departure of Tom Savage.
This is honestly a total mystery to me. I’m not saying the kid was Joe Montana, but I believe that behind anything resembling even an average offensive line, Savage was the best quarterback we had. And if he wasn’t, maybe it would be nice to go a year without having to play another true freshman quarterback (it will happen again in 2011, mark my words).
The last time a quality quarterback recruit was redshirted was Mike Teel in 2004. For the mathematically challenged, that’s seven freaking years ago.
Finally, right? Here is what Schiano had to say about each member of the 2011 recruiting class, as well as my own misguided, uninformed and largely ignorant thoughts and opinions.
They are sorted by ranking so we’ll start out with the best recruits and then slowly work our way down to the punter.
Savon Huggins, RB, 4-star, 5.9 RR, 6-0, 197, St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J.)
Schiano says: “He is one of (SPP coach) Rich Hansen’s guys up at Saint Peter’s. Savon probably doesn’t need much of an introduction from me.
"He was a guy that was coveted by everyone in the country. He is a guy that we have been able to build a really close relationship with over time and I think in the end that is what makes and breaks recruiting is those relationships. With he and his family, it is going to be an exciting time.
"He is a guy that has all the talent in the world and has all the skills to be a great player. In addition to those skills, he is a very bright guy who has a great work ethic. He works very hard on and off the field.
"I am looking forward to coaching Savon and like I said, we have a great relationship
"I think he understands exactly where he is coming and type of people that he is going to be with and that is why he chose Rutgers.”
Jimmy says: Savon is a great shot in the arm for the program, both on the field and probably more so in the public perception arena. Just a huge pickup.
Savon is a stud running back whose best asset, in my opinion, is his otherworldly balance. Even when he’s met head on, he basically twists his way for an extra five yards on each run, and I fully expect him to get heavy burn in his first year.
I’m a little nervous about the hype, though, because Earl Campbell couldn’t run behind last year’s line, and our jackass fans will call for his benching after his first sub 70-yard game. We’ll need to get our passing game going to give Savon some space.
But we should be happy about this one.
Miles Shuler, WR, 4-star, 5.8 RR, 5-10, 170, Long Branch (N.J) High
Schiano says: “Miles, I hate to sound repetitive, but Miles is a very fast guy. He was a receiver, defensive back and played quarterback in high school for (coach) Dan George, who has been a long time Rutgers supporter.
"We have had many of his players here and we are just thrilled to be able to recruit another Long Branch player. Miles is the third-fastest kid in America coming out of high school… that is saying something.
"When you watch him play, he is not only fast in track but he plays with football speed and that doesn’t always transcend. Miles is a football player that also runs track, which is what we need. He is going to be a tremendous athlete and he has been a tremendous ambassador for our program during this recruiting process.
"He was challenging (recruiting coordinator) Tariq (Ahmad) to see who was going to get recruiting coordinator of the year. We love Miles and we love how much he loves Rutgers. He has always been a Rutgers guy. We can’t wait to get him here on campus and really get him started.”
Jimmy says: Another “must get” guy from the beginning of the year. Miles is a very versatile player, but if you had to sum him up in one word, it would be “speed”.
Not just James Townsend straight-line speed, either, but a guy who can change direction, run routes, and flat out burn people. A tremendous talent, a US Army All American selection, and an overall good kid.
Probably not a redshirt candidate, I think he’ll find his way onto the depth chart next year.
Djwany Mera, DE, 4-star, 5.8 RR, 6-3 , 265, Hargrave Military Academy (Chatham, Va.)
Schiano says: “Djwany is now enrolled here for second semester and looks great. He is very strong, especially for his age.
The ability for him to compete this spring is going to be critical for next year and being able to put together some depth on the defensive line.”
Jimmy says: You might recognize this name from last year when he committed but then had to go to prep school for a year. Well, two odd things happened.
One, the kid added a star (bumped from three to four) and two, he stayed committed to Rutgers. This guy was a project out of high school, and still managed two+ sacks per game.
Now, with a year of seasoning, we still get him with 5 years on the clock, and he’s already enrolled so he’s got the spring to learn the system and further build himself up. Also possesses that nice wrestling background Schiano values in players.
We need depth at the defensive end position, and I think Mera will be able to provide it sooner rather than later.
Marquise Wright, DT, 4-star, 5.8 RR, 6-3, 270, Paramus (N.J.) Catholic High
Schiano says: “He is a tremendously gifted defensive lineman. He actually lined up at times last year and played tight end, that’s how good of an athlete he is.
He has just great get-off and explosion. He is a guy that I am really glad he hung in there with us and I am thrilled to have him coming here.
He is a tremendously gifted guy. He is a Jersey guy that knew all along he wants to be here and build it here in New Jersey. I can’t thank him enough for that.”
Jimmy says: A bit of a headscratcher. It was supposed to be a down year for defensive tackles both locally and across the nation.
From what I have gleaned, Rutgers had other guys (Al Page) higher on their board and may have eased their recruiting efforts once they gained early commitments. This slight did not go unnoticed by Wright, who then spurned the home team for Pitt before their coaching situation collapsed.
In fact, as late as January 2nd, Wright was supposedly down to Miami, UNC, Maryland, and Michigan State. That Rutgers got back into his good graces is directly attributed to our recruiting ace, Jeff Hafley.
I really like Wright, by the way, he has great size and explosion and he might even make his mark as an offensive lineman.
Perhaps with all the depth we have accumulated on the defensive side of the ball, we may see another switch, a la Antwan Lowery. Another great addition to the program.
Quentin Gause, LB, 3-stars, 5.7 RR, 6-2, 220, Bishop Kearney High (Rochester, N.Y.)
Schiano says: “Quentin is an incredibly gifted athlete. He is big, strong, fast, can run and hit… he does it all at the linebacker position.
He is a very creative, talented guy off the field as well. I have enjoyed recruiting him.
You get to see a lot of different things that he puts together. He is a very deep thinker and a guy that is going to be fun for all of you to deal with in the interview process. He is an excellent football player and an excellent person.”
Jimmy says: I like Quentin a lot. I’m not entirely sold on the level of competition he plays against, but I do like that we took him out of Syracuse’s backyard.
He seems like a great kid, very personable, smart, and his workouts are the stuff of legend. He doesn’t just do those push-ups where you launch yourself into the air and clap your hands, he performs series of these where he rotates the style in which he does it: hands together, hands apart, hands wide, one hand, and so on. He’s absurd.
Kyle George, DE, 3-star, 5.7 RR, 6-4, 240, Willingboro (N.J.) High
Schiano says: “(Willingboro coach) Reggie Lawrence has had a long history of guys over the years and Kyle is another one that is going to play defensive end for us. We had him in our camp and he was a tremendous pass rusher.
I think he has gotten bigger as a senior and is going to continue to get bigger when Jay Butler gets his hands on him. He can really be a tremendous pass rusher off the edge.”
Jimmy says: Intriguing prospect. A big guy with a great frame, and a nice motor. I think he definitely needs some seasoning as well as some coaching up.
I’m not trying to rip on the guy, but he looks like he plays a little “straight up”, and seems a bit awkward and choppy on the field.
However, I will say that if he has you in his sights, you should probably just fall down because he is very fast in a straight line.
Again, somehow ranked the 15th best weakside defensive end in the country. I like that high ranking and all, but a lot of people just don’t see it.
Max Issaka, DE, 3-star, 5.7 RR, 6-2, 242, Woodbridge (N.J) High
Schiano says: “He is a very explosive defensive end. He is another guy that I think can really do a lot of things for us and he can certainly rush the passer.
He is very explosive off the ball. He is going to be good in some other things that we do where we stunt people. He is very quick and plays with great pad level. He is a very excitable guy.
He is a guy that has charisma and plays the game with a lot of enthusiasm.”
Jimmy says: I REALLY like Max. First of all, great name for a defensive end. “I-sack-ya”.
Second of all, a kid without some of the height that maybe an ideal defensive end should have, but everywhere he went, he garnered praise. When our OL recruit Lumpkin was asked to name a player that stood out to him during the Chesapeake All Star game, Isaaka was the first name he mentioned (and Issaka wasn’t committed to Rutgers at the time).
Now, whenever a DE is undersized, people always say, “Didn’t seem to hurt Dwight Freeney!” I’m not dumb enough to compare Max to a perennial Pro Bowler (that’s someone who goes to the Pro Bowl, by the way, not someone who bowls as a professional), but stylistically, his explosiveness off the snap is very similar.
Another guy we nearly missed on (badly) because of a supposed rift between Rutgers and Issaka’s high school coach (stemming from Rutgers’ “misuse” of Woodbridge alum Shamar Graves).
Another guy that we swayed from his Pitt commitment. Another guy that I think will make a lot of noise during his career.
Tejay Johnson, 3-star, 5.7 RR, WR, 6-0, 170, Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy
Schiano says: “Tejay is an extremely talented wide receiver/defensive back. He is very fast. He is one of the fastest guys in the state of New Jersey as a senior in high school. As a junior, I believe he won the 100 meters.
"One of the things that is consistent in our philosophy is we are going to recruit speed. There is absolutely no substitute for speed in the game of football and Tejay is going to add to that level of speed on our football team.”
Jimmy says: Much like Shuler only with a little better size and a little less top end spee—but still blazing fast, and it never hurts to add another blazing fast guy to your wide receiving corps.
He might even end up on the defensive side of the ball as a corner. Another guy who committed last year and then needed to prep, the word is that he might still have some work to do in the classroom so I’m still not entirely confident that we’ll see Tejay in scarlet come the fall.
But God bless the kid for faxing in his Letter of Intent each February.
Kenneth Kirksey, DT, 3-star, 5.7 RR, 6-3, 290, Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy
Schiano says: “He started mid-semester and is training with our guys now which is, again, critical. He is a guy that is physically developed that with some hard work this spring and summer has a chance to go on and compete for time in the d-line.
Kenneth is an explosive defensive lineman. You are going to get to see that here this spring. He really has unusual explosion for anybody, especially a defensive lineman.”
Jimmy says: Remember this guy from last year? The 290-lb. d-lineman who can do back handsprings?
Well, after a year of prepping, he is on campus and ready for football. I kind of like when these guys prep, I think it gets their head screwed on straight, prepares them for college, lets them develop physically, and buys them another year of eligibility.
Kirksey was my Honorable Mention Most Underrated player last year and I fully expect him to fulfill my expectations in the coming seasons. I have faith in you, Kenneth!
Keith Lumpkin, OT, 3-star, 5.7 RR, 6-8, 275, St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, N.J)
Schiano says: “It is great to have teammates coming. I know it is neat for all the people up at Saint Peter’s Prep and for coach Hansen to have two of his guys coming into to play together.
"I am sure Savon enjoys the fact that he is running behind big No. 72 and that should be fun to watch in the future. Keith has been in our camps and is a tremendous athlete. Right now, he is playing basketball for Saint Peter’s Prep and at that size, moves very well.
"We are looking forward to him coming and his development as an offensive lineman.”
Jimmy says: Just what the doctor ordered. A nice, 6’8” 300-pounder with agility and strength. Not as game-ready as Josue Matias and a kid who would definitely benefit from a redshirt year, but Lumpkin has a world of potential.
He also plays on the St. Peter’s basketball team, so he should have at least some decent footwork skills. Helps to fill the gaping need we have on the o-line, and he comes from a prep school where we haven’t landed much talent.
This signing gets an A in my book.
Gary Nova, QB, 3-star, 5.7 RR, 6-2, 210, Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J)
Schiano says: “We have had real good success with quarterbacks from Don Bosco Prep. Again, it is great to have teammates coming to play together. These two guys, together, were very dangerous for the No. 1 ranked team in New Jersey in Don Bosco Prep.
"Gary is a tremendous athlete. I got to watch him play basketball the other night. His vision and ability to run the show and his leadership all comes out in basketball as it did when you watched him play football so we are thrilled to have him here.
"I think he is going to fit right in. I know (offensive coordinator) Frank Cignetti and Gary have a great relationship and he and Gary are not going to miss a beat. Again, we have been able to build some depth at the quarterback position, which is critical.”
Jimmy says: Yeah, we needed this. Nova is the 11th ranked pro-style quarterback, a solid, mature player who makes good decisions.
Sounds like another Bosco product we should all remember, Mike Teel. Which is nice, except that I don’t think Nova will enjoy the luxury of a redshirt year. I don’t know if Schiano watches much college football or not, but I watched a couple of games last year and you’d be surprised but most teams, even though they only had one quarterback on the field at a time, had MORE than one backup on the sidelines.
You know, “just in case”. Crazy, right? I can barely wrap my mind around it.
To further muddy the waters, I noticed that a lot of these “other team quarterbacks” had been in college for three years, four years and some for FIVE years! Schiano’s infatuation with freshmen quarterbacks is inexplicable.
I think our quarterbacks coach is Benjamin Button.
Jonathan Aiken, CB, 3-star, 5.6 RR, 5-10, 185, Dillard High (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Schiano says: “He came to our camp and is a really explosive defensive back. He is going to be able to play either corner or safety.
"He is versatile that way. Actually, he has started school here at the beginning of second semester, so it is a great advantage for him. I am very excited about his talents and the kind of competitor he is.”
Jimmy says: Aiken is a really nice defensive back prospect. In fact, at the time he committed to Rutgers, he was rated as a four-star guy.
Nice offer list, an early enrollee, a Florida guy (I like to keep the pipeline open, especially for the NCAA College Football video game). I also like his versatility. He has very good coverage skills for a safety and very good tackling skills for a corner.
A great guy in run support and even better coming off the edge on the blitz. And all of that after only playing a single year of high school football. I believe his best football is still ahead of him. Reminds me a lot of Joe Lefeged.
Charles Davis, CB, 3-star, 5.6 RR, 6-0, 187, Neptune (N.J) High
Schiano says: “Charles is a really fine athlete. He played it all. We are going to play him at defensive back. I think he is a guy that will hit you. He can sure run.
"He was a guy that was in our summer camp like so many of these guys and ran exceptionally well. We are very excited about his potential.”
Jimmy says: Another nominee for Most Underrated, the Davis commitment hardly registered a blip on the recruiting radar. The kid has good size, great speed, solid moves, and football instincts.
Though Rutgers landed superback Savon Huggins, many consider Davis the second best running back in the state and I think he could still be a very capable back at the college level. A guy we were on early, and a guy that made an early decision.
And I’m going to call him Chuck D. for the duration of his career.
Al Page, DT, 3-star, 5.6 RR, 6-3, 295, Christopher Columbus High (Bronx, N.Y,)
Schiano says: “You talk about another explosive defensive lineman, he is a big man. Those of you who have seen him know that.
"He has great explosion and I think will come here and the sky is the limit as far as his abilities. He is a very strong guy and a very physically developed guy as a senior in high school and I can’t wait to see him develop in our program.”
Jimmy says: Ratings be damned, many believe this guy was the #1 DT on the Rutgers board so getting his commitment is big.
The fact that RU was on him so early may have led to their easing up on Marquise Wright a bit, but it is great to have them both on the team now. Supposedly, a few Big 10 schools as well as Syracuse were on him up until Signing Day trying to pull him away, but he stuck with Rutgers.
Great pickup, really, it’s always nice to pick up a defensive tackle with true defensive tackle size.
Mike Bimonte, QB, 3-stars, 5.5 RR, 6-3, 215, Manalapan High (Englishtown, N.J)
Schiano says: “He is a guy in camp that we got to know very well. He is going to be a great addition to our program and had a really good senior year after he received our scholarship, which is always nice to see.
"He is a guy that is going to come in and compete at the quarterback position. I think one of the things we were able to do this year is solidify some depth at the quarterback position.”
Jimmy says: An intriguing and necessary recruit, Bimonte shows nice touch on his passes but is a likely redshirt candidate.
By all accounts, another solid quarterback who, if nothing else, provides another name on the depth chart because honestly, we have next to nothing there.
And while you don’t want to bring in too many quarterbacks in one class, we definitely needed a couple this year. Bimonte helps address that need.
Kaleb Johnson, OL, 3-star, 5.5 RR, 6-4, 285, Edward H. White High (Jacksonville)
Schiano says: “He is a guy that we had in camp and just fell in love with. We always hoped that we would be able to keep that relationship strong enough to get him to come here at Rutgers and I can’t tell you how thrilled we are to have him.
"He is an excellent football player. This is only his second year of wrestling and he is ranked third in heavyweight in the state of Florida.
"He is going on to districts this week so we wish him the best. He is just going to be a very good addition to our offensive line.”
Jimmy says: "I like this guy. Nay, I LOVE this guy … for a few reasons. One, he is a talented offensive lineman, something we desperately need. Two, he is versatile.
While he will probably end up at guard, he could slide over and make a serviceable tackle. Again, almost Zuttah-esque in that regard. Three, he may have had more D1 offers than anyone else we pulled in not named Savon Huggins. Arkansas, Illinois, Georgia Tech, Miami, Louisville, North Carolina, South Carolina.
In fact, the night before his commitment, he was down to three schools, none of which were Rutgers. Just minutes before his Signing Day announcement, he was down to two schools, neither of which was Rutgers.
His own coach watched Johnson carefully make his way up to the podium, fully expecting him to pick Louisville over Miami. But Kaleb sat down at a table where hats from his top 5 college choices had been laid out before him and quietly looked them over. Following an awkward silence, he sat there for a good 30 seconds before announcing in a whisper, “I am going to Rutgers University”.
Jaws dropped. Gasps. Stunning. Blew everyone’s mind.
I think his story really encompasses what a confusing time it must be for so many of these guys. Somehow this instantly makes him a personal favorite of mine.
Tyler Kroft, TE, 3-stars, 5.5 RR, 6-3, 220, Downingtown East High (Exton, Pa.)
Schiano says: “(Downingtown East coach) Mike Matta has just been really tremendous. This is our second guy in two years from Downingtown East.
We are thrilled to have Tyler. He is a very talented tight end. He flexes out, can play in the box and is a very talented guy. He runs routes like a wide receiver and is a good blocker.
I am excited about getting him here and I can’t wait to let Jay Butler get his hands on him and turn that 225 into 255. Then he will become that complete tight end.
Again, it is great to have back-to-back years at Downingtown East with [Taj] Alexander a year ago and now with Tyler Kroft. They have a great program in the eastern part of Pennsylvania.”
Jimmy says: Another kid who barely registered on most fans radar, Tyler chose Rutgers over a slew of other offers and did so pretty early in the game (last summer).
He easily would have pulled in 20-plus had he not committed so early. A solid blocker, his strength is his pass catching ability and, believe it or not, his ability to run after the catch.
I hope we take a year to redshirt him and build him up because a little S&C could make him into a fantastic future tight end.
Kevin Snyder, LB, 3-star, 5.5 RR, 6-2, 210, Cumberland Valley High (Mechanicsburg, Pa.)
Schiano says: “Cumberland Valley has a tremendous program out in central Pennsylvania and I go back many years with head coach Tim Rimpfel. I just can’t tell you how happy we are to have Kevin come here.
He is a linebacker that can really run. He is very athletic. He is a guy that you can leave in the game and not have to take off the field.
That is important… it gives you some flexibility defensively. I am really looking forward to getting Kevin here and working with him because he has the opportunity to be a great football player.”
Jimmy says: A recurring theme here, I think. While I think it is important for Rutgers to really start locking down the top (TOP) talent in NJ, sometimes it seems like we don’t appreciate the “nearby” guys when they commit.
Snyder might be a perfect example. He had early offers from Rutgers, Iowa, West Virginia, and Army while Wisconsin, Michigan, Pitt, et al were closing in. But we secured his commitment nice and early and he is another kid that other schools were trying to poach right up until the last minute.
He can cover, he can hit, heck, he could fill in at tight end! On top of that, he’s a smart kid, an honors student, seems like a really nice guy.
Daryl Stephenson, DT, 3-star, 5.5 RR, 6-3, 275, Sayreville High (Parlin, N.J)
Schiano says: “It is great to continue that Sayreville connection with David Milewski last year and now with Daryl this year. He is a big guy.
"He is bigger than we have been up front. It is nice to start up there and then get them stronger and more explosive than having to put so much weight on them. Daryl is an incredibly gifted defensive lineman.
"We have had him in all our camps and he has spent a lot of time around here. When you watch him in high school he makes a tremendous amount of plays but I got to watch him in an all-star game on TV and wow did he stand out.
"I can’t wait to get him here. He is close and he will be by often this spring. I can’t wait to get him started.”
Jimmy says: Couple of things. First of all, I think he’s a dead ringer for Anthony Davis, right down to the little triangle “frohawk” the kids are wearing these days.
Second, I like the way he plays. He’s a big dude, and he is almost frenetic off the snap, bordering on spastic.
It’s not always pretty, but it is surprisingly effective. I’m not sure if that’s going to be his style going forward or not, but I kind of dig it.
Third, his younger brother, Delon, already has an offer from Rutgers and is sure to be one of the more sought after recruits in the state next year.
Fourth, did I mention that he was the kicker for his high school team? A 275 lb kicker? That’s a nimble big man right there. That’s awesome. I’m thinking up some very interesting trick plays right now. So, yeah, overall, a nice recruit.
Paul Canevari, RB, 2-star, 5.4 RR, 5-10, 212, Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J)
Schiano says: “He is really a tremendously tough, hard-nosed football player.
"He had some great statistics on a great football team, a championship football team up at Don Bosco. He is another one of (DBP coach) Greg Toal’s guys that goes on to play Division I football and we are really happy to have Paul coming.
"He is going to play in the backfield and I think a versatile guy in that right. We are excited about having him.”
Jimmy says: Hmmmmm. Yeah, sooooo ... I’m not sure what to make of this. Canevari’s other offer (singular) was to Midwestern football factory, Akron.
I kind of like Canevari, he looks like a gritty power back who might end up blocking for Savon or bashing it in near the goalline.
Strategic recruit, perhaps. Could help open up the Don Bosco pipeline.
Dallas Hendrickson, C, 2-star, 5.4, 6-1, 290, Iowa Western CC (Council Bluffs, Iowa)
Schiano says: “He has been in school here for the last couple of weeks doing a great job according to our guys. You can see the maturity there.
"He went to Iowa Western at about 240 and he is up to about 295 now.
"He is certainly a guy that is going to be right in the middle, in the thick of it competing for the starting center position.”
Jimmy says: Is Mr. Hendrickon a five-star kid? No.
Is he even a three-star kid? No. Did he have big time offers? Not really. Is he a game-changer? For Rutgers, quite possibly.
Why? Because he should make an immediate impact on our offensive line and could (could) make them the “average” line we need them to be. You know what else I learned? Watching film of a center tells me almost nothing.
I can’t figure out if the guy is any good or not. So here’s to hoping.
Myles Jackson, DE, 2-star, 5.4 RR, 6-3, 220, Henderson High (Westchester, Pa.)
Schiano says: “He is a guy that we had seen early on and were impressed with and then I went to go see another one of our recruits, Tyler Kroft, play live and Myles was playing on the other team and boy did he light it up that night rushing off the edge.
"We immediately offered him and were very happy he decided to come to Rutgers.
"He is a very talented guy and with that kind of body can do a lot of different things. He played both sides of the ball in high school and I think he has that flexibility although I don’t know if we would mess around because he has a rare ability to come off the edge.”
Jimmy says: Another intriguing recruit. A defensive end who likes to pin his ears back and just get after the offensive backfield. That can be very, very good, of course, but it also brings backs memories of Schiano’s early blitz-happy defenses that were often caught badly out of position by counters, misdirections, or screen passes.
So rein it in a little Myles, and I think you’ll be fine. He looks very fast off the edge and shows excellent pursuit, so add this to a long list of guys on the d-line that I like.
Ben Martin, RB, 2-star, 5.4 RR, 5-10, 190, Absegami High (Absecon, N.J)
Schiano says: “He was actually coached by Dennis Scuderi, one of the guys that was on our staff a while back and went on to become a head high school coach down in South Jersey.
"Ben is a tremendous athlete and a tremendous running back. He has great explosion and is a downhill runner. He is a guy that I think is going to fit in perfectly in our program. He is very fast.
"We had him in our camp and he is very fast. That theme keeps coming up, but that is something that is very important to us is overall team speed.”
Jimmy says: Ben Martin means business.
A back with good vision, he makes great cuts, can make you miss, doesn’t go down on arm tackles, can blast inside or take it outside, and has breakaway speed once he’s in the open field.
Martin clocked a 4.39 40 at a Rutgers camp last summer and there’s a decent chance we’ll see this guy on the field sooner rather than later.
Third-best running back in the class? Maybe. But still very, very good. And don't ask him to smile for the camera. I haven’t seen one picture of him smiling.
Anthony DiPaula, P, 2-star, 5.3, 6-0, 170, St. John Vianney High (Holmdel, N.J.)
Schiano says: “Anthony is a punter which, obviously with Teddy Dellaganna graduating, we have a need there. Again, we had him in our kicking camp and really like him and the best part about it is he started classes here as well a couple weeks ago.
"He is going to be able to punt during spring football. We will put him in some pressure-packed situations to get him ready to see if he can do that next season.”
Jimmy says: If you’ve read this far . ... congratulations, you get to read about a punter. I don’t know if I’ve ever written about a punter before. I imagine he’s going to be used to punt. Probably in fourth down situations where we aren’t very close to the end zone, but it’s too early to tell. He can also kick field goals in a pinch, so it’s a nice little backup plan for our kicker, San San Te.
But in general, expect many punts from this guy. Because he’s our punter. If I ever have a son, I’m going to teach him to be a punter.
You might make 6 tackles in your entire career, you get to go to college for free, and nobody even really gets that mad at the punter. Also, DiPaula is left-footed, so I bet that is going to throw off the opposition’s special teams coaches a bit.
A very, very tiny bit.