Should Rutgers have offered Michael Campbell?

There's always room for second guessing when it comes to college sports and recruiting. Everybody's happy to see an Anthony Davis sign a letter of intent, but how many of those same people want to second-guess a program when 100% of their decisions don't pan out? Plenty of Garden State prospects spurn Rutgers on a yearly basis, but heaven forbid the Scarlet Knights pass on one with his heart set on staying home.

Rutgers athletic programs in this respect are always seen as exercising dominion over New Jersey, if not the entire New York City metropolitan area like an omniscient, omnipotent Eye of Sauron. Back in 2002 Garfield's Miles Austin wanted to play football at Rutgers, where his sister was on a track scholarship. Lacking any Division I-A offers, Austin signed with Monmouth, where he proceeded to set school records (later on Rutgers let him work out at the school for their pro day). Over one hundred programs passed on him, but only one keeps getting second-guessed to this day. Never mind the hundreds of other sleepers who never pan out.

The same thing is sort of going on right now with Paterson's Victor Cruz, sometime-slayer of Tim Brown's hopes and dreams with the New York Football Giants. Rutgers actually was somewhat close to offering Cruz as a DB near 2004's signing day, but he chose to jump on an offer from UMass with Rutgers still wobbling. Cruz actually ended up prepping for a year before arriving in Amherst, then redshirted, did not play at all as a freshman, and was quiet as a sophomore. After being four years removed from high school, Cruz suddenly goes nuts and has two brilliant final seasons. It's about as unconventional as a college football journey gets, and one that may not have been possible at Rutgers, or any other FBS program.

By the way, this post is deliberately ignoring Pitt's Dion Lewis, a back from Albany, N.Y. who prepped for a year at Blair in rural Warren County. If you're going to take shots at Rutgers, at least limit your ammunition to inside the program's geographic footprint. Nor is it fair to count situations like Donald Brown (shaky academics + Ray Rice that same year), or Jonathan Casillas/Kyle Wilson (a situation unique to the loaded 2005 class, where RU didn't cast its net wide enough early while focusing on other recruits.)

Well, you can't hit 100% of the time. I'm sure the University of Miami would like a few mulligans on players who ended up being great for Rutgers and Schiano. It's starting to look like there could be another Austin or Cruz situation though. That would be one Michael Campbell from South Edison (literally minutes from the Rutgers campus), currently playing for the Temple Owls. The book on Campbell in high school was that he was physically gifted, but extremely raw.

Like Cruz, Campbell did little early in his career. He turned in a somewhat productive campaign in 2009 (the Owls would run Bernard Pierce on every down if they could), and could be an early breakout candidate now with his 8 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown against Villanova. While that performance is possibly the result of a very small sample size, he does appear to be a player trending upward.

I don't want to second guess in regards to any one player, but in retrospect the staff probably should have signed another receiver in 2007, where they only took Robenson Alexis (and Mason Robinson too, who has bounced between RB and WR) because of the Brown/Britt/Graves class in '06. Alexis switched to DB and eventually transferred out, while all three of the '06 signees were varying degrees of successful at Rutgers, none of them were around for a fifth season this year, and Rutgers is very young and thin at WR. It's very possible that Rutgers will be great at WR in 2011, but any sort of upperclassman help would be helpful at this moment.

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