Rutgers Football Recruiting Big Board: Defensive Backs

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers young secondary found itself on the wrong side of some high-flying offenses last year, and the results were not pretty. Who is Rutgers looking at to lock down the passing game in the next few years?

Pass coverage was not a Scarlet Knight area of strength last year, to state it charitably. Rutgers ranked 120 (of 123) in pass yards allowed after allowing opponents 4,056 yards through the air, good for 31 passing TDs against and 312 yards per game. Not good. Rutgers was hurt by a few crucial injuries, including to 5th year transfer Lew Toler, and was also hurt by the curious case of Ian Thomas' abrupt departure.

If there is any good news in that slop, it is this: Rutgers was relying on an exceptionally young core of defensive backs, and former Defensive Coordinator Dave Cohen (who I suspect drew up coverages using a crayon and a Magic 8-Ball) is out of the picture. The young DBs, like Nadir Barnwell, Anthony Cioffi, Delon Stephenson and T.J. Taylor, were thrown into the fire. While not pretty last year, those guys now have invaluable game experience, and those meaningful snaps should serve them well beginning this year. Ian Thomas has also rejoined the team, and early enrollee Kam Lott was a revelation in Spring Practices.

Rutgers should benefit from that young crew for the next several years, but who will lock down B1G aerial attacks after "DBU" continues and these guys go to the NFL in a few years?

How Did Rutgers Do Last Year?

Rutgers pulled in a strong DB class, considering the rash of decommitments in the class of 2014. Rutgers recruited some very talented DBs last year. Kyle Flood inked five defensive backs in 2014:

Andre Boggs -  5'11" 175 lb, Avon (Conn.) Old Farms - Boggs was under-recruited while in high school in Coatesville, PA, but his speed, vision and ball skills were apparent even then. His tape shows mostly highlights on the offensive side of the ball, but the same skills that made him successful as a WR and RB translate to DB too. Boggs may end up playing WR at Rutgers, depending on how the depth chart shakes out, but regardless, expect an early impact when Dre hits training camp this summer.

Kamren Lott, 5'10", 180 lb, First Coast (Jacksonville, Fla.) - Kam is already a fan favorite, not only for his loyal and vocal support of the Scarlet Knights throughout a difficult recruiting season, but also for the tremendous way he hit the ground running as a freshman early enrollee in spring practice. Lott is not the tallest DB, but he plays with a ton of heart, and seems to have a knack for reading the play and getting to where the ball will be.

Saquan Hampton, 6'1", 185lb, Nottingham (Hamilton, N.J.) - With Lott, Hampton was also a vocal leader among the recruiting class of 2014, who was not shy about expressing his displeasure with the players who decommitted. Hampton will likely be a safety at the next level, a position of extreme need for Rutgers. He also excels on special teams as a kick-returner, and it could be a lot of fun to watch him line up next to Janarion Grant in that role.

Isaiah Wharton, 6'1", 185 lb., Gateway (Kissimmee, Fla.) - Although well-versed as a cornerback, the physical Wharton projects as a safety in college. He was a late addition to the recruiting class, committing in late January only two weeks before signing day.  Wharton plays with great awareness, and puts himself in great position to make a play on the ball.

Darian Dailey, 5'11", 175lb., Manatee (Bradenton, Fla.) - Dailey was also a late addition to the 2014 class, committing on an official visit the weekend before signing day. Dailey projects as a cover corner.  As he told Todderick Hunt:

"It's about the block R, honestly. I want to be a part of the DBU (defensive back university) that they have. And I think that's the best fit for me because I like to play man-to-man and I like to go in on corner blitzes."

Who's Ahead on the Depth Chart

The upside of a young secondary getting exposed by three future NFL QBs running high tempo spread offenses is a more experienced secondary for the next few years. We are all about the silver linings here at OTB. Nadir Barnwell, Anthony Cioffi, Delon Stephenson, Davon Jacobs, and Kam Lott should all see substantial playing time this year. The young guns are not the only players on the roster however. The secondary also includes more senior players such as Gareef Glashen, Jonathan Aiken, and Lorenzo Waters, as well as prodigal son Ian Thomas, who abruptly left the team last year, but returned in the spring and is earning back his spot.  Thomas is very talented, so his loss was a significant blow last year, and his return is just as much a positive this year.

Who's on the Recruiting Radar?

Rutgers has secured a commitment from one 2015 defensive back so far, in hard-hitting Weequahic (Newark) safety Alkadair Ports. Previously unranked, 247 Sports now rates Ports a 3*, and it is no surprise why - his speed and athleticism jump off the tape. Recruiting does not stop until the athlete signs an NLI in February, so keeping Ports in the fold as other schools inevitably get wise to his talent is a primary recruiting job in itself.

Other Top Targets

Sayreville's Myles Hartsfield tops the priority list for Coach Flood.  Hartsfield is a slight ttfp lean, but Rutgers is "neck and neck" with the Nitty Kitties to secure the safety's services. ttfp already has two safeties committed in the 2015 class, perhaps a factor that will play into Hartsfield's ultimate decision. At one point, Hartsfield said he wanted to make his decision in mid-June, so we may see some action in the next few weeks, if he sticks to that schedule.

Union City safety Daiquan Kelly is also a priority for Kyle Flood, although the Knights may have some ground to make up with him. Kelly recently listed Rutgers in third place, behind Syracuse and Pitt. Kelly is also very interested in ttfp, although he has not received an offer from that school yet. He plans to hold off on a decision until the fall, but he was appreciative of some Rutgers contact this week:

Also at safety, Glassboro's Ronnie James is drawing a lot of attention from the Knights, and for good reason: his big brother is current Knight star RB Paul James. In addition to Rutgers, he has offers from Pitt, Syracuse and Army.

Washington D.C. cornerback Sammy Morrison also figures in the Knights plans. The athletic corner holds offers from Boston College, Temple, Georgia Tech, Army and Hawaii in addition to Rutgers. He has been on campus several times, including following the April Rivals camp in Piscataway. Morrison is looking to make his decision before his senior season starts.

Also of interest to the Knights are Don Bosco corner Daivon Ellison, Delray Beach (Florida) CB Desmond Cain, and Macedonia, OH CB Denzel Ward. There is some speculation that Ellison may not be as high of a priority for the Knights as he once was. Regardless, he is a talented player and merits consideration until NLI Day.

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