2008 has not been pleasant to this point, but its low points pale in comparison to the worst moment in recent Rutgers football history.
No, that happened on a miserable September day four years ago. Following an exhilarating home win over Michigan State, Rutgers fans had never been more optimistic. The resulting loss to New Hampshire the following week simply felt like repeatedly slamming one's head into a brick wall.
That's a loss that had repercussions; two recruits in Brian Roche (Louisville) and Dakota Walker (South Carolina) decommitted. It arguably cost Rutgers the recruits Danny Oquendo (Maryland), Jerome Hayes (Penn State), Luqman Abdallah (Wake Forest). and maybe even Malcolm Jenkins (Ohio State). Decommits can happen following a bad season, but losing is not an absolute death knell in recruiting. One only needs to take a look at recent classes by the likes of Notre Dame, Illinois, Pittsburgh, etc... to see that recruiting classes can at least overcome one bad season.
For sure, it's important to maintain a good atmosphere at Rutgers Stadium. A year ago, a recruit named Mike Cruz decommitted from Pitt following a lackluster show of fan support at their spring game (he eventually ended up recommitting to Pitt). In addition to other factors, a 2009 QB recruit named Josh Nunes has cited booing as a factor in backing off his commitment to Tennessee. Look, who knows if that's accurate, or just cover for something else. Who knows if it's an indication of an athlete's ability to deal well with adversity.
Is there anything to worry about at this point?
QB Tom Savage - I think this verbal is very solid. Savage did not take his decision lightly, carefully considering his decision from every possible angle. His brother's career did not end well at Wisconsin. RU is the closest school to home, is one of a decreasing number of schools that runs an offense suited to his talents, and he has developed a very close relationship to Greg Schiano. Savage has been one of the key factors in getting most of RU's recruiting class on board early. He would have enrolled next January if his high school allowed it. Barring a coaching change, Savage is not going anywhere. Savage is doubly important, because he's not only a blue chip QB, but is teammates with class of 2010 RB Corey Brown.
FB Robert Joseph/OL Jamal Wilson - Not much was known about either of these Brooklyn products before they committed to Rutgers.
WR Mark Harrison - He's very much a boom or bust type, which may have decreased his level of interest from other schools. I guess there's always a chance he might not qualify, but it's nothing to worry about at this point.
WR Aaron Heyward - Absolutely solid as a rock. Recruited a lot of this year's class with Savage. One of the players I think would end up at Rutgers under any circumstances.
WR Shawney Kersey - His recruitment was a little weird. He didn't have much positive to say about Rutgers for a while, and seemed to be focusing on Penn State and West Virginia. The former's offer was contingent on receiving a qualifying test score. Then, out of the blue when Rutgers seemed to be getting new commits daily a few months ago, he hopped on board, if only to seemingly save himself a spot. This one really depends on whether the other South Jersey players were his main draw to commit or not.
TE Malcolm Bush - Fairly obviously committed because he was worried that Rutgers was running out of scholarships. Bush has made no bones about openly pining for a Florida offer. Who's to say they will want him though? Bush will probably end up at Rutgers, but could leave RU fans sweating for a while.
TE Paul Carrezola - Seemed to follow Savage here, so I wouldn't worry.
OL Malcolm Bunche - Sweat a little, because a lot of other teams haven't relented. Hasn't given any indication that he's looking around though.
OL David Osei - With Mark Brazinski out the door, Kyle Flood plucked another lineman from obscurity. Not much is known about Osei, but he is good bet to stick around.
DE Andre Civil - Would have been a much bigger recruit if he didn't reportedly have a few academic hurdles. I wouldn't worry.
DE Michael Larrow - Was all Rutgers from the start.
DT Jordan Hill - Pitt is still recruiting him at this point.
LB Steve Beauharnais - He went under the radar until this season, when he transferred to St. Joe's.
LB Gerald Hodges - Penn State is absolutely continuing their full court press. Hodges may take a few visits, but he is still a solid verbal and has been recruiting other players for Rutgers.
CB Logan Ryan - A RU legacy, Ryan is another player that I expect to be rock solid.
CB Abdul Smith - Seemed like he was actively campaigning for a Rutgers offer for months, and jumped on it as soon as it arrived.
S Mohamed Sanu - Overage player is enrolling in January. As close to a lock as you can get.
S Terrance Taylor - There's always an inherent risk in Florida players that if one of the in-state Big 3 shows interest, he's likely gone. At this point it does not appear that they have any interest in Taylor.
S Duron Harmon - Another player that Pitt and others haven't given up on, but he sounded enthusiastic over the summer.
I think it's hard for a player to break a commitment under most circumstances. It's likely that most, if not all, of these players will end up at Rutgers. There's a lot more uncertainity when it comes to recruits that are still uncommitted like Glenn Carson or Oday Aboushi. You just have to hope for the best. This year's struggles may however put a damper on the class of 2010. It will be important to turn this season around as soon as possible, and not repeat its mistakes next year.
Of course, any full discussion of best and worst case scenarios would have to go far beyond the recruiting sphere. I've discussed in several other posts during the past few weeks as to why while a bad season certainly doesn't help, there's no reason it has to be an albatross going forward. RU football is at a point where it is an above average program. Inherent in the definition of "above average" is that there will be good and bad years thrown in there.