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Grading the '10 class

I mentioned my thoughts on Chas Dodd in an earlier post several months back. Quickly recapping: he could develop into a change of pace option off the bench. With Rutgers taking so many receivers in recent classes, they could be transitioning to more of a spread look in the future, and that's a good fit for Dodd.

However, let's not kid ourselves here: any notion of Dodd seriously challenging Tom Savage for a starting job is farfetched. There's a colossal gap in talent between the two quarterbacks. Everyone in the stands supports Savage, and more importantly, the coaching staff will too. After watching three years of Mike Teel, and seeing how Savage actually seems to be even closer ingratiated to the coaching staff, it's impossible to comprehend Tom not being a starter for as long as he's on campus. After that, good luck to Chas, but everyone will certainly be hoping for the staff to bring in other passers in coming years to compete to be the quarterback of the future.

Grade: D

Rutgers was always looking to bring in two tailbacks with the class of '10, and that only became more imperative after Jourdan Brooks transferred to Morgan State. Oddly enough, RU ended up signing two tailbacks out of Jacksonville Florida this year. They may not have been involved with those players in the past, when Rutgers largely stuck to the Miami area. Casey Turner was long identified as one of the RU's top priorities at the position. His recruitment was full of twists and turns, but Turner ended up signing, so it all worked out well in the end.

Turner's crosstown rival Jawan Jamison was always considered a fallback option. Jamison is a decent prospect, and was allowed to commit as soon as the coaching staff determined that they wouldn't be able to sign both Turner and Mustafa Greene. This isn't just hearsay; look at the programs that were interested in the two players. Look at the local press - Turner was declared the best back in the J-ville area on the heels of a monster senior season. That's not to completely write off Jamison, who's a stout, compact back with power, but every indication is that Turner is seen as the better prospect at the moment. Casey may be a notch below De'Antwan Williams, but he has a good chance of being a future starting back in a major conference.

Grade: B

There simply aren't enough accolades to shower on what turned out to be a fantastic group of receivers. Rutgers signed Tejay Johnson out of Egg Harbor - not only the fastest track runner in the entire state this past year, but the #1 receiver prospect in NJ on the staff's board, even though he played RB and defense in high school. Jordan Thomas had a mind-bogglingly productive season as a running back in New York. Jeremy Deering out of Florida is another high school back, one that Rutgers secured in a last minute stunner over Florida state. All three of these players offer multi-positional flexibility, impressive offer lists, and have the serious gamebreaking ability that Schiano and co. covet.

Rutgers may have signed six receivers, but several may end up at other positions. Deering's an option to replace Sanu in the Wildcat package under center. Johnson and Thomas may be simply too explosive to not play offense - by the Percy Harvin/Mohamed Sanu corollary, they'll need the ball in their hands. I'm over the moon with all three of them, with the only caveat that they'll have to adjust to playing receiver in college. As we've seen in the past two classes, that may take some level of patience going forward.

If those three are receivers, what about everyone else? Everyone seems certain that Piscataway's Jawaun Wynn will play receiver. He hasn't produced much in high school, but dazzled over the summer on the Combine circuit. J.T. Tartacoff is yet another option who's coming in to play slot receiver. He has nice speed, and would have been a solid mid-level type if he hadn't have committed early at the spring game. In normal circumstances, it'd seem ludicrous to suggest that someone on J.T.'s level could eventually shift over to defense, but sheer numbers at this point could be an obstacle after a while.

The final get was Brandon Coleman out of Maryland, a player that Ralph Friedgen's staff publicly lamented from letting through their grasp. Coleman's big and fast, to the extent that you take a look at the rest of the class and wonder whether he'll eventually grow into a tight end. He's mentioned that possibility, so it's clear that the staff has been open about that being an option going forward. As good as Coleman looks on paper, it's important to not set expectations too high. He's not going to be Plaxico Burress from day one. In fact, for every Burress, there seem to be a lot of similar prospects that never amount to much. Definitely a gamble you have to take though.

Grade: A-

The offensive line signings this year aren't an unqualified success on the level of the incoming receivers. Betim Bujari was the first player in the class to commit, over a year ago in December of 2008. He was absolutely sold on Rutgers, and didn't care about the recruiting process, along the lines of a Sanu or Beauharnais. Bujari enrolled early, and hopefully can crack the two deep sooner rather than later to help with the lingering depth issues along the offensive line. Chris Fonti was another early offer who committed in June, and he comes from a Wayne Hills program that's historically been very friendly to Schiano.

Rutgers wasn't necessarily so lucky with their other signings on the OL. 2010 was a year where they badly needed linemen, but the overall level of talent in the area was down for the most part, and this position was no exception. What the coaches ended up doing was inviting everyone else under consideration to a linemen camp over the summer, where they were able to make detailed evaluations on who to go after. The two that came out of the camp are seemingly diametric opposites. Hamilton's Frank Quartucci has a relentless motor and is an excellent student, who's enrolling early along with Bujari.

Passaic's Jorge Vicioso is Quartucci's polar opposite. He has enormous athletic potential, but he's very raw, with a lot of question marks. The dichotomy between Quartucci and Vicioso really seems to be a case of two entirely different mindsets of player evaluation, as evidenced by my talk with JCB a couple months back. He's sold on Frank, and I'm on Team Jorge; it's like they're teenage vampires and werewolves battling for the affection of a sullen teenage girl. I guess you just have to talk it up to a difference in perceptions and move on.

It is smart though for the staff to cast a wide net, covering their bases with prospects from the two respective diametric ends of the spectrum. It'd be foolish to go all in entirely with one approach or the other. They're hedging, while trying to determine if one sort of prospect could be under or over valued in the broader scouting universe. Rutgers also brought in Art Forst's younger brother Rob late, along with Matt McBride as a mid-year transfer from Hofstra. (During his presser, GS mentioned that RU's staff knew their colleagues at Hofstra well, and did their homework with McBride. They had to know about him as a recruit last year too.) There's been some speculation about Taj Alexander eventually playing offense, but that's not where the athletic department listed him on signing day.

Grade: C-

The defensive line class is an interesting group. Ken Kirksey is a productive player at a position that's nearly impossible to recruit. His athleticism appears to be a perfect fit for Coach Schiano's style of linemen, and he has an impressive offer list. That has to be tempered though because a lot of those interested programs backed off Kirksey late. He's a definite boom or bust flier. Hard to say for sure what'll happen with any of the commits rumored to have qualifying issues. There currently appears to be a scholarship crunch, but Rutgers did turn away interested prospects like Tim Smith and Brian Robinson who were believed to have no chance at all of qualifying.

Taj Alexander was one of several late senior offers in the class. By all accounts Taj did have a good senior season, and Coach Schiano mentioned other local programs going after him late, and that Alexander is going to play in the Big 33 game. DT recruiting is a total crapshoot anyway, and it's next to impossible to find good ones with size. There's not a huge difference between total projects and the ones who get a lot of national recognition. He's apparently going to start on defense, although there's been some speculation about him on the offensive line.

There's certainly some skepticism out there with regards to some of these commits who didn't receive offers until the last few months, but the one guy that most people seem to be happy with is Djwany Mera. He's a lanky end with a projectable frame, and coming off a huge senior season. Mera's a wrestler, and Schiano seems to love that (see Forst, Vicioso). We've had a lot of success with similar prospects in recent years. It's fair to be skeptical about some of these signees, but I'm just going to be irrationally optimistic about Mera for the time being.

Grade: B-

When watching the presser several days back, it was striking to see how Schiano talked about linebacker signee Marcus Thompson. As the story goes, he's an under the radar prospect who they invited up to camp over the summer, and were so enamored with that they offered on the spot. Generally, I don't have a problem with early offerees; especially from Florida, where there's a seemingly endless supply of productive DI players.

That's a fair reason to be skeptical of Fred Overstreet here, who didn't land an offer before taking a surprise campus visit right before signing day. The same probably goes for Dave Milewski. I would get excited by his size and perhaps getting a look at inside linebacker, but similar players are seemingly always moved to DE or TE. It's always hard to say with these late bloomers, who break out as high school seniors. The one other feather in Milewski's cap is that I'd venture that the coaches know all of Middlesex and Somerset County like the back of their hands. They won't make too many mistakes that close to home, and these are local communities and high school programs that are overwhemingly pro-Rutgers.

Now, East Stroudsberg LB Sam Bergen was a somewhat late offer too, but the special circumstances surrounding his recruitment make for something entirely different. Bergen was looming as a high profile prospect before tearing one ACEL as a junior, which made all the Big East, Big Ten, and ACC teams sniffing around back off. He came back last fall with a vengeance, and was poised to finally regain some of that lost momentum when Rutgers pounced, and beat everyone else to the punch. Seemed like a huge coup...before he proceeded to tear the ACL in his other knee. In which case, it's only fair to think of Bergen as a flier. Rutgers could be getting a very good player here. Or, Sam could contribute so little that his scholarship eventually doesn't count towards the limit of 85.

Grade: B-

Another thing I picked up on during the signing day presser was that Schiano seemed high on the chances of Rashad Knight playing early, which is high praise considering RU's defensive back signings from last year's class. When Keith Sargeant talked to some of the premium site people lately, they all seemed high on Rashad perhaps getting a look as a freshman in multi-DB sets. Knight got looks from schools as a corner and at safety, but apparently is coming in at corner to start (shifting later wouldn't be a huge surprise).

With any luck, successfully signing prospects like Coleman and Lorenzo Waters will hopefully open the door for Rutgers to have more of a presence in the Maryland and D.C. areas going forward. Lorenzo's recruitment seemed to follow a similar script to other recent signees like Morgan Carter and Rocket Williams, who seemed to hem and haw around for a while, before ultimately deciding that RU was their best option. Basically, a marriage of convenience. Waters now walks into what should be a favorable depth chart, and his cousin Joe Lefeged is proof positive that freshmen DBs can see early playing time with Rutgers in blitz packages.

Like a lot of Florida signees, corner Gareef Glashen is a relative mystery. After a certain point, it really does seem like track stars with 4.4 timed speed in the 40 yard dash grow on trees down there. Rutgers apparently liked him early, before he initially committed to Syracuse.

Grade: B+