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The current state of Rutgers football recruiting

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Rutgers, as a football program, has placed a lot of emphasis on the importance of recruiting over the past decade. Coach Schiano led the path this direction, but it was based fundamentally on the old mantra that the program was bound to produce a winner, if only it could keep more of the top in-state players home. Well, it has and it did on a very basic level, although someone like Schiano would be the first to admit that recruiting isn't just about stars and rankings and such. One important aspect certainly is finding the right fit for your program, both in terms of off-field qualities (which are quite important in Piscataway, and scheme.) Matt Barkley is awesome, and Denard Robinson is awesome as well; however, the former would struggle playing for Rich Rodriguez, and the NFL is unlikely to embrace Robinson if he insists on staying under center when he gets to pros.

There are those aspects of course, and the ever-present importance of actually doing your own evaluations as opposed to outsourcing your opinions to untrained amateurs (see: the recent failures of Weis, Coker, and Bowden, et al.) An additional complication still is how new-fangled NCAA rules designed to tamp down on recruiting (whereas, prospects can now only receive written offers at the beginning of their senior seasons) has undoubtedly only created more chaos, craziness, and confusion (hence, the death of this site's recruiting board.) Now practically every Tom, Dick, and Harry sports a verbal offer from every program within spitting distance. You pretty much have to do that to even get the players to pay attention anymore.

Even when written offers materialize (which they have not yet for this class), it's hard to gauge a program's interest in a prospect. Case in point: Philadelphia players crowing about Temple landing two prospects that Rutgers could have had if they really wanted. (No offense or slight intended to Temple or Temple fans; this is solely a criticism of a lazy journalist.) In cases like these, you can sort of do a simple inference. If a player was talking up Rutgers, and suddenly they're only looking at factories; maybe we dropped them, but it was probably the other way around. Likewise, if the converse happens, you can sort of guess in the other direction as well. That's why it's not necessarily worth getting upset over if the recruiting sites think your program is having a down year.

What is concerning however is if, rankings aside, a program seems to be striking out more often than not with its top targets. Again, this is all relative. Compared to its regional rivals this year, Rutgers has nothing to be concerned about. The issue is more with hanging with factories on a national level, a possibility that Schiano brought frustratingly into striking distance over the past few years. I mean, there were other reasons of course, but no one really denies that Tim Pernetti rushed to hire Kyle Flood to keep a top recruiting class (featuring headliner Darius Hamilton in the fold.) The Rutgers athletic department crowed about recruiting when everyone said it was going great, and they still are making an effort to publicize commits (to the extent allowed by NCAA rules.)

Given those actions, some skepticism and/or unease about a class full of sleepers is fair game. That's not meant to be a blanket criticism. This is not meant to be a declaration of panic. Some struggles were all but unavoidable after a coaching change. The current staff at a minimum hasn't had a lot of time to work on this year's class, an issue that they are quickly rectifying for the future. There are some really good commits (and other possibilities out there), RU still has a shot at some top targets, and most of the others would be fine as part of a handful of fliers in any given class. It's just the overall nature a good chunk of the class consisting of those players that is so troubling. Beating UConn and Temple for players is empirically trivial. Expectations have risen to a point in Piscataway where fans expect a program that should be knocking on the door of the top 25, and hence they want to be competing for that level of players. Not only has that been a challenge this year, but to see scandal-plagued Penn State (much less a program like Miami) recruit with practically no repercussions is like a double kick to the groin.

You mean, 17-year old kids are so goddamn stupid that not only does the team have to switch to uniforms that are ugly as sin, but they also have no qualms at all about playing there? None at all? Shit. Even then, you get that, you get the appeal of the SEC. What's with suddenly losing recruits to mid-level ACC and Big Ten programs? That has to stop, and it likely will in time. However, if you have not already, it's time to come to terms with the fact that Rutgers won't be signing a top 25 class this season. It doesn't mean the class can't or won't improve, and it doesn't mean that unheralded players won't pan out (nothing would make Rutgers fans happier), but based on current trends there likely is not going to be a parade of positive headlines come February. For better or worse, that's what the tea leaves are saying; so you might as well make peace with it now so that we all will have long since collectively moved on to sunnier topics.