One bad loss to the #8 team in the nation and all of a sudden players leave Rutgers like it's going out of style. Today, DL Al Page and RB Dontea Ayres decided to take their talents elsewhere as the school announced both players are leaving the program.
The blow to depth is not as bad as it seems considering the talent that has emerged at both positions. Paul James is a force in the backfield and has the skills to become the marquee back for the program. Granted, P.J. does have a history of injury, evidenced by his absence the past two games. However, barring a Huggins transfer, running back should have plenty of depth going forward. Savon Huggins will most likely return for next year, and Justin Goodwin flashed his potential during the SMU game. Jonathan Hilliman is a blue-chip recruit and should develop as a nice tailback for RU. If all else fails, Desmon Peoples is available as well. I predicted in training camp that Ayers had a solid chance to crack the lineup, but he was staring at a redshirt season for 2013. Perhaps he didn't like the sound of that, or maybe he didn't believe the reps were there considering Paul James' breakout season and a top recruit waiting in the wings for next year.
Al Page could turn out to be a real loss, but it's completely based on potential as of now. As a former four-star recruit, Page had the natural talent to become the next star on defense for Rutgers, but injuries kept him from developing into the playmaker he was destined to be. In the short-term, several interior linemen are ahead of him on the depth chart, including starters Darius Hamilton and Ike Holmes. Kenneth Kirksey and Djwany Mera (currently backing up the end positions) were next in line, and even true freshman Sebastian Joseph made an impression on the coaching staff this past summer. Long-term, Julian Pinnix-Odrick will most likely be the guy manning the interior. After more careful analysis, it's possible Page simply saw the writing on the wall and wanted a better chance at a starting position.
The greatest detriment from these transfers could be the damage to RU's image. Players transfer all the time, but three in one week and one for no particularly good reason definitely do not paint a good picture of the Rutgers football program. The 2013 football season is starting to get weird for Rutgers. Let's hope the Scarlet Knights return to normal soon.