We need to ask - is Rutgers done recruiting Florida heavily? Should it be?
The Sunshine State has historically (and currently) been very good to Rutgers football. In many ways, Greg Schiano dragged this program from the junk-pile at least partially on the strength of Florida football players. Many of their names will always be special to Rutgers fans: Eric Foster; Jonathan Freeny; Damaso Munoz; Tim Brown; Ryan Hart; Tres Moses; Antonio and Antwan Lowery.
More recently: DC Jefferson; Jawan Jamison; Gareef Glashen; Kaleb Johnson; Jeremy Deering; Jonathan Aiken; Djwany Mera; Isaiah Wharton; Janarion Grant; Josh Hicks; Marcus Applefield; and Kyle Federico.
And leaders of the 2016 class, including Jon Pollock and Trey Sneed.
Schiano built a Florida pipeline partially out of desperation - he needed speed and athleticism, and he wasn't getting enough of it, or getting it consistently, from northeast athletes alone. So he mined his connections from his days at the U, turning to Florida especially for skill players, guys who could flat-out move, but who, for whatever reason, weren't picking up offers from the Gators, Noles or Canes.
In his later classes, Schiano quietly moved away from recruiting Florida so heavily, only taking three total in 2011 and 2012 - Jonathan Aiken, Kaleb Johnson and Kyle Federico. All three of those guys panned out pretty well, suggesting a much more tailored approach to Florida recruiting.
The Florida players, who laid the foundation for Rutgers football to grow and become a B1G program, will not and cannot be forgotten.
But along with those great players, there have been a hell of a lot of weird situations, burnouts, dropouts, transfers, and homesick players from Florida. This begs the question - does Rutgers still need Florida players, and should the Scarlet Knights still be concentrating heavily on Florida recruiting?
With the dawn of the #AshEra, Rutgers football is apparently burying "F.A.M.I.L.Y." and all things "CHOP". And maybe (hopefully) those salmon-colored hard-to-read home uniforms. Is Florida recruiting another vestige of the Schiano/Flood era the program is ready to leave behind?
Consider this: In the classes of 2013-2015 (i.e., the completed Flood classes) Rutgers signed 15 Florida players to scholarships. Including the recent departure of 4* DL Marques Ford, 6 of them are no longer with the program, for a variety of reasons, including family issues, general home-sickness, or arrests. That's a 40% failure rate (and counting).
|2013||Janarion Grant||Multi-year Starter|
|2014||Josh Hicks||Multi-year Starter|
|2014||Marcus Applefield||Likely 2016 starter, 2015 contributor|
|2014||Brandon Russell||Special teams player.|
|2014||Isaiah Wharton||Multi-year starter.|
|2014||Darian Dailey||Dismissed because of arrest.|
|2015||Rashad Blunt||2015 Redshirt.|
|2015||Jarius Adams||Played 10 games.|
|2015||Jawuan Harris||2015 Redshirt.|
Kyle Flood turned to Florida for much the same reason Schiano did - he had to. Especially in 2014, the year in which Rutgers suffered a wave of decommits which required the class to fill up late with Florida players like the since-dismissed Darian Dailey, Rutgers needed players, and Florida had them to spare. But there has been an unusually high level of attrition among Florida players from those classes, with nearly half of all Florida players Kyle Flood signed washing out for one reason or another.
Maybe it was just six individual situations, and we should not be generalizing from a small sample size. Maybe Kyle Flood's regime just had a number of culture problems that are just now coming to public attention, and there was a high amount of attrition from all states
But maybe not - maybe Florida players are wired differently than players from the northeast. Maybe they underestimate the effect living and playing so far from home has on them. Maybe they don't like the cold. Maybe Flood and staff overestimated their ability to identify Floridians who would stick and contribute to the program.
Florida players lately seem to be boom or bust for Rutgers - either heroes, like Hicks or Grant, or flakes, like Dailey.
Scholarship spots are exceedingly valuable to an NCAA program - FBS teams only get 85 total, which works out to about 22-25 per year with normal attrition. Rutgers cannot afford a hit rate of just over half from any subset of recruits over a multiple year period - no team can.
I don't expect the Ash regime to focus heavily on Florida. First, none of the coaches announced to date (aside from S&C staff) have significant Florida ties. And more significantly, they aren't going to need them. Ash and company are going to recruit NJ and the northeast first and foremost. Recruiting NJ talent is one of the reasons Coach Ash claimed he found this job so attractive. After that, I expect a more national focus, or at least a more midwestern focus, with Florida recruiting assuming a diminished priority.
There will always be talented players in Florida, and some of them will likely find their way to Rutgers. But a new coach likely means a reduced emphasis on recruiting Florida players. That is a good thing, and a sign of a new day for Rutgers football.
Disagree? Is this delusional heresy, fueled by too much egg nog? Can (or should) Rutgers try to survive and thrive with fewer Florida recruits? Sound off in the comments.