Is honesty really the best policy? The answer is no and that happens to work in just about every coach's favor except for Kyle Flood. There is not a doubt in my mind that Kyle Flood is right at the top when it comes to being a class act among B1G head coaches. Anyone who has a presence on social media should be noticing all of the good things he does for his community.
These acts are only the tip of the iceberg of who Kyle Flood is as a person. Flood has an excellent reputation as an honest, hard-working man who truly earned his job. Despite his many great qualities, in the game of recruiting, honesty may be Kyle Flood's greatest weakness.
It almost seems criminal and unfair but unfortunately, it is the truth. Of course by honesty, I don't just mean telling the truth. This is in regards to illegal benefits, fake promises, and even cover ups/destroying evidence (coach hype). Kyle Flood has never been in a scandal and always handles issues on the team swiftly and fairly.
Unfortunately for Flood, it is incredibly hard to recruit big time players while running a clean program. Let's take a look at an example where this has hurt Flood.
The Nightmare Class of 2014
This class was ranked as high as top 15 in the country with pledges from big-time recruits such as Jon Hilliman, Tyler Wiegers, and some 4-star WR who now resides in not-so-happy valley, PA. According to 247, the Knights finished up with the 53rd ranked class in the country, nearly 40 spots down from where they once stood. Some key players like Josh Hicks and Robert Martin remained as well as Kiy Hester transferring back. However, the pains of that nightmare still haunt Rutgers fans as Donald Bedell became the 4th player from the class transfer, not to mention the dismissal of Darian Dailey. Of course we must also remember we may never see Sidney Gopre due to academic reasons. Why did all of this happen? The answer is literally the same reason that the 2016 Dream team never happened: The Domino Effect.
The falling of the dominoes was caused by Flood instilling his beliefs on these player pledged to him. They were supposedly "committed" to Rutgers but still wanted to go on official visits. Flood wanted these players to honor their commitment to the university and heavily discouraged them but they did not want to listen. For this reason, they went off and did their own thing. Eventually, one player after another began to head elsewhere until it was just Saeed Blacknall. He was holding the class together until the last minute when he bolted for the hype train and never looked back. This is purely the result of Kyle Flood being up front and honest with these kids and them not being able to respond and buy in.
What's it gonna take?!?!
Ron Johnson has bolted for Michigan, JG has broken hearts to leave for UT, Kareem Walker was pressured to join Liar Meyer, Dwayne Haskins shunned Flood to start a movement that still hasn't happened (LOL), and countless other hometown recruits have crossed state borders for other schools. What more can Flood do to keep these kids home? Flood has one of the easiest sells but has the hardest way to do it. If Rutgers had Ohio State money, Alabama tradition, or Oregon facilities, recruiting would be too easy. However, Flood has a financially unstable athletic department, no BCS bowl appearances despite being the oldest team in the country, doesn't have football only facilities quite yet, and can't get 50,000 people to consistently show up for games.
The allure of creating a dream team is almost too much for recruits to pass up. However, what can Flood guarantee to them? He can't guarantee playing in front of 100,00 people every Saturday. He can't offer the opportunity to continue a storied legacy (unless you count the first game). He can't offer the ability to continue a BCS tradition, and he certainly can not and will not offer illegal benefits and that is mainly because Rutgers can't even afford to cheat!
To all the fans that want Flood to get fired because he can't recruit NJ well: it is the hardest sell to have to make, especially with conference foes who are better in every single aspect swooping in and snagging kids left and right. Compare Rutgers to teams that get NJ kids instead of RU. The only thing Flood can seriously guarantee over ttfp is much better academics, because even ttfp is close enough for most Jersey families. The only thing Rutgers has on Michigan is location, but I'm sure Harbaugh will find a way to get families to The Big House,
We all know that Flood has done everything he can to try to convince Jersey kids to stay home, especially since it is seemingly the only thing boosters care about. However, he doesn't get discouraged and still goes out and gets the right players for the program. With that being said, let's talk about the out of state kids.
What if they were from Jersey?
There are a few underrated commits in the 2016 class that I believe would be ranked higher if they were in NJ and maybe Flood would be able to sleep better at night too
Trey Sneed: Underrated due to the plethora of talent in Florida. Probably a four-star prospect if given the stage to shine in New Jersey.
Jon Pollock: Same exact situation as Sneed, doesn't get enough exposure in such a huge state.
Anthony Russo: Overlooked due to inexperience and lack of competition. Put him on a parochial team and see what he can do against NJ's best and maybe he shines enough be one of the best in the state.
Rashawn Battle/Elias Reynolds: Both display tremendous size but play in weak states. It would be interesting to see how they stack up against bigger and better teams in NJ.
At the end of the day, is it really all about recruiting your home state? Would Rutgers fans be up in arms if Flood has 0 NJ commits but 22 4-stars from all over the country? No, and that is what Flood is doing now, just at a slightly lower level. If he knows the NJ kids want out of NJ, he respects that and moves on to get gems like Anthony Russo and Jon Pollock.
With such a hard sell, how will Kyle Flood build up Rutgers into B1G contenders? If he can't get 4-star NJ talent, how will Rutgers ever get better? The best path for Flood to follow is that of Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans. Michigan State is literally the exact team Rutgers wants to be. They have a well-liked and well-respected coach and team. They run an incredibly efficient pro-style offense with a big QB and strong running game. Not to mention they boast one of the best defenses in the whole country. Now let's look at how Dantonio built the program up on the field and in recruiting.
|Year||Record||Recruiting Class Rank (247)|
For reference, the 2015 class was ranked 22nd and the 2016 class currently sits at #7 in the nation. As you can tell, they improved in both areas but steadily. They went from the 21st ranked class and dropped to 36th. However, Dantonio got the right players he needed and that is displayed in their on the field domination. Dantonio now has a proven track record and can recruit at an elite level.
If Kyle Flood can get the right guys to help him improve every year, he will soon have a blueprint for success that he can use as a selling point. The fact of the matter is one 8-5 season isn't enough proof for recruits to buy into the Kyle Flood system. Guys like Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have proven themselves as elite coaches and have endless money and resources and thus been able to recruit at a high lever. If Flood can turn 3 star recruits into big talent and prove to be successful, everything will fall into place. Recruits will take notice and soon 3-star classes will turn into 4-star classes. Fans will take notice and fill the stadium for every game. Most importantly, donors will take notice and empty their pockets to support athletics. If all of the pieces go together for Kyle Flood, it won't be long before Jersey kids flock to the banks.