The biggest day in college football recruitment is just under two weeks away, and Chris Ash and his staff are hard at work finalizing Rutgers' 2016 recruiting class. Of course, most of the current commits were brought aboard by the Flood regime, but Ash has kept most of the class together following the coaching change. Ash has even begun to put his own touch on the class.
Here's a look at the twelve players set to join the program for the 2016 season, and what they bring to the table.
LB Jonathan Pollock (Orlando, FL)
Pollock might just be Rutgers' most important recruit of this class. Ever since he committed to the Scarlet Knights in October 2014, he has been vocal and enthusiastic about Rutgers, and seamlessly took over the role as recruiter after Ted Field's departure. Pollock enrolled early, and has already begun classes at Rutgers. He'll be able to participate in spring practice, which should help him get a leg up on his fellow freshmen and give him a good shot at earning playing time as a true freshman. Pollock has a keen ability to rush the quarterback and stuff the run, and isn't afraid to drop back into coverage as well.
Other Notable Offers: North Carolina, Mississippi State, Indiana, Memphis, Temple
Freshman Impact Index: 7 - Quentin Gause and Kaiwan Lewis graduated, and Steve Longa declared for the NFL Draft, leaving Rutgers without all three of its starting linebackers from 2015. With the lack of experience at linebacker, Pollock could conceivably earn himself a starting job with a strong showing in the spring. At the very least, I expect him to be one of the first guys off the bench.
WR Mohamed Jabbie (Monmouth Junction, NJ)
Jabbie is a bit of Rutgers royalty, as he is the nephew of Scarlet Knights great and current Bengals WR Mohamed Sanu. It seems he was always ready to follow his uncle's path, as he committed to Rutgers just days after Pollock in October 2014. The South Brunswick native hasn't wavered since, not even taking a visit to another school. He projects as a Janarion Grant-type receiver, relying on his speed and cutting ability to make plays.
Other Notable Offers: None
Freshman Impact Index: 3 - While Ash and company have their work cut out for them as they look to replace Leonte Carroo, the Scarlet Knights do have depth at the position. Andre Patton, Carlton Agudosi, and Grant should see most of the targets, with Dontae Owens and Rashad Blunt getting more involved after having minimal roles as freshmen. Jabbie should get a shot at playing time, but may ultimately redshirt due to the number of receivers ahead of him.
OT Nick Krimin (Metuchen, NJ)
Krimin certainly has the size to make an impact at the collegiate level at 6-6, 320. That being said, Rutgers tends to redshirt or limit freshmen to backup duties, so we might not see much of Krimin in 2016. But he could be a very valuable piece in the coming years.
Other Notable Offers: Miami, Pitt, Duke, Temple, West Virginia, NC State, Syracuse
Freshman Impact Index: 3 - Like Jabbie, this isn't an indictment on Krimin's skill, but an acknowledgement of the players ahead of him. Rutgers returns four offensive line starters from last season, with most of the backups returning as well. Wouldn't be shocked to see Krimin redshirt.
RB Trey Sneed (Orange Park, FL)
Sneed might be the most exciting prospect of the 2016 class, as his film shows an evasive running back who can turn on the jets at the second level and gain more yards after contact. Ash did well to keep Sneed at Rutgers after Flood and Norries Wilson, who recruited Sneed, were both let go. Even better, Sneed has enrolled early and will get valuable practice time this spring.
Other Notable Offers: Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Utah, Georgia Tech, Navy, Temple, Illinois, Wake Forest
Freshman Impact Index: 5 - I'm honestly not sure what to expect from Sneed in 2016. Josh Hicks and Robert Martin are the no-brainer top two backs, but beyond that, it's a mystery. Justin Goodwin was listed as a co-starter all of last season, but had a minimal role. He could remain a back-up or maybe even convert to cornerback if Rutgers needs depth. Charles Snorweah and Desmon Peoples, neither of whom played last year, should fight for snaps too. Maybe he'll impress the coaching staff during spring practice and earn a role next season, but he could just as easily redshirt due to the Scarlet Knights' depth.
WR Taysir Mack (Brooklyn, NY)
Mack has the best size among the three wideouts Rutgers will bring in for the 2016 class (6-3, 175), which should give him a shot at playing time as a freshman. Still, the coaches may want to see him bulk up a bit before giving him snaps, so it will be interesting to see what he weighs in when he reports to the team this summer.
Other Notable Offers: Boston College, Penn State, Indiana, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, UConn
Freshman Impact Index: 4 - Like Jabbie, Mack will need to fight for snaps on offense, which won't come easy with Patton, Grant, Agudosi, Blunt and Owens ahead of him. Mack's biggest impact could come on special teams as a freshman, if the coaching staff decides against redshirting him.
LB Solomon Manning (Colonia, NJ)
Manning is the highest ranked NJ recruit Rutgers has received a commitment from this year, as he is the 15th ranked prospect from the Garden State (grumble grumble we need to recruit better in NJ grumble grumble). Manning is a hard-hitting, strong tackler - something that Rutgers fans should enjoy after seeing some less-than-stellar tackling last season.
Other Notable Offers: North Carolina, Pitt, Syracuse, Army
Freshman Impact Index: 7 - Like I mentioned before, Rutgers will be looking to replace Gause, Lewis and Longa - all three starting linebackers from last season. At 6-1, 200, he'll probably need to bulk up a bit, but has plenty of time to do so. Like Pollock and Sneed, Manning has enrolled early, and will get a chance to turn some heads this spring. Assuming he shows well in the spring and summer, he should be in line for regular snaps with the defense in the fall.
CB Damon Hayes (Upper Marlboro, MD)
Rutgers is pretty short on defensive backs in this recruiting class. By that, I mean Hayes is currently the only defensive back committed to the Scarlet Knights for the 2016 class. A look at his film shows that Hayes is a solid cover corner who is a strong tackler. Even if his receiver beats him on a play, rarely does Hayes give up much additional yardage. He has been pursued by Boston College and Wake Forest in recent weeks, but as of now it doesn't seem like we have much reason to worry about losing him.
Other Notable Offers: Boston College, Temple
Freshman Impact Index: 4 - A lot was made out of Rutgers' secondary in 2015, but the good news about having such a young defensive backfield is that all of those players gained a valuable year of game experience. With Rutgers returning its entire secondary from last season, Hayes' biggest impact as a freshman will likely come on special teams if he's not redshirted.
LB Rashawn Battle (Hershey, PA)
In addition to having arguably the coolest name of this recruiting class, Battle will also join T.J. Taylor in a tie for the tallest linebackers on the Rutgers roster at 6-3. Battle has deceptive speed for someone his size, and he can make his blockers miss. His film shows aggressiveness, burst, and an ability to hunt down the ball carrier.
Other Notable Offers: Temple, Pitt, Indiana, Boston College, Syracuse
Freshman Impact Index: 6 - Linebacker, of course, is a position without much depth heading into 2016, so just like every freshman linebacker, Battle should have a chance to earn playing time. However, with Pollock and Manning enrolling early, those two should have a slight edge on Battle after spending a few extra months and spring practice with the team.
OT Elijah Johnson (Hyattsville, MD)
At 6-6, 317, Johnson definitely has the size of a Big Ten offensive lineman. His measuarables are similar to current starters Chris Muller and J.J. Denman. Rutgers became the first team to extend an offer to Johnson in June 2014, and it paid off when they secured a commitment from the big man last June.
Other Notable Offers: West Virginia, Temple, Pitt, Virginia, Maryland, Indiana, Illinois, Boston College
Freshman Impact Index: 3 - Johnson is in the same boat as Krimin, as most offensive linemen don't see the field much as true freshmen, so barring injuries or a stellar performance in summer camp, I anticipate Johnson redshirting.
WR Isaiah Wright (West Hartford, CT)
Wright is an intriguing prospect. At 207 pounds, he's a little heavier than most 6-2 receivers. While he won't blow you away with his speed, he makes up for it with strong hands, impressive route running and the ability to push defenders around to pick up yards after contact. He's a dark horse candidate to see red zone targets this fall.
Other Notable Offers: Ohio State, Maryland, Boston College, Syracuse, UConn
Freshman Impact Index: 5 - While I don't see Jabbie or Mack getting enough playing time to make a huge impact as freshman, Wright could be a different story. His unique size could earn him a role in Mehringer's spread offense, which will likely utilize several receivers. If the coaching staff feels comfortable with playing him as a true freshman rather than redshirting him, a red zone role could make sense for Wright.
K Alex Barbir (Cumming, GA)
Barbir's powerful leg has made him one of the top kicking prospects in the nation. Over the summer, a video surfaced of him kicking a 71-yard field goal. Obviously he probably won't ever be asked to hit a 71-yarder during a game, but it's nice to know he has the leg strength to do so. Field position aficionados will also like to hear that over 90 percent of Barbir's kickoffs resulted in touchbacks during his senior year. Louisville and Penn State are making a late push to bring Barbir aboard, so Rutgers will have to make a stand to keep the kicker on the banks.
Other Notable Offers: Penn State, Louisville, Navy, Illinois
Freshman Impact Index: 10 - As long as Barbir stays committed to Rutgers, he's a virtual lock to replace Kyle Federico as the Scarlet Knights' placekicker.
LB Elorm Lumor (Piscataway, NJ)
Meet the first commit of the Ash Era. Lumor's decision to join Rutgers came out of seemingly nowhere. Last November, Lumor committed to Temple, and that was the last we heard of him until January 12th, when news broke that he had flipped his commitment from Temple to Rutgers. Even better, Lumor also decided to enroll early, so he'll get a chance to impress this spring. Lumor is a hard hitter who can make blockers miss. Ash did a great job picking up a commitment from a talented player right in his backyard.
Other Notable Offers: Temple
Freshman Impact Index: 7 - Lumor's versatility and early enrollment should help him see the field as a true freshman. He spent a lot of time as a defensive end in high school, but is probably best suited to play outside linebacker at Rutgers. Obviously, the Scarlet Knights have some big shoes to fill with Gause, Lewis and Longa all moving on, so Lumor should have a chance to get the coaching staff's attention with a strong showing this spring.
What do you think about the class so far? Who are you most looking forward to seeing on the field in 2016? Sound off in the comments below!