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Impact of the Class of 2016: Review, progress, and future outlook

This season’s struggles make the contributions of the true freshmen even more impressive.

NCAA Football: Rutgers true freshmen impact
Tyreek Maddox-Williams is the Freshman MVP so far.
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Tomorrow will mark only ten more Wednesdays until National Signing Day, and the recruiting trail looking forward will be covered by Chris Drabik.

This weekly segment will focus how each of the last five recruiting classes have performed and their outlook for the future. We will work backwards starting with the Class of 2016. When a Rutgers quarterback gets this offense really going again, it’s going to take the pieces around him to block, tackle, and make plays. Several true freshmen have already seen action in 2016 and project to nice careers on the banks.

Top of the “first” class:

1. Tyreek Maddox-Williams - SLB, Timber Creek, Sicklerville, NJ

State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 35 National OLB Ranking: 86

Maddox-Williams has been the most pleasant surprise on the entire team this fall. If it weren’t for Greg Jones’s injury and Najee Clayton leaving the team, would we have found out? The strong-side LB is supposed to be the best athlete in this defense and I don’t think anyone saw this coming. As a result I think he may be better suited to the middle linebacker spot, but regardless of alignment, he is a solid football player.

Spring projection: Starting SLB. Maddox-Williams is the starter until proven otherwise.

2. Damon Hayes - CB, Dr. Henry Wise, Upper Marlboro, MD

State (MD) Overall Ranking: 37 National CB Ranking: 141

Hayes made his first start at Cornerback this past weekend and is the backup listed for this week against Penn State.His pick six against Minnesota was a huge momentum changer (for a minute). He will contribute for the rest of his career somewhere in the defensive backfield as an inside corner, outside corner, or even safety. There’s a chance of a shakeup at safety, so don’t be shocked if we see him there in 2017.

Spring projection: Two-deep CB with an equal shot at starting.

3. Trey Sneed - RB, Fleming Island, Orange Park, FL

State (FL) Overall Ranking: 80 National RB Ranking: 32

Barring something unforeseen, Trey Sneed will be the 3rd Running Back in spring practice. His work ethic has been praised from day one indicated by being on of the first players Knighted and he has consistently pushed his position group. In extended special teams action (and some on offense), he has shown flashes of being a solid contributor for years to come. This team needs playmakers on the field which may bode well for Sneed.

Spring projection: 3rd RB. Sneed will compete to start, but Martin and Hicks have an edge.

Business class- Played in 2016: likelihood of impact in 2017:

1. Tylin Oden - QB, Spring Hill, Columbia, TN

State (TN) Overall Ranking: 19 National QB Ranking: 31

That aforementioned Quarterback may end up being Tylin Oden. He has seen action this year as a running ... quarterback. As the coaching staff indicated his throwing needs work which we have seen in games on his limited attempts. Nonetheless, he’s a deer in the open field and when he improves his passing will be a dual threat. If he becomes a star this staff will look smart and buy currency with a nervous fan base.

Spring projection: Backup QB. Oden will be competing for the starting QB position.

2. Dacoven Bailey - WR, Pilot Point, Pilot Point, TX

State (TX) Overall Ranking: 341 National WR Ranking: 363

Bailey was in the rotation early in the season even before Grant’s injury as a slot receiver and wildcat quarterback. Then he got injured and had to wear a cast so the staff thought the best way to get him on the field would be to switch him to defense. That tells you what you need to know about how the staff feels about his ability to contribute. His recruiting rankings were low, but he is FAST so the potential is there.

Spring projection: Two-deep slot receiver. He will be on the field somewhere.

3. KJ Gray - S, Jersey, City, NJ

State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 24 National ATH Ranking: 66

Sense a trend here with the DBs? The only question with Gray was which side of the ball he would be on. Gray made a first start at Safety earlier this year and is a regular in the rotation. It’s possible he could move to offense, as I think a lot revolves around Kenny Parker’s assessment of his agility entering spring practice. So far he has looked a little stiff at safety but he is tall and could get more athletic. This guy can play football and hopefully this staff doesn’t move him around too much or he will end up being Jeremy Deering 2.0.

Spring projection: Two-deep safety. With a solid performance, he could start.

4. Ross Douglas - DB, Avon, Avon, OH (Michigan)

2013: State (OH) Overall Ranking: 23 National CB Ranking: 28

Douglas was expected to have a big role, but he got less playing time after a combination of injuries, coming back too early from this injury, and the emergence of freshmen. There is a lot more depth in the secondary than a year ago but there still is a place on this team for a veteran like Douglas. A second year at the same position on the same team would be a welcome change for him.

Spring projection: Two-deep corner. With a solid performance, he could start.

5. Ahmed Bah - WR, Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY

State (NY) Overall Ranking: 11 National WR Ranking: 241

His late re-commitment was overshadowed by the last minute flip of his high school teammate Taysir Mack to Indiana. Then he was not with the team at training camp so the staff didn’t get to see what he could do which allows plenty of optimism for 2017. He has size which you can’t teach and is a huge question mark, time will tell.

Spring projection: Rotational receiver with special teams impact.

Economy class- Redshirt 2016: order of likely impact as a RS Freshman in 2017.

1. Solomon Manning - OLB, Colonia, Colonia, NJ

State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 15 National OLB Ranking: 43

Standing six foot two, 205 pounds, Manning was on the smaller side for a LB but expectations were still high for him as an early enrollee. It’s unlikely the staff will burn his redshirt at this point like Flood did with Dontae Owens last year this late in a lost season. Hopefully we find out that he can play but was only held back for that reason.

Spring projection: Backup SLB. Manning will compete for a starting spot.

2. Kobe Marfo - DB, Reedley College, Reedley, CA

POST Rankings- State (CA) Overall: 33 National CB Ranking: 11

Marfo was expected to have a role and was listed as the primary backup to Austin on the Aug 8 depth chart but with the emergence of Hayes and Gray that has not happened. There is a lot more depth in the secondary than a year which should give him some time to get on the field when he is actually ready. The staff prefers tall corners but Marfo might be key as a quick, slot defender even if it’s only against specific opponents like Indiana who killed Rutgers in this area.

Spring projection: Two-deep corner. With a solid performance, he could start at nickel.

3. Mo Jabbie, WR - South Brunswick, Monmouth Junction, NJ

State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 46 National WR Ranking: 251

Jabbie is not big. In fact when wearing pads he looks like Janarion Grant, and like #1 from everything we have heard he is explosive with the ball in his hands. If he can get stronger hopefully he can grow into RU’s next dangerous return man. I hope this staff finds a spot for him, even if it’s at various positions. He is a different type of player from his Uncle Mo Sanu and his upside might not be as high as some of those below him on this list, but he may impact games in 2017.

Spring projection: Fighting for starting punt returner, kick returner, and slot WR rotation.

4. Rashawn Battle, OLB - Wallenpaupack Area, Hawley, PA

State (PA) Overall Ranking: 24 National OLB Ranking: 80

Six foot three, 225 pounds, Battle was viewed by many as a sleeper with the early enrollees ahead of him. He should grow into a spot at Linebacker or even defensive line. As Scott’s final thoughts mention, this was the deepest unit in this class, and the staff will have plenty to evaluate. On the plus side for Battle, linebacker is a position the staff can rotate multiple players and he should see time on special teams.

Spring projection: Two-deep LB. He may grow into DE and will play special teams in 2017.

5. Elorm Lumor - DE, Milford Academy, New Berlin, NY

POST Rankings- State (NY) Overall: 2 National OLB Ranking: 1 National: 4

Lumor will have had plenty of time to develop when the 2017 kicks off on Friday night against the Washington Huskies, that is a very good thing. He also holds the distinction of the first player to flip (from Temple) to Chris Ash and RU. This staff has moved him to defensive end which makes sense as even with Turay returning from injury, they still have no pass rush. Lumor could find himself as a situational pass rusher in 2017.

Spring projection: 3rd string DE. Lumor will compete to crack the rotation.

6. Nick Krimin - OL, St. Joseph, Metuchen, NJ

State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 17 National OT Ranking: 61

Krimin is huge (6’6, 320) but usually offensive linemen, unless your name is Anthony Davis, take time to grow into men on in the trenches. His upside is high even in the power spread system. I see him making more on an impact at Guard a la Art Forst or Mike Fladell who settled in on the interior line but it may take more time for his agility to get where it needs to be in this system.

Spring projection: Backup Left Guard. Krimin is a dark horse to start.

7. Julius Turner - DT, Meridian, Meridian, MS

State (MS) Overall Ranking: 50 National DT Ranking: 139

Turner is large and defensive linemen take some time to develop usually, especially when they are two-star recruits. That said, Turner has size and will get plenty of reps as his being the only defensive linemen in this class so there is no reason he won’t improve. He is a dark horse to get big playing time, but is likely a year away.

Spring projection: 3rd string DT with a chance to start in 2018.

8. Sam Howson - OL, Pope John XXIII, Sparta, NJ

State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 64 National OG Ranking: 151

Howson is listed slighly ahead of Lonsdorf and Maietti because Guard seems to have the most in flux of any position and the place a redshirt freshman has the highest likelihood of starting (ex. Chris Muller). He of course needs time and no matter what is written or said, no one knows how the OL will develop as the second year of Kenny Parker’s strength and conditioning program commences.

Spring projection: Fighting for a spot in the OL two-deep.

9. Mike Lonsdorf - OT, Immaculata, Sommerville, NJ

State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 45 National OT Ranking: 149

Lonsdorf has been viewed by some, even from this blog, that he is the next great tackle prospect at RU. He has a long way to go, but as we have seen with Keith Lumpkin and now Tariq Cole that distance can be closed very quickly. The hope is that since he doesn’t need to lose a ton of weight first he can gradually grow into his position.

Spring projection: Scout team, seriously battling to start in 2018.

10. Michael Maietti - C, Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey, NJ

State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 62 National OC Ranking: 18

Maietti’s toughness and leadership were never questioned. That coupled with his playing at Don Bosco Prep led him to the banks. It’s not clear yet if this staff will treat centers differently than the other line positions, but if they do that would give Maietti a chance to crack the two-deep. He has the size and might end up being a nice find. I don’t see them starting a redshirt freshman at center with inexperience at QB though.

Spring projection: He has an outside chance at being a two-deep center.

No longer with the program:

1. Jon Pollock - LB, Dr. Phillips, Orlando, FL

State (FL) Overall Ranking: 155 National OLB Ranking: 75

As Scott mentioned, Rutgers signed a lot of linebackers. Pollock seemed to be ahead of the curve by enrolling early and in the estimation of this very blog, was the “most likely to make an immediate impact.” He got caught in a logjam and moved on to Youngstown State.

2. Malachi Moore - DE, Pope John XXIII, Sparta, NJ (Boston College)

2012: State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 45 National SDE Ranking: 86

Moore had a career ending injury which is unfortunate because this team could use another voice of experience on that defensive line despite everyone’s expectations that they would be the best unit on the team. I also would have liked to see someone so big to occupy space and blockers.

20/20 Hindsight:

1. Wow, the kicking game has been “not good”. Jared Smolar still may turn out to be a nice diamond in the rough but it really would have been nice to have kept Alex Barbir. Barbir though has not played for PSU.

2. Several decommitments hurt the numbers in this class but we are too far away from knowing how much for sure.

3. This class did not have a group of highly ranked offensive linemen and only one total defensive lineman. The staff focus on rebuilding the back seven immediately was understandable but could show depth issues in the trenches down the road.

NOTE: For the rankings in this article, I arbitrarily chose 247 Sports. We will dive into composite recruiting rankings at a later date.