Only six more Wednesdays until National Signing Day. The recruiting trail looking forward will be covered by Chris Drabik and Michael Voza.
This weekly segment focuses how each of the last five recruiting classes have performed and their outlook for the future. We continue with the recruiting class of 2012. (Class of 2016 here; 2015 here. 2014 too, 2013). Some have recently concluded their careers while others already moved on.
It’s a tough call on the Gold, Silver, and Bronze from this group who all deserve medals for their contributions to the Rutgers football program. After those, there are plenty of other good players from what was a consensus top 25 recruiting class that may be the closest RU has ever come to fencing the garden as they secured commitments from 10 (counting Pollard) of the top 18 players from New Jersey.
1. Leonte Carroo - WR, Edison, Don Bosco Prep, NJ
State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 5 National WR Ranking: 26
Wow. He made RU worth watching every time he was on the field. What is so amazing is as a true freshman, he did not line up at receiver, yet still set records for career touchdowns, by a mile (29)! When he decided to come back for 2015 despite seeming double and triple teams on every play, every Knights fan I know celebrated. Rightfully so as who knows what the season would have been like without him (oh yea we found out in 2016). Andy Egan made a great quote about how much “crap football” Carroo covered up in his career and we reviewed all the games RU would have gotten smoked without him. 2013 Arkansas: game-winning amazing TD (9:00 of video), 2013 Temple game-winning TD on 4th down, 2014 v WSU first play of the season, 2014 Indiana (3 TDs), 2014 Maryland, 2015 Indiana. Fresno St 3 TDs, demolishing Tulane, 2015 v #4 MSU making it a game as the best player on the field, 2015 Maryland not getting the ball in the 2nd half causing a loss after his one-handed catch.
Currently: Miami Dolphins wide receiver.
2. Steve Longa - LB, Saddle Brook, Saddle Brook, NJ
State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 17 National OLB Ranking: 59
Longa actually redshirted his freshman season which is unfortunate because he did not end up coming back for his 5th year to challenge Tyronne Stowe’s records and stabilize what turned out to be a completely new linebacking corps. With another year he most certainly would have jumped from 8th all-time in tackles to 3rd or possibly 2nd. My fondest memory of his career was when he was simply unblockable at the end of the 2014 Washington State game. They showed him on the sideline and I told my brother that Longa was from Saddle Brook to which Mike replied, “They don’t grow beasts like that in Saddle Brook.” I asked about Maneri and Steve Beauharnis then he said, “no comparison”.
Currently: Detroit Lions practice squad.
3. Darius Hamilton - DT, Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey, NJ
State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 1 National SDE Ranking: 2, Overall National ranking: 23
The only three time captain in team history, Hamilton leaves a legacy that very few defensive linemen have ever matched on the banks. His loss in 2015 took an emotional toll on the team, even more after he played hurt against Penn State after dominating them the year before. A five star recruit who is a complete technician, he has a chance to play at the next level like his father. His stats don’t blow you away, but he was consistently double teamed and on the plays that mattered most if the opponent went anywhere near him, they were usually stopped. Most famously in the 2014 Maryland game when his seemingly impossible 3rd down tackle (5:55 mark of the video) maybe won the game, and then on 4th down he occupied 3 defenders allowing RU to make the stop.
Currently: Preparing for the NFL.
4. Kyle Federico - K, Ponte Vedra, Ponte Vedra, FL
State (FL) Overall Ranking: 196 National K Ranking: 10
The first guy from this class to play, he was a four year starter. The fans are always tough on a kicker, but had to eat plenty of crow when they saw his replacements in 2012 & 2013 when he was injured, and after he graduated. Had he not gotten injured, it’s entirely possible the 2012 season would have resulted in a BCS game as the Knights dropped the last game of the regular season by a Field Goal. He finished 3rd all-time in program history in field goals made despite all the injuries.
Currently: NFL Italy? Recruiter at CSI.
5. Chris Muller, OG - Boyertown Area, Boyertown, PA
State (PA) Overall Ranking: 8 National OT Ranking: 24
Muller gets the nod above the players grouped below him due to his longevity. A four year starter (49 total) and the number 3 recruit in the class, he ended his career as a captain. A model of consistency, he was probably the second most important player to keep this class together when Schiano defected. Fans criticized him at times, but in his defense it was always a revolving door at right tackle next to him. The images of him just manhandling UNC defenders in the Motor City were some of the most memorable of the 2014 season.
Currently: Preparing for a shot at the NFL.
6. Julian Pinnix-Odrick, DE - Montclair, Montclair, NJ
State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 11 National SDE Ranking: 27
JPO overcame a logjam on the depth chart and early career injuries to emerge as a team captain as a 5th year senior finally shedding the label of Jared Odrick’s brother. We will break down his play during the positional reviews, but the eye test always seemed to indicate he was around the ball. A steady contributor, he sacrificed for the team playing at times as an undersized defensive tackle. If he had some pass rushers around him, he would have been more effective since stopping the run was his better of the two skills. He totally dominated anyone that wasn’t way bigger than him.
Currently: Preparing for a shot at the NFL.
7. Quanzell Lambert - DE, Timber Creek, Sicklerville, NJ
State (NJ) Overall: 6 National ILB Ranking: 12
One of the quotes that has been around for now 20 years dating back to when John Madden actually did the announcing is “this defense is relentless when the offense tries to run the ball.” This is exactly what I saw from the physical freak Lambert on his highlight tape. In fact I for sure thought other than Darius Hamilton he would be the best player in this class when he signed, with his agility at 240 pounds in HIGH SCHOOL. After getting too big to play LB, he played all throughout the defensive line before a season ending injury concluded his career. As much as Grant’s injury crushed the morale of the offense, his loss did the same for the defense.
Currently: Rehabbing and preparing for a shot at the NFL.
8. Derrick Nelson - C, Archbishop Carroll, Washington, DC
State (DC) Overall: 5 National OT Ranking: 121
By far the least heralded of the fab five, Nelson surprised many (other than Kyle Flood) when he was the first of the group to crack the two deep. More impressive was it was at center when at the time Rutgers had a very deep offensive line. It was great to see him be named captain this season after a scary neck injury almost ended his career last year. A two-year starter at center, his career will absolutely be viewed as a success and his team commitment will be missed.
Currently: Preparing for a shot at the NFL.
9. J.J. Denman - OT, Pennsbury, Fairless Hills, PA
State (PA) Overall: 10 National OT Ranking: 31
An uneven career where he at times was the featured right tackle on the 2014 team pushing incumbent starter Taj Alexander, Denman never really got better. When the Ash staff arrived, my first two thoughts were Clayton would be moved to LB and JJ would be moved inside since I doubted he could pass block in the spread next to Muller. Unfortunately for him he held off Heeman, but teams really went at him the more film they got and eventually he lost his starting job to Seymour (who wasn’t an improvement this season anyway). He is huge and it would be interesting if he could have played in the same offense for 5 years, perhaps even shifting to guard like similar players did at RU in the past like Art Forst and Mike Fladell. With the lead and the ball, he simply wore down opposing defensive ends, but there wasn’t much of that on the banks in 2016.
Currently: Hoping for a shot at the next level. He has the size and experience.
10. Desmon Peoples - RB, Archbishop Wood, Warminster, PA
State (PA) Overall: 22 National APB Ranking: 17
Peoples twice won the most improved player in spring practice. That in mind you’d think he would have been an All-American. He showed some flashes especially as Rutgers fought to stay in the game against eventual national champion Ohio State in 2014. After being viewed as a fumbler, he fell to 5th on the depth chart and after a concussion never returned despite leading the team in rushing! His skillset would have been nice to see in the Mehringer offense as they attempted to use Goodwin in a way that may have best been done by Desmon.
Currently: Planning for graduation.
11. Carlton Agudosi - WR, Franklin Twp, Somerset, NJ
State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 31 National WR Ranking: 137
Brandon Coleman 2.0 it seemed, Agudosi was an enigma for sure. This very website when he committed felt that RU would be set at WR with he and Carroo for a while. Well that proved to be half true ironically enough because the 2015 coaching staff did not believe the two players could ever be on the field at the same time. This was never more true than when he took the team (and Indiana defenders) on his back twice subbing for an injured Carroo to make two huge plays during the comeback. After that, he didn’t see much of the field and got even less in 2016 despite the potential we saw in flashes over his career.
Currently: Hoping for a shot at the next level. Like Denman he has the size.
12. Jamil Pollard - DL, West Deptford, Westville, NJ
State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 7 National DT Ranking: 24
His career was certainly cut too short due to injury. Pollard initially signed with Penn State, but after the turmoil that surrounded the program he left and enrolled at RU. This at the time seemed like an indication that RU might finally get one up on Penn State which of course was short lived. He had the size and athleticism to have been an impact player. Currently: Unknown.
13. Brandon Arciadocono - C, Archbishop Wood, Warminster, PA
State (PA) Overall Ranking: 35 National OG Ranking: 62
One of the steady members of this class throughout the recruiting cycle, it was hoped he would be the center on an offensive line filled with members of this class. He saw some time at guard before a career ending injury. Not before his brother Nick arrived on the banks as a tight end. Currently: State Farm agency manager.
Left the program early other than due to injury (in order missed impact):
1. Ian Thomas - CB, Franklin, Reistertown, MD
State (MD) Overall Ranking: 15 National WR Ranking: 71
One of the themes of this entire series, defensive back starters that did not finish their careers on the banks. Thomas has possibly the most bizarre season of anyone in the history of the program. He started, quit to play baseball which it’s not believed he had played in years, came back, quit again, came back and quit a 3rd time. This is sad because he seemed like a natural at corner. Next stop: Western Michigan then back to Maryland?
2. Ryan Brodie - OL, Long Branch, Long Branch, NJ
State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 9 National OT Ranking: 39
Brodie left this season after he never quite got in the rotation on the offensive line, though he did serve as a huge body on special teams. Personally with the fab 5 offensive line in this class I thought from day 1 he would be the best based on his size and intelligence, but we will never know. He already graduated this past spring and will continue at Monmouth. Next stop: Monmouth
3. Ruhann Peele - CB, Linden, Linden, NJ
State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 12 National WR Ranking: 63
One of the best athletes in this class, he was a team guy who accepted a move to corner out of necessity, forcing a fumble to ice the game against Temple in 2013. He is the poster child for the guys gone that impacted the current team speed. He had a nice spring game at WR torching the first-team showing his athletic ability. Next stop: Unknown.
4. Davon Jacobs - SS, DePaul, Wayne, NJ
State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 14 National ATH Ranking: 41
Jacobs left this season after it did not look like he would get enough action in 2016. Unfortunately for him he will be remembered for two things, being a 200 pound linebacker at one point because the team lacked depth and his dropped INT against Washington State in 2015 that would have iced the game. He did contribute some other moments. Next stop: Wagner.
5. Jevon Tyree - CB, South Brunswick, Monmouth Jct, NJ
State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 18 National ATH Ranking: 51
For other classes, he would be a lot higher as a fast defensive back. For the last 4 years, Rutgers has been torched through the air. He got a bad rap from the fan base during the bullying allegations, but as we found out later there was probably a lot more to that story. Next stop: Brookdale (baseball).
6. Blake Rankin - QB, Bloomsburg, Bloomsburg, PA
State (PA) Overall Ranking: 41 National QB Ranking: 55
Like Tyree, in other classes he would probably be higher on the list. Blake broke his leg as a senior in HS which I’m not sure if he ever recovered from. The irony being that I personally wondered at the time if his dual threat style would work in RU’s O. Next stop: Delaware.
1. Strength: Star power and leadership. From 2005-2011, Schiano only missed a bowl game once, in 2010, which gave him extra time to build cohesion among with this group as high school juniors. So, despite a late coaching change, once Hamilton was on board, almost everyone else stuck. The timing may have been ideal for Flood as it would have been a last minute scramble for some of this group to land elsewhere, but the leadership of Muller, Nelson, and Hamilton from then until today doesn’t get enough credit.
2. Strength: Number of players who impacted games in their careers. This is what happens when you have a solid recruiting class, some guys do not need as much time to develop. This shot in the arm was huge to help maintain the momentum from the 2011 season as RU continued to recover from LeGrand’s injury on and off the field. Not only the stars, but by 2014, ten of these guys were contributing, 9 of which starting!
3. Weakness: Overall numbers. The transition from Schiano prevented the staff from securing late commits, as Flood needed to focus on retaining the guys already verbally committed. Delon Stephenson ended up coming a year later, leaving this group with only 18 guys (Pollard later). The lack of bodies ultimately resulted in too many guys from later classes having to play early over the last two years.
4: Weakness: Lack of development, especially on offense. Part of the problem was 5 different OCs in their 5 years and two different defensive systems. I only see one player who continuously got better in his career, Lambert. Carroo, Longa, and Hamilton were studs by their second years. Nelson was on the two-deep as a true FR, Muller and Denman may have peaked as RS SO. Pinnix-Odrick, Federico, and Peoples when healthy were pretty consistent in their performance. Agudosi we don’t even know.
5. Big picture: Blueprint of a recruiting class. One thing you notice in this class that is commonly discussed in recruiting is that the top players could play in any era, in any system. If you can’t secure those guys, then you need to do a good job of finding a scheme fit. Since RU was able to secure so many top commits in this group especially in the trenches, very few were exclusively a specialist. For example, in a pro-style offense it would be pointless to have 3 Desmon Peoples skillsets on your roster.
6. End to end Depth: When reviewing why RU had so little depth this season, you can see that one of the reasons is the lack of 5th year seniors (7) that had been much more common in year’s past. Only three (Hamilton, Federico, and Carroo) had to play as true freshmen yet only Jacobs that could possibly have another year of eligibility as a 5th year elsewhere. This “epidemic” has continued in a different form to the 2013 class as a number of players have already decided to play their last year elsewhere.
NOTE: For the rankings in this article I arbitrarily chose 247 rankings. We will dive into composite recruiting rankings at a later date.