Rutgers added nearly 20 players to its 2016 roster on National Signing Day, but to me one name stands out as a player to watch: Ross Taylor-Douglas.
Taylor-Douglas' situation is different than most of the other names announced on NSD, as he already has multiple years of college experience. He joins the Scarlet Knights after a three-year career at the University of Michigan. However, his time with the Wolverines probably did not go as he planned.
The Avon, OH native was a four-star defensive back recruit coming out of high school, who had quite an impressive offer list when making his decision ahead of National Signing Day 2013. He held scholarship offers from Ole Miss, Louisville, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Penn State, Tennessee, West Virginia, Washington and several others before deciding on Michigan.
He redshirted his freshman year, and when he returned for spring practice in 2014, then-Michigan coach Brady Hoke decided to try Taylor-Douglas out at a different position, converting him to running back. That experiment lasted just a few months as Taylor-Douglas changed positions again that summer, working as a slot receiver. Things didn't quite work out for his 2014 season, where he failed to record a stat despite playing in ten games.
Sure enough, Taylor-Douglas converted once again ahead of the 2015 season, when current Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh decided to have him move back to running back. Taylor-Douglas saw the field as a running back, but didn't accomplish much, totaling just 18 yards on ten carries.
Based solely on his production at Michigan, Taylor-Douglas may not come off as an exciting prospect. But I think Rutgers may have found a real diamond in the rough.
For starters, Rutgers will likely be utilizing Taylor-Douglas as a cornerback - the position he excelled at in high school. While Rutgers' defensive backfield seems to be trending upward after a 2015 season defined by multiple dismissals forcing inexperienced players into action, Taylor-Douglas should have no problem finding a role for himself, possibly even vying for a starting job. He has the pedigree and tape that suggests he could be a very valuable piece of Rutgers' defense for the next two years.
That's right. Two years. Which brings me to my next reason I like the Taylor-Douglas pickup.
As you probably know, most graduate transfers get one year of eligibility at their next school. We've seen it recently with names like Andrew Turzilli and Kaiwan Lewis, and we will see it again this year with Boston College transfer Malachi Moore. That's because they spend four years finishing their degrees, like most students.
But Taylor-Douglas has two years of eligibility at Rutgers because he finished his degree at Michigan in just three years. Now, we may mock our Big Ten foes to the west and their sleepover-loving, shirtless wonder head coach, and resent them for poaching much of New Jersey's best talent, but it's hard to deny that Michigan is actually a very prestigious school academically. The fact that Taylor-Douglas finished his degree in three years suggests he's a bright kid with a good head on his shoulders.
And that type of character is just what this defensive backfield needs. With so many underclassmen in Rutgers' defensive backfield, having a guy with Taylor-Douglas' impressive high school DB work and strong work ethic can only help the entire position group.
For these reasons, I think head coach Chris Ash and his staff should be commended for thinking outside the box and bringing aboard Ross Taylor-Douglas.
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