By now, you've probably heard the big news. Four-star recruit Bo Melton has committed to Rutgers. And your reaction probably looked something like this.
This is a big deal.
Melton is one of the most highly regarded recruits in the Garden State, coming in at No. 3 in 247's NJ recruit rankings, and No. 6 in their composite rankings. The 6-0, 180-pound athlete has seen interest in his services skyrocket in recent weeks, as he has received 14 offers in the past two months alone. His total offer count stands at 26, including offers from Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Oregon, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. It's easy to see why he's garnering so much interest by taking a look at his body of work.
As a junior at Cedar Creek, Melton was named First Team All-State and South Jersey, and was named Offensive Player of the Year by South Jersey newspaper Courier-Post. He amassed a whopping 1,723 total yards and reached the end zone 27 times.
It's hard not to be "wowed" by Melton's film. While he shows the ability to make plays on both sides of the ball, most of his highlights come offensively. He typically lines up as a receiver but can come out of the backfield and even line up under center when needed.
When the ball is in Melton's hands, watch out. He shows incredible speed, agility, and acceleration. He has outstanding vision and awareness, and is not afraid to follow his blockers until a hole opens up for him to exploit. I was most impressed by his combination of elusiveness and strength. He has a knack for making quick cuts to avoid defenders and find open field, but even when a defender does get to him, he is a huge challenge to get down. If you'd like to see for yourself, check out his film below. The whole video is great, but I was particularly amused by a play roughly 30 seconds in where Melton literally drags an opponent into the end zone with him.
So what does Melton's sudden commitment mean for Rutgers moving forward? Well, for starters, it shows that Chris Ash does indeed have what it takes to recruit New Jersey.
Hired just weeks before National Signing Day, we saw Ash bring in a number of promising commits on short notice, including the potential quarterback of the future, Tylin Oden. But none of the recruits Ash brought in were "big" names from the Garden State.
Melton is just that - a supremely talented recruit from right here in New Jersey. Bringing in a player of his caliber, especially so early in the recruiting cycle, cannot be overstated. This could be the first shoe to fall in a potentially huge spring/summer for Rutgers recruiting.
Having a leader or face of a recruiting class can go a long way. We saw the value of a vocal leader during last year's recruiting cycle with Ted Field (and then Jon Pollock after Field's decommitment). Rutgers' coaches obviously know what they're doing, but having a commit who can reach out to recruits and connect with them as peers can be a huge help. Melton seems like the type of player who could take on that role. He is very active on Twitter, so the hope is that he'll keep his followers updated on his Rutgers experiences, and if he sings the praises of choosing Dear Old Rutgers over powerhouses like Ohio State, Michigan, etc., then maybe other top New Jersey recruits will follow suit.
Regardless, a flashy, four-star talent like Melton committing to Rutgers ten months ahead of NSD 2017 can't hurt. And it just proves that what Ash is doing is working.
Take Holmdel native Micah Clark, for example.
Clark, a four-star offensive tackle, is arguably the top New Jersey recruit of the class. He currently holds 17 offers from a number of powers like Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Miami. For months, the 247 "Crystal Ball" had Clark spurning Rutgers for Big Ten foes Penn State, Ohio State, or Michigan, adding Clark's name to the list of top NJ recruits who left the Garden State.
Which is why it was such a surprise to see this on Thursday.
That's right, Rutgers is currently in the lead for the top recruit in the state. And this was even before Melton announced his commitment. Needless to say, it appears Clark's visit on Thursday went well.
Of course, there's a big difference between a recruit saying a team is in the lead and actually committing to that program. But this indubitably qualifies as progress, something we so desperately want to see in Ash's first year.
We're all excited about Ash and think he can do great here, but we've also been attempting to keep our expectations in check. After a nightmarish 2015 season both on and off the field, some progress from our new coach is all we could really ask for. And now we're seeing progress at a pleasantly surprising rate.
Melton's in. Could we see his commitment pull Clark closer to the banks?
We already know Rutgers is in the mix for DT Fred Hansard (Hun School) and OL Ben Petrula (St. Peter's Prep). Can Ash secure commitments from them next?
What about the Paramus Catholic duo of LB Drew Singleton and DT Corey Bolds, who are both considered heavy Michigan leans? Could Ash's recruiting prowess along with the presence of a big name in Melton be enough to free them from the clutches of Sith Lord Harbaugh?
The truth is, no one really knows. I've written nearly 1,000 words of this article fully aware of how difficult and somewhat absurd it is to try and predict decisions 17- and 18-year-olds are going to make. But it sure is fun to imagine a Rutgers recruiting class of 2017 serving as a who's who of New Jersey high school football.
And while we may not know the programs to which all of these players will commit, there is one thing that is certain: things are looking up for Rutgers.
Excited about the Bo Melton commitment? Who do you think could be next? Sound off in the comments below!