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Rutgers Football Recruiting: Cracking the Top 30?

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Chris Ash is finding success on the recruiting trail, and recruiting sites are taking notice.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

It's no secret among Rutgers fans that Chris Ash and the new coaching staff have done a great job recruiting in their first few months on the job. But now national recruiting sites like 247Sports, Scout, and Rivals are beginning to take notice, giving fans a solid measuring stick to see how Rutgers is stacking up with the rest of the nation.

Rivals was the "harshest" towards Rutgers, but coming in at No. 38, the Scarlet Knights are on pace to finish much better than they did in recent years (No. 79 in 2016, 53 in 2015, 57 in 2014).

Ash's hot start to the 2017 class has Rivals ranking Rutgers ahead of big-name programs like TCU, Oregon, Ole Miss, West Virginia, Louisville, and others. Rutgers is ranked just behind three SEC schools - Florida, Arkansas, and Auburn.

The high ranking is thanks to quantity more than it is quality, according to Rivals. While they have a whopping nine commits already pledged to the program, the site has them averaging 2.83 stars, tied for 68th in the nation. For what it's worth, they did not assign a star rating to recent commit Tim Barrow for some reason, so that figure could rise once they give him a rating.

Scout's average star rating was a little more favorable, assigning a 2.89 star average for the Scarlet Knights' class so far. Rutgers as a whole comes off better in Scout's rankings, currently sitting just outside the Top 30 at No. 31.

That rating has Rutgers just behind a pair of Pac-12 teams that many thought were close to reaching the College Football Playoff - USC and Stanford. The Scarlet Knights are just ahead of two other Pac-12 teams, Arizona and UCLA, as well as programs like Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, and others.

As was the case with Rivals, the current 2017 ranking is much more appealing than where the Scarlet Knights finished in recent years. No. 31 is fantastic when Rutgers finished 71st, 52nd, and 55th in the last three years.

The most exciting ranking comes from 247Sports, who currently have the Scarlet Knights cracking the Top 30, coming in at No. 29.

247's glowing rankings of the recruiting class is helped by the site's rave review of wide receiver commit Bo Melton. While several sites list Melton as a three-star recruit, 247 considers Melton be a four-star, along with offensive line commit Micah Clark.

In 247's rankings, Rutgers is just three spots behind Big Ten foe and 2016 College Football Playoff qualifier Michigan State and ahead of Pac-12 powers Washington, USC, Stanford, and UCLA. In fact, if Rutgers were in the Pac-12, their class would be ranked second in the conference, just behind Arizona.

Of course, the Big Ten has some tougher recruiters than the Pac-12. Despite the No. 29 ranking, 247 still only has Rutgers as the tenth best class in the 14-team conference.

While the Scarlet Knights may not be in elite territory when it comes to recruiting yet, these rankings are probably better than most Rutgers fans expected to see this quickly from the Ash regime.

The new coaching staff is yet to coach a game, and they've still established something of a stranglehold on the top talents in New Jersey. According to 247's composite rankings, two of the top five players in New Jersey's 2017 class have already committed to the Scarlet Knights (Clark and Melton).

Rutgers remains in the mix for the other three, including four-star defensive tackle Fred Hansard and four-star athlete Markquese Bell, who are both predicted to end up at Rutgers according to 247's Crystal Ball.

Rutgers' success on the recruiting trail is made even more impressive considering eight of the nine members of the class are offensive players, despite Ash himself being a defensive maven at Ohio State. In fact, the only defensive player in this class, Naijee Jones, isn't even an Ash commit, as Jones committed last November when Kyle Flood was still the coach. It's scary to think how good this class might get once Ash is able to land some big defensive prospects.

It's easy to forget there are still nine months until National Signing Day 2017, so anything could happen, for better or worse. But it's hard not to be encouraged by what we've seen from Ash and Co. so far, and clearly recruiting sites are taking notice of Rutgers recruiting on the rise.