Happy July everyone! To kick off the month, here is the first ever mailbag from On The Banks. We received some great questions and our team answered them based on each of our contributor's expertise. Without further ado, let's dive into the questions.
@OTB_SBNation what is the latest update on the Build Fund?— Margaret (@nursemegg) June 29, 2016
Bob Cancro (rvc73): That's a good question. I was thinking the same thing. And then - TA DA! - the numbers were updated on 6/29. There are now 1,251 donors, up from 1,215 on 6/9. The numbers are up around $200,000 since the last report, pushing the total to around $30.7 million in donations. The "delay" in updating that could mean several things. One, the initial rush has died down and there hasn't been a significant bump in fundraising or donors - that seems pretty on point. Two, they are waiting for the Captain's Program to kick in. There is a meeting of the captains on July 14, so there could be an announcement around then...maybe. Or three, there's big news coming and, like the recent spate of commitments, hold onto your hats. Okay, that didn't happen.
The Captain's Program is an effort to pull in 100 captains who will do personal outreach to their friends in order to increase the base. Each captain had to make their own five-year pledge to the R B1G Build and then seek others to do the same. There are incentives for the captains, although most are more than willing to help in any way they can.
There is also a new R Big Ten Build Society. This recognizes the leadership supporters of Rutgers Athletics’ three Big Ten Build facility projects, those who make commitments of $25,000 and above over the course of a five year period.
@OTB_SBNation what happened to Izaiah Brown in NCAA 400M - injured? Bad race? Resting for Olympic trials? He ran well in 4x400M— Brian Smith (@briancsmithdc) June 29, 2016
Aaron Breitman: Unfortunately, Brown didn't qualify for the 400m race at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Although he won the Big Ten title for the event in May, he only finished 31st at the NCAA East Regional, running a time of 46.93 seconds. Only teammate Jermaine Griffith qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships at the 400m, finishing in fourth place at the regional with a time of 45.80 seconds. Griffith then finished just 0.14 seconds short of qualifying for the Final at the NCAA Outdoor Championships during the preliminary round. It looks like Brown's disappointing performance in the NCAA's cost him an invite to the Olympic trials. They take place this weekend, but he is not competing. However, he is just a freshman and is the reigning Big Ten Indoor & Outdoor champion in the 400m, holding school records for both performances. He also holds the school record for the fastest leg of the 4X400m, which helped qualify the relay team for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. He has a bright future ahead on the banks!
@OTB_SBNation Odds this 2017 recruiting class is held ~90% together by next year? I'm optimistic, but curious what others think.— Matt Lanza (@mattlanza) June 29, 2016
Scott Logan: I’m pretty optimistic about this, too. Ash is charming and persuasive which I’m sure has helped him land so many commits so early. But I have to think most, if not all, of these commits know that 2016 is more or less a rebuilding year on the field, so a lackluster season shouldn’t scare them off. As long as Rutgers finishes the season with at least four or five wins, and is competitive against the tough opponents, they should be fine. After all, Ash is probably selling these recruits on the idea of waking the sleeping giant on the banks and turning this program into a contender. They’re probably not expecting a ten-win team overnight.
@OTB_SBNation How many players will RU be able to take in this years recruiting class? Would it be necessary to take 30 or more?— Rutgers Fan (@Rutgers_Fanpage) June 29, 2016
Scott Logan: It’s hard to say. Of course, Rutgers has the usual 25 scholarships to work with for this recruiting class. But the number of players they can sign can be fudged by a number of loopholes, such as preferred walk-ons and grayshirts, but mostly early enrollees.
My understanding of it is admittedly foggy, but I’ll take a stab at it.
The 2016 recruiting class had 18 members, well short of the allotted 25. If some of the 2017 commits finish high school a semester early and enroll at Rutgers in January, then they could be counted in the same group of 25 scholarships as the 2016 class. This would allow Rutgers to bring in over 25 2017 recruits, possibly closer to 30.
Again, don’t quote me on that but I’ve had a lot of people ask me this so I’ve done some research and it looks like this is how many schools get away with oversigning.
Here is an article on how Texas A&M circumvented the system in the past by taking 30+ commits.
@OTB_SBNation any word on possible decision date of Hansard, Bolds, Sutherland and other top recruits? Recent commits have me wanting more— Mark Blajsa (@Blajsa21) June 29, 2016
Scott Logan: The tealeaves suggest Bolds could be a Scarlet Knight before long. He publicly expressed his intrigue in the recent recruiting surge at Rutgers on Twitter, and teased that it "wouldn’t be bad to join." If nothing else, Rutgers is in very good position for the Paramus Catholic four-star DT.
It’s been pretty quiet on the Hansard front. I think Rutgers is still in good position to bring him in, and the past few days have certainly helped. But he tweeted yesterday that he’s "gonna continue to take [his] time", so it seems he’s content to wait it out. Wouldn’t be shocked to see him wait until after his senior season at The Hun School to announce his decision.
Sutherland is looking like a longshot. I saw a recent Crystal Ball prediction on 247Sports briefly had the Episcopal product coming to Rutgers, but it was quickly changed to a "foggy" outlook. The previous coaching regime was heavily linked to Episcopal, receiving a commitment from 2016 DB Patrice Rene before he flipped to UNC, and also had heavy interest in 2017 DE Luiji Vilain, who just committed to Michigan earlier this month. It doesn’t seem like the Ash regime has pursued Vilain and Sutherland as heavily.
@OTB_SBNation Are any of our commits planing to enroll in the Spring 2017 semester?— Michael Goffinet (@rutgersmikey) June 29, 2016
Scott Logan: I haven't heard anything concrete but because of the potential need to oversign, I'm sure there will be some pressure from the staff to get some of these guys in early.
@OTB_SBNation When you have so many commits early, do you risk leaving out spots for the higher targets? Does that impact recruits?— Kenneth Wasserman (@Kenjwass) June 30, 2016
Scott Logan: Great question. I’d expect to see the commitments slow down a bit now unless a high target or two is willing to commit. There is usually some dialogue between coaches and recruits before they commit to ensure the recruit is a "take".
For example, there are still a ton of uncommitted 2017 wide receivers that hold Rutgers offers. But with so many receivers already committed for the 2017 class, it’s probably safe to say the staff wouldn’t "take" another one unless he’s an elite prospect.
To answer your question, unless an unprecedented number of high targets commit to Rutgers, they should all have spots come National Signing Day.
@OTB_SBNation How much do you expect to see growing pains in the offense, i.e. it being super obvious it's pro-style guys running a spread?— Christian Fletcher (@CFSparta92) June 29, 2016
Griffin Whitmer: With any new coaching staff, there is going to be growing pains regardless of scheme and types of QBs. Look at Michigan last year. Jake Rudock came from pro-style Iowa into a pro-style offense at Michigan. He started off really shaky but was more than just a game-manager by the end of the season and became an NFL draft pick. The good news is Chris Laviano is a good athlete who is a proven runner. Don’t forget about grad transfer Zach Allen (see Scott’s article) who is coming from a similar spread offense at TCU.
The little things such as finding a rhythm with the read option can be practiced at all times and no coach is needed, so that part of learning the offense doesn’t have to be restricted to team practices. That leaves more time during Spring ball and in fall camp for learning and perfecting the playbook.
Finally, the spread offense is much more easy to learn than any pro-style offense. There really is no reading the defense, no audibles, no hot routes. The QB is given a play and it doesn’t change. They run the play and more often than not play to the first read. Learning the basics is easy, the growing pains will be whether or not the QBs can show consistency with plays and be able to run them all smoothly. Expect less growing pains especially if Zach Allen is named the starter.
@OTB_SBNation What are the chances that a guard will be recruited for the Basketball team before the start of the season? Think we're thin.— Farhan Ali (@farsali89) June 29, 2016
Dave White: While recruiting never ends, and you never know what will fall into your lap at the last moment (Mike Rice landed Robert Lumpkins as a grad transfer in late July, and Omari Grier ended up with Eddie Jordan around this time last year), it seems very unlikely. Since Brandone Francis passed on Rutgers, the names Steve Pikiell and crew have been recruiting are all 2017 and beyond. It seemed like Pikiell wanted a back-up for Corey Sanders in the form of a grad transfer, but it just didn't happen.
To me, this is a sign of how big a ditch Pikiell has to dig the program out of. Usually grad transfers at least want the hope of playing in an NCAA Tournament in their last season, but it's clear at Rutgers that's won't happen. Josh Newman, in a podcast, referred to some of the reasons players passed on the Pikiell was because of the Eddie Jordan stink. That may be true. But one has to remember that Mike Rice only had 9 scholarship players in his first season, but that team was one of the most competitive teams at Rutgers over the past ten years.
— Dave White (@Dave_White) June 29, 2016
Aaron Breitman: Deshawn Freeman. While there is a lot of frontcourt depth on the roster for next season, Freeman is the most skilled on the offense end. He is the team's best low post scoring threat and is a solid rebounder as well. Rutgers needs to have more balanced scoring next season, and Freeman shot 54.4% from the field and led the team in scoring at 13.5 points per game, before his season ending injury seven contests in. After he went down, there was too much of a burden on Corey Sanders to score 20+ points every game and Rutgers became one dimensional. While Jonathan Laurent emerged at times, he is better at attacking the rim than posting up in the paint. Having the wide bodied and athletic Freeman clogging up the paint will help create more space for the guards and wings on the perimeter.
With that being said, Freeman has a lot to prove next season. He was suspended by former coach Eddie Jordan at the end of last season for a team violation. Freeman also needs to adjust to the new coaching staff, who will be more demanding of him. There will also be a lot more competition for minutes next season, with the incoming JUCO transfer Candido Sa added to the frontcourt, along with Shaq Doorson returning after missing all of last season due to injury. With Ibrahima Diallo and Laurent back, as well as 6'9" wing Issa Thiam added to the mix, coach Pikiell will have the potential to use a variety of lineups and matchups next season. How Freeman responds to all of these factors will go a long way in determining how much progress Rutgers makes on the court next season.
@OTB_SBNation was there ever a knight that was completely clad in all red or is that just a Rutgers creation?— Jup Gill (@runninGandhi) June 29, 2016
Bob Cancro (rvc73): First, the original football players who wore red "turbans" in their little tussle against Princeton chose red because it was an easy color to get a hold of. Why do you think there are so many red barns? That was the last easy thing a Rutgers football team ever did.
Remember that the Knight mascot wasn't chosen =until the 1950s. Before that Rutgers' teams were the Chanticleers - I explained this before and it is too painful to recap here, but you can read about it here. And before that, they were often called the Queensmen, after the college's original colonial name, Queens College (as opposed to Columbia, which originally was Kings. But I digress).
As for an actual red knight, I refer you to the source of all knowledge: Wikipedia.
Red Knight is a title of several characters in Arthurian legend. There is also a Green Knight, a Blue Knight, and the red is sometimes referred to as the Puce Knight. It goes on: "Furthermore, Gawain is also known as the Red Knight for a brief time in Perlesvaus, and Galahad is called by this name in the Lancelot-Grail cycle." Popular name!
More current, "In the 1991 film The Fisher King, the Red Knight is a central character. He symbolizes the fear, loss, and grief experienced by Perry, a mentally ill homeless man portrayed by Robin Williams." Okay, my work here is done.
That is all for now, thanks to everyone who sent in questions for this mailbag. We will have another one in a couple of weeks. If you do not follow us on twitter or facebook, you can always email questions to our editor-in-chief at firstname.lastname@example.org.