The recruiting picture got a bit more foggy this weekend following the announcement of assistant defensive backs coach Aaron Henry leaving Rutgers to join the staff at North Carolina State.
Henry was hired a little over a year ago after spending the previous two seasons as a graduate assistant at Arkansas. Henry’s time with Arkansas overlapped with Coach Ash, who spent the 2013 season as the defensive coordinator.
While Henry, 26, was not the highest profile coach on Ash’s staff, he most certainly played a big role when it came to recruiting. Shortly after hearing Henry would be heading to North Carolina State, Rutgers received word that two commits would be re-opening their recruitment.
Class of 2017 athlete Bryce Watts took to twitter to announce his decision.
While Watts was not the highest rated defensive prospect Rutgers had in it’s 2017 Class, the 3-star athlete was a big, physical defensive back who had a chance to find the field early on in his Rutgers career.
After decommitting from Rutgers, in appears as if Virginia Tech is the front-runner to sign Bryce Watts, according to the 247Sports Crystal Ball. He is scheduled to visit there this coming weekend. With Watts out of the picture, the remaining defensive backs in the 2017 recruiting class are 3-star safeties Edwin Lopez and Tyler Hayek, as well as 3-star cornerbacks Ihmir Marsette, Tim Barrow, and Naijee Jones.
The second decommitment of the weekend was from the lone commit of the 2018 class, Atrilleon “Trill” Williams. Williams committed to Rutgers back on November 29th, but decommitted shortly following his attendance at Syracuse University’s Junior Day.
Although a decommitment is never promising, Coach Ash and company has a little over a year to bring Trill Williams back to The Banks.
While it was a tough weekend for Rutgers on the recruiting trail, not everything we read turned out to be a negative. With every Rutgers commit who was recruited by Aaron Henry’s future seemingly in question, 4-star wide receiver Bo Melton felt it was important to re-confirm his allegiance to Rutgers University.
To read this type of loyalty from the second-ranked commit in the upcoming class has to be a huge relief for Coach Ash and company, and truly speaks to the type of relationship he is building with his future players.
For now, it seems as if Melton is a safe bet to sign with Rutgers on NSD, but it will be worth keeping an eye on the other commits that Henry was heavily involved in recruiting. Based on his profile on 247Sports, Henry has also been a go-to recruiter or the services of Naijee Jones and Owen Bowles. Both of these commits are in the middle of the 2017 class as far as rankings are concerned, but would be huge losses if they were to flip. My personal belief is that they will stay true to RU, but only time will tell.
With Henry out of the picture for the final 14 days, Coach Ash will turn to his core staff to pick up the slack. Two coaches who I am looking towards to come up big down the home stretch are wide receivers coach Jafar Williams and defensive backs coach Bill Busch.
Busch is a natural replacement on the recruiting trail as the main defensive backs coach, but seems to be locked in on recruits outside of New Jersey. Busch has played a hand in landing OLB Olakunle Fatukasi, WR Tim Barrow, and WR Shameen Jones - all of whom hail from New York.
While Jafar Williams is a coach on the offensive side of the ball, he has been the primary recruiter for Edwin Lopez, a 3-star safety, and Everett Wormley, a 3-star WR, showing off his flexibility as a recruiter. A jack-of-all-trades type could be crucial for Rutgers as they try to lock down this year’s recruiting class.
It’s unfortunate to see the Class of 2018 commit list empty out, and Bryce Watts is certainly an unfortunate loss to the 2017 class, these things are a common occurrence when a key recruiter heads to a new school.
With National Signing Day just two weeks away, it will be interesting to see how Ash & company close out the 2017 recruiting cycle, especially following these losses. For an update on the current rankings and where the class stands, click here.