Rutgers signed one of its strongest recruiting classes since the Schiano days, and in one class, pulled in more 4 star recruits than the “Time of the Flood.” It might also be a significantly underrated class, brimming with more potential talent than the star-gazers are currently giving it credit for.
Here are On the Banks’ “superlatives” about the newest Knights.
Most Likely to Start Sept. 1 Against Washington
It’s probably cheating to name the All-American punter Ryan Anderson for this spot, although he might be one of the most important recruits in this class, and will have an immediate impact. As far as position players, WR Bo Melton tops the list of potential day one starters, simply because 1) the WR corps (non-Janarion division) was . . . not a strength last year; and 2) several starters graduated. Melton has the kind of game-changing speed the Knights were sorely lacking, and he could challenge right away for a starting, or at least significant, role as a receiver.
Most Likely Janarion Grant Impersonator
Late-addition Raheem Blackshear brings serious wheels and shiftiness to the Knights offense, with Grant-type versatility. Look for Blackshear to line up both as a RB and a WR and he could play a major role on special teams returning kicks and punts too. He may need to put on some muscle, but Janarion and former Knight Tim Brown both were able to be gamechangers despite being “undersized”. Look for Blackshear to play a similar role.
Most Likely MVP of Rutgers 2019 Rose Bowl Victory (can I get an “Amen”?)
QB Jonathan Lewis is going to be a monster running this offense. He ran a similar offense in high school, and put up world-destroying numbers doing it. He has the frame, size, speed and passing ability to be among the best in the country in a few years. Place your Heisman bets now, while you can still get good odds. In the meantime, Coach Ash was positively gushing about Lewis’ leadership and ability at the press conference, and pegged him as having a chance to start as a true freshman. Barring a Gio-renaissance in the spring and summer (which could happen if he’s healthy), sign me up for Lewis kicking ass and taking names.
Most Murderous Mauler - Offense Line
Micah Clark and Sam Vretman are both going to be major contributors, soon. They both simply relish destroying hapless D-linemen. Vretman brings a pure nasty streak to the field, often driving defenders out of the play completely or pancaking them harder than Mrs. Butterworth. Clark might be the the best pure O-lineman RU has recruited since Anthony Davis — he doesn’t have Davis’ off the charts strength, but he is more nimble and athletic. Both Clark and Vretman have play-on-Sunday potential.
QB Killer - Defensive Line
Mike Tverdov rushing the passer off the edge is going to be really fun for Scarlet Knights fans to watch. He might end up being the best player in this class. He has all the tools to be a dynamite B1G D-End, and the early indicators are he has both the leadership potential, drive and work ethic his big bro demonstrated every single play.
Most Likely to De-Cleat an Opponent
Brooklyn Linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi hits ballcarriers like a freight train, and doesn’t let up until they are on (or jammed into) the turf. This is one of the strongest Rutgers LB recruiting classes ever signed, and Fatukasi is a major playmaker. He is going to be really fun to watch, especially as a big hitter.
Two winners for this category: Wayne Hills’ Brendan DeVera and All American grad-transfer Ryan Anderson. Recruited to play half-back in Jerry Kill’s offense, in high school, DeVera played QB, LB, S, Punter and Running Back. He’s just a pure old-school smashmouth football player - he hits, he runs, he catches the “Brian Leonard Special” passes to the flat before blowing someone up, and he plays special teams. Anderson is no ordinary punter, as he also played WR at D2 Saginaw and D3 Olivet College, as well as basketball. That’s in addition to setting D-3 records for average yards per punt (FYI, the field is the same size for D3 as it is for D1 - the man can straight-up hammer the ball). The kind of versatility these guys have leads to serious trick play potential on special teams.
Most Underrated Player
There are lot of players who could fit the bill for this, as I think Jonathan Lewis and Sam Vretman, at a minimum, should be 4 stars, and a number of players should be at least 3 stars. I’ll give the nod to RB Elijah Barnwell, who compiled silly numbers at local powerhouse Piscataway. Barnwell put up stellar career numbers: 5,728 rushing yards on 792 attempts, averaging 7.2 yards per carry, and tallied 75 rushing touchdowns, and 78 total touchdowns (that’s 468 points). For all his productivity, Barnwell was lightly recruited by Power 5 teams, and Rutgers was able to nab him the day before NLI day.
Most Likely to Catch a TD Pass from Tom Brady in Super Bowl LVI
Late addition WR Hunter Hayek from Wayne Hills is Belichick-bait. We know the Patriots have an addiction to Scarlet Knights, and gritty slot receivers have made Tom Brady a ton of money and helped him collect a lot of Super Bowl rings over the last decade and a half. Wes Welker, Julian Edelman Deion Branch . . . Hunter Hayek. In five years, Brady will be almost 45 years old, roughly double what Hayek will be. Anyone want to bet the mortgage against Brady still slinging TD passes for the Pats? Hayek is going to be a very good slot receiver for the Knights, and represents a stellar late-pickup in the final days of the recruiting season.
* * *
Who did we miss? Add your own in the comments.